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Excellence Without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education

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America's great research universities are the envy of the world--and none more so than Harvard. Never before has the competition for excellence been fiercer. But while striving to be unsurpassed in the quality of its faculty and students, Universities have forgotten that the fundamental purpose of undergraduate education is to turn young people into adults who will take re America's great research universities are the envy of the world--and none more so than Harvard. Never before has the competition for excellence been fiercer. But while striving to be unsurpassed in the quality of its faculty and students, Universities have forgotten that the fundamental purpose of undergraduate education is to turn young people into adults who will take responsibility for society. In Excellence Without a Soul, Harry Lewis, a Harvard professor for more than thirty years and Dean of Harvard College for eight, draws from his experience to explain how our great universities have abandoned their mission. Harvard is unique; it is the richest, oldest, most powerful university in America, and so it has set many standards, for better or worse. Lewis evaluates the failures of this grand institution--from the hot button issue of grade inflation to the recent controversy over Harvard's handling of date rape cases--and makes an impassioned argument for change. The loss of purpose in America's great colleges is not inconsequential. Harvard, Yale, Stanford--these places drive American education, on which so much of our future depends. It is time to ask whether they are doing the job we want them to do.


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America's great research universities are the envy of the world--and none more so than Harvard. Never before has the competition for excellence been fiercer. But while striving to be unsurpassed in the quality of its faculty and students, Universities have forgotten that the fundamental purpose of undergraduate education is to turn young people into adults who will take re America's great research universities are the envy of the world--and none more so than Harvard. Never before has the competition for excellence been fiercer. But while striving to be unsurpassed in the quality of its faculty and students, Universities have forgotten that the fundamental purpose of undergraduate education is to turn young people into adults who will take responsibility for society. In Excellence Without a Soul, Harry Lewis, a Harvard professor for more than thirty years and Dean of Harvard College for eight, draws from his experience to explain how our great universities have abandoned their mission. Harvard is unique; it is the richest, oldest, most powerful university in America, and so it has set many standards, for better or worse. Lewis evaluates the failures of this grand institution--from the hot button issue of grade inflation to the recent controversy over Harvard's handling of date rape cases--and makes an impassioned argument for change. The loss of purpose in America's great colleges is not inconsequential. Harvard, Yale, Stanford--these places drive American education, on which so much of our future depends. It is time to ask whether they are doing the job we want them to do.

30 review for Excellence Without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mostafa

    شاید سخنی به گزاف نگفته باشیم اگر بگوییم دانشگاه هاروارد آمریکا کعبه آمال و بهشت تمام علاقه‌مندان به حوزه تحقیق و پژوهش و نظام آموزش عالی در سرتاسر دنیاست. افرادی که رویایشان روزی تحصیل در این بهترین دانشگاه جهان است. عنوان اصلی کتاب: "Excellence without a soul" که ترجمه آن تقریبا معادل "برتری بی‌روح" است و عنوان فرعی کتاب: "Does liberal education have a future" که ترجمه آن نیز معادل "آیا آموزش لیبرال آینده‌ای خواهد داشت" است. مترجم کتاب اما در اقدامی جالب بنابر محتوا و موضوع کتاب عنوان "نگاهی انتق شاید سخنی به گزاف نگفته باشیم اگر بگوییم دانشگاه هاروارد آمریکا کعبه آمال و بهشت تمام علاقه‌مندان به حوزه تحقیق و پژوهش و نظام آموزش عالی در سرتاسر دنیاست. افرادی که رویایشان روزی تحصیل در این بهترین دانشگاه جهان است. عنوان اصلی کتاب: "Excellence without a soul" که ترجمه آن تقریبا معادل "برتری بی‌روح" است و عنوان فرعی کتاب: "Does liberal education have a future" که ترجمه آن نیز معادل "آیا آموزش لیبرال آینده‌ای خواهد داشت" است. مترجم کتاب اما در اقدامی جالب بنابر محتوا و موضوع کتاب عنوان "نگاهی انتقادی به دانشگاه هاروارد" را برگزیده است که شاید مناسب‌ترین عنوان برای این کتاب باشد. نویسنده کتاب، هری لویس، استاد و رییس سابق دانشگاه هاروارد است و به همین جهت تمرکز کتاب بر مسائل تعلیمی و تربیتی و تاحدودی فلسفی در قالب تجربیات، تاریخ و آمیخته با خاطره همراه است. اینکه یک استاد و رییس سابق هاروارد که خود سال‌ها در بطن اتفاقات دانشگاه حضور داشته نویسنده کتاب است از محاسن و مزیت‌های آن به شمار میرود. لویس در 9 فصل سعی کرده که به موضوعات و مشکلاتی که هاروارد از لحاظ کیفی، آموزشی، تربیتی با آن مواجه است بپردازد. از آرمان و هدف تاسیس هاروارد گرفته تا دروس تعلیمی، نمرات، کالایی شدن مدرک، اساتید، معضلات اجتماعی دانشجویان، ورزش دانشگاه و ... . لویس معتقد است هاروارد با تمام پیشرفت‌هایش در زمینه علوم و فناوری تبدیل به فروشگاهی شده که بیشتر در پی خشنود کردن مشتریان خود که همان دانشجویان است شده است. او معتقد است هاروارد از رسالت تربیتی خود دور شده و تنها متمرکز به بُعد تعلیمی خود است. در این حین از اساتید نیز انتقاد میکند که بیشتر در پی تحقیق و پژوهش اند تا تربیت و تدریس به دانشجویان. او معتقد است تعداد کمی هستند که پنج یا ده سال پس از فارغ التحصیلی بتوانند به این سوال ساده پاسخ دهند که مهم ترین چیزی که هاروارد به شما آموخت چه بود. گرچه از تاسیس هاروارد چیزی حدود 400سال میگذرد و در این حین قدمت قدیمی‌ترین دانشگاه ما حدود 80 سال است اما درس‌های بسیاری برای نظام آموزش عالی ما میتواند داشته باشد. یکی از درس‌های مهم آن پویایی و انعطاف برنامه آموزشی هاروارد است که در این مدت بارها اصلاحات و تغییراتی را شاهد بوده است و اما نکته ای قابل تامل که میتوان آن را علتِ موضوع مهم قبلی دانست این است که در سرتاسر کتاب یک بار هم از واژه "دولت"/"دولتی" و یا "وزارت خانه" و ارتباط آن ها با دانشگاه استفاده نشده است.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mohammad Mollanoori

    لوییس در این کتاب سعی کرده است به نقد سیستمی بپردازد که هاروارد را به قول نویسنده، از ارزش های هارواردی دور کرده است. او در این کتاب به اهمیت تدریس تاکید می کند و منتقد پژوهش محور شدن دانشگاه هاست. بعضی فصل های کتاب به خوبی برای ما که در ایران هم هستیم، کارآمد است اما بعضی فصل ها از فضای ما به شدت دور است. این کتاب را به پیشنهاد رضا منصوری خواندم و در کل راضی ام هرچند با ویراستاری شاید بهتر می شد.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Graeme Roberts

    Fascinating and well-written, this book is essential for anyone who cares about the future of higher education. I learned so much.

  4. 4 out of 5

    William

    I have spent most of my career in higher education, both in the Ivy League and elsewhere. Yes, I resonate with many of Lewis' themes. Too much of higher education now runs too heavily on a business model and is too often more preoccupied with what students want than what it is important for their undergraduate education to give them. But this book is pretty sanctimonious, often repetitious, and not very clearly structured, and while much of the Harvard history was somewhat interesting, in genera I have spent most of my career in higher education, both in the Ivy League and elsewhere. Yes, I resonate with many of Lewis' themes. Too much of higher education now runs too heavily on a business model and is too often more preoccupied with what students want than what it is important for their undergraduate education to give them. But this book is pretty sanctimonious, often repetitious, and not very clearly structured, and while much of the Harvard history was somewhat interesting, in general I found this a self-important and tedious book to read. No other reader seems to have had this reaction, but I kept wondering why any student would actually want to attend Harvard for the experience it offers. Courses are large, close relationships with faculty border on impossible, advising is terrible, and high quality instruction is neither a goal nor something the school seems to value. It sounds like a pretty joyless experience, and not a very intellectual one. Students worry more about keeping their grades up and aiming for high Latin honors than they do about taking the courses which really interest them outside their major. There is a lot of ambivalence in Lewis' views. On the one hand, he decries the dwindling faculty role in managing the university, and seems unhappy that people without PhDs are hired in non-teaching positions. On the other hand, he makes it clear that faculty do not seem to want this role, and that every policy decision they make he finds wanting. Harvard's faculty committees seem remarkably ineffective. I agree with Lewis that an institution of higher education should have goals reflected in how the curriculum is designed. I'm not sure, though, exactly what Lewis would want in a curriculum, aside from "teaching democratic idealism" and "the Enlightenment ideal of human liberty and philosophy." He supports a curriculum which teachers citizenship and offers students moral guidance. I can see the value in this, but not how it could be done for all but smaller institutions and struggle to envision that curriculum. While Lewis says he does not seek a return to the past, I am not convinced, since it could describe American higher education fifty years ago. (Though I have to admit that my own Ivy undergraduate experience did not provide me with curricular or moral guidance). It sounds like some kind of academic "in loco parentis." I do find myself wondering whether liberal arts colleges are a much batter match for Lewis' preferences than Harvard could ever be, though in their rare mention in this book, they are treated with disdain. Lewis pretty much loses his thread somewhat beyond the middle of the book. A full ten percent of the text is spent on the question of date rape, which seems excessive. And his view of athletics is also somewhat off the mark. On the one hand, he appropriately decries the cost of sports in school budgets. On the other hand, he says only the faculty dislike athletes; alumni and students, he says, are supportive. However, he points out elsewhere the isolation of athletes from the rest of the student community. I did not see at the four colleges where I worked any student support of athletes as a group. Lewis also does not address the question of admission preferences for sports no one watches, and he does not seem to grasp the huge gap between the academic credentials needed to be recruited for high profile sports (football, basketball, hockey, etc) and what is expected from non-athletic admission candidates. Finally, there is something whiny about this book. It seems cranky, and a chance for the author to hit everything which has displeased him. Lawrence Summers is beaten up throughout the book. He may well deserve that, but it does not make good reading, at least not for me. Having spent a week reading this, my respect for liberal arts colleges has grown, and Harvard has been diminished. It seems a Camelot for faculty pursuing in too many cases esoteric corners of various academic subjects, but not a place which especially supports students or values the quality of their undergraduate experience. Maybe this has changed in the decade since the book was written, but if it has, that information unfortunately has not reached me.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brien

    I don’t agree with everything Lewis says here, but there is a lot that resonates. It’s a thought-provoking book about the role of higher education in society, and how most colleges have become lost in their missions...if they even have missions anymore.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bizhan Hejazi

    نویسنده کتاب که سابق بر این مدیر هاروارد هم بوده توضیح میده از تغییراتی که باید به هاروارد بدن و انتقاد هایی داره از نادیده گرفته شدن برخی استعداد های ورزشی یا تجاری در هاروارد برای مثال توضیح میده یه روز یه دانشجو داشت ته کلاس چرت میزد خواستم اخراجش کنم ولی با خودم‌گفتم حتما دیشب تا دیر وقت داشته روی مروژه اش کار می کرده. دو سال بعد فهمیدم اون پروژه ویندوز بوده و اون دانشجو بیل گیتس بود.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    This book provides a critique of the leadership and direction of Harvard University, especially in recent decades. The overall point of the critique is that Harvard is an institution gone lazy and one that has lost its soul. The arguments are well known and have several components. First, the university has refused to articulate a clear position on its guiding principles and what identity it seeks to convey to students. Second, the development of the research based mission and tenure driven "pub This book provides a critique of the leadership and direction of Harvard University, especially in recent decades. The overall point of the critique is that Harvard is an institution gone lazy and one that has lost its soul. The arguments are well known and have several components. First, the university has refused to articulate a clear position on its guiding principles and what identity it seeks to convey to students. Second, the development of the research based mission and tenure driven "publish or perish" mentality among faculty has led to a specialization that derides the value of general principles or perspectives and downplays the role of teaching relative to research. Third, the growth of program research and the importance of donor driven initiatives has led to a reputation driven business model that seeks to maximize cash inflows from higher tuition, alumni and other donations, and government and corporate sponsored research. The overall result is a status driven consumerist approach to education that seeks to give the customer what they want and are paying for rather than what is right and what they need, all leading to a further deterioration of the ability of universities to take principled stands on anything, especially undergraduate education. These criticisms are largely on point and are well known to those who follow higher education. Moreover, while Harvard is at the top of the status heap and a first mover with a huge endowment, these critiques are applicable to all of the elite private universities to some degee. So far so good. There are issues with the book, however. First, raising these problems does not equate to making a contribution towards resolving them. So the core curriculum has lost interest in these universities. OK, how to reinvigorate it? What curriculum should be proposed that will win the support and allegiance of these complex communities? So the "publish or perish" tenure system undermines the position of generalists among the faculty? How to change the campus P&T processes to modify this situation? Saying that teachers should be protected and perhaps tenured is redefining the problem in the form of a solution. A bigger issue would be the applicability of this story. While the elite universities are important and highly visible, the vast majority of undergraduate education in the US does not occur at these schools, which have not really raised capacity in recent years -- only their price tags, which are topping $60,000 per year. Most undergraduates study at the large state schools and most have not focused on liberal arts for a long time. The issues raised by Dean Lewis are relevant in these schools too, but in different ways. I like the Harvard stories. Dean Lewis is not a supporter of Lawrence Summers and the weak leadership and scandals during his administration are covered. It would have been more helpful to hear what Dean Lewis thought about how Harvard should be led. How should such a complex institution be led in such difficult times for higher education. I am not fan of Summers but it is hard to see how anyone can succeed at Harvard and make real institutional changes.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Reid Mccormick

    “The role of moral education has withered, conflicting with the imperative to give students and theirs what they for the money they are paying.” If you look at the history of higher education, you would see a clear decline in moral education. Colleges and universities of the past were tied very close with the church thus moral teaching came directly from the church’s teachings. As time progress the connection between higher education and the church digressed. In many ways the university has deviat “The role of moral education has withered, conflicting with the imperative to give students and theirs what they for the money they are paying.” If you look at the history of higher education, you would see a clear decline in moral education. Colleges and universities of the past were tied very close with the church thus moral teaching came directly from the church’s teachings. As time progress the connection between higher education and the church digressed. In many ways the university has deviated from its original goals. The curriculum from the 17th century would be completely alien to professors and students today. As the years progressed, the goals and curriculum has changed, and in his book Excellence without a Soul, Harry R. Lewis retells the history of Harvard and the issues confronting the renowned school. As the former dean of Harvard College, Lewis was involved in plenty of faculty feuds, student protests, and national scandals. Many times he saw the school take the easy way over the smart route. Many times he saw the school bend to pressure instead of standing firm on values. He states late in the book, “The college is more interested in making students happier than making them better.” This is a very interesting book. There are plenty of resources criticizing higher education, but rarely are those criticisms written by someone with such high credentials as Lewis. When I picked up this book I was really looking for a book that addresses the university’s need to approach morality. Though a lot of the book is dedicated to the history of Harvard and its challenge in every aspect, Lewis does spend a bit of time confronting the issue of morality. He says it bluntly, “Harvard today tiptoes away from moral education, little interested in providing it and embarrassed to admit it does not wish to do so.” Schools have completely abandoned the idea of morality, mainly because in a postmodern culture morality is a questionable idea. I found this book to be extremely interesting. I never would have thought working at a prestigious school such as Harvard would be that difficult, but it actually sounds worse.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    A thought-provoking read that dissects how elite universities in the US as exemplified by Harvard have lost their sense of mission and vision. In the chapter "Choice and Direction", Lewis laments how college curriculums and distributional requirements - which were meant to be an expression of the university's belief of what constituted an education - have become an incoherent mish mash of courses pandering to what students (who want courses that they can score well in) and professors (who want t A thought-provoking read that dissects how elite universities in the US as exemplified by Harvard have lost their sense of mission and vision. In the chapter "Choice and Direction", Lewis laments how college curriculums and distributional requirements - which were meant to be an expression of the university's belief of what constituted an education - have become an incoherent mish mash of courses pandering to what students (who want courses that they can score well in) and professors (who want to teach what they are comfy with, i.e. their niche areas) want, rather than what students should know. So instead of say, an overview of world history, you get The World in 1626, or sth like that. This pandering to different interest groups also undermines the role of the common curriculum as a shared educational experience binding the students of a university. Another issue Lewis tackles in the book is the failure of universities such as Harvard in their mission to prepare students for adulthood. In the chapter "The Eternal Enigma: Advising", Lewis notes the irony of having professors who have rarely ventured beyond the ivory towers of academia advise students, who, for the most part, seek careers in fields foreign to their advisors. In "Independece, Responsibility and Rape", Lewis criticises the way universities have handled the issue of date rape, where it infantilises students and absolves them of any responsibility for their actions. The writing could be a tad tighter at points - Lewis tends to belabour the point in certain chapters such as "College Athletes and Money". Still, it's a worthwhile read for anyone contemplating what an investment in 4 years of college will bring. For me, the book was also interesting since Lewis' angst about the state of elite education in the US came from such an opposing educational philosophy as that found in Singapore, where higher education is termed "pre-employment training".

  10. 4 out of 5

    Samsara Voile

    Harvard produces ever so effective brainiacs yet fails to cultivate in these high-flying "gifts to humanity" some character, a sense of higher purpose or obligation to society. Although many will doubt there ever was a time when the economically or genetically privileged consciously worked to elevate the condition of the masses, the author raises a point worth considering. Sadly, due to the massive deterioration of western culture post 1960's, the author's call to reform Brand Name universities Harvard produces ever so effective brainiacs yet fails to cultivate in these high-flying "gifts to humanity" some character, a sense of higher purpose or obligation to society. Although many will doubt there ever was a time when the economically or genetically privileged consciously worked to elevate the condition of the masses, the author raises a point worth considering. Sadly, due to the massive deterioration of western culture post 1960's, the author's call to reform Brand Name universities in the spirit of classical virtues - now almost unrecognizable to the modern world - is like asking Louis Vuitton or Hermes to make purses that communicate modesty, humility or wholesomeness. The New Harvard recruits an unprecedentedly high proportion of students struggling to the top (read "darting to the top"). Unfortunately, this breed is more prone to moral error or vacuity than the one working to stay at the top. Hunger for rank and silver can easily nullify any desire to serve anything larger than self, whether that is the discipline, the profession, the community or the spirit of learning. The book falls short through its failure to discuss the inherent antagonism between the 'art' of struggling to the top and the virtuous mind - an elephant in the room which the author tactfully or cautiously ignores.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ars Geek

    If you are in college, have been to college or are planning on going to college, you must read this book. If you do not, I will track you down, tie you to a chair and read it to you. Seriously. Here's Harry's examination of why our colleges and universities are failing undergraduates - they're pumping out college grads (and college dropouts) with only rudimentary societal skills. Higher education was once something of a finishing school for young adults - it helped them find their place in the wor If you are in college, have been to college or are planning on going to college, you must read this book. If you do not, I will track you down, tie you to a chair and read it to you. Seriously. Here's Harry's examination of why our colleges and universities are failing undergraduates - they're pumping out college grads (and college dropouts) with only rudimentary societal skills. Higher education was once something of a finishing school for young adults - it helped them find their place in the world, taught them to examine what they saw in the world around them, form their own opinions and generally become better human beings. Now higher education focuses on churning out undergrads, while the institutions themselves focus more on graduate students and hiring brilliant researchers who are required to teach a few courses rather than hiring brilliant teachers who also perform research. Harry outlines the problem, explains the history of higher education from his standpoint as a once Harvard Dean and 30 years teaching experience and makes some compelling suggestions for change.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    I agree with the vast majority of his musings on the evolution of higher education. Though he specifically focuses on Harvard, with the occasional mention of other Ivies, much of what he says can be applicable to most highly selective/selective schools. What I found infuriating, however, was his severe lack of respect for anyone in the student affairs profession. He not only blithely assumed that all academics are better prepared to deal with students (rarely the case, in my experience), but he I agree with the vast majority of his musings on the evolution of higher education. Though he specifically focuses on Harvard, with the occasional mention of other Ivies, much of what he says can be applicable to most highly selective/selective schools. What I found infuriating, however, was his severe lack of respect for anyone in the student affairs profession. He not only blithely assumed that all academics are better prepared to deal with students (rarely the case, in my experience), but he is egregiously misguided in his perspective on sexual assault and rape on campus. Favoring risk reduction strategies over primary prevention, he all but blames the survivors of rape for their behavior and refusal to take any responsibility for the assault. Finally, regarding something that should be trivial but is really quite obnoxious, he refers to Harvard as the legitimate mecca of higher education for all students in the world. Understandable, as he is an alumnus, faculty member, and former Dean. Nevertheless, his lack of respect for other schools does become grating with time.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    This book was incredibly interesting and thought-provoking until about the midway point; then it grew tedious and self-absorbed to a point where my interest waned rapidly, and I limped through the final chapters. I do think Lewis has made some important notes about the direction and purpose of higher education that should be taken seriously into consideration by anyone wanting to work in a university setting.

  14. 4 out of 5

    David

    It's odd that this book has gotten substantially lower ratings from those who rated the hardcover edition. In any case, as someone professionally involved in higher education, I find that Lewis makes some excellent points, some of which I even agree with, others of which he persuaded me to take seriously. His analyses of college athletics and the pseudoproblem of grade inflation are particularly intriguing. His obsession with Harvard exceptionalism can get tiresome.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Steve Wiggins

    Although Lewis does a great job describing the situation at Harvard, I would like to have seen more general implications drawn. The problem at Harvard is a national crisis, and, as always in popular perception, Harvard leads the way. Read more at: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World. Although Lewis does a great job describing the situation at Harvard, I would like to have seen more general implications drawn. The problem at Harvard is a national crisis, and, as always in popular perception, Harvard leads the way. Read more at: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Stella

    Up to the point.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Chow

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kara

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amir Kargaran

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  22. 4 out of 5

    Reader

  23. 4 out of 5

    K

  24. 5 out of 5

    Veronica

  25. 5 out of 5

    Seth Robertson

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dan

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alice

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mohammadreza

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mike Zamansky

  30. 4 out of 5

    Noemi Roman

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