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Excellence Without a Soul: Does Liberal Education Have a Future? [Paperback]

By Harry R. Lewis, Geoff Emberling (Contributor), Emily Teeter (Contributor), Melanie Palaisa (Editor), Gunilla Dahlberg (Editor), Paul Collier (Editor) & Jon Buller
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Item Specifications...

Pages   305
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1" Width: 5.5" Height: 8.25"
Weight:   0.66 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 13, 2007
Publisher   PublicAffairs
ISBN  1586485016  
EAN  9781586485016  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
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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More About Harry R. Lewis, Geoff Emberling, Emily Teeter, Melanie Palaisa, Gunilla Dahlberg, Paul Collier & Jon Buller

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Harry Lewis, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science and Harvard College professor, has been on the Harvard faculty for thirty-two years. He was Dean of Harvard College between 1995 and 2003 and chaired the College's student disciplinary and athletic policy committees. He has been a member of the undergraduate admissions and scholarship committee for more than three decades. Lewis lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Harry R. Lewis has an academic affiliation as follows - Harvard University.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Neglected Undergraduates  Jun 2, 2008
I am a graduate of Harvard College, '59, and Havard Law School, '65. I have read a number of books about Harvard, but have only read a portion of this one. I do plan to finish it. The author was dean of the college for several years and his book is based on his experience while there. He decries the lack of emphasis on teaching the undergraduate at Harvard and other comparable institutions, e.g., Yale, Princeton. For years I have felt the same way about the school, in that it tended to focus too much on the graduate programs. Nevertheless, I never felt in my days at Harvard that I did not profit immensely from the education it provided. There was very limited contact between the professors and the students, but I felt that the exposure to these men and their recommendations for further reading were invaluable. I attended a course taught by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and only spoke to him twice. On several occasions the students applauded at the end of his lecture, and he got a standing ovation at the end of the course. One exam I had written was forwarded to him by the instructor who had graded it, and he wrote a personal note on it. I had many other nationally recognized professors while there. I never felt the limited access and contact with those professors that I experienced had in any way diminished the value of my Harvard education.
It's a key consideration for any library strong in liberal education analysis  Feb 7, 2008
The author has been a Harvard professor for over thirty years and Dean of Harvard College for eight, and uses his experience to explain how his and other universities have lost sight of their educational objectives. EXCELLENCE WITHOUT A SOUL: DOES LIBERAL EDUCATION HAVE A FUTURE examines educational standards, objectives, and new challenges to the higher education goals and marketplace, considering major issues from grade inflation to date rape and how values translate in the college environment. It's a key consideration for any library strong in liberal education analysis, and for college-level education collections.

Diane C. Donovan
California Bookwatch
The focus on future education  Feb 17, 2007
Dr. Young-Gil Kim, President of Handong Global University, Pohang, South Korea ( and the author of "See the Invisible, Change the World" published in 2006 by Xulon Press in the USA.

"Excellence Without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education" by a former Dean of Harvard College and Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science for thirty-two year has greatly attracted me as the founding and incumbent university president trying to practice the whole-person education of a new revolutionary higher education with global perspective demanded in the 21st century. Dr. Lewis's book should be required reading for every college/university presidents academic deans, and professors, who want to find out the true meaning, purposes, and values of higher education. Professor Harry Lewis points out that "education is not the same thing as classroom teaching. ... The professors have become more and more narrow in expertise in order to secure tenure.... In recent years, university has had its head turned ever more by consumerism and by public relations imperatives, to the detriment of its educational priorities for its students. Money and prestige rule over principle and reason." He drew from his experience that how our great universities have abandoned their mission. While striving to be surpassed 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.

I would like to expand on the concept of "society". We now describe the scale and scope of our society as "global". The internet and IT revolution have "connected" every aspect of our lives to an unprecedented fashion. World markets and currencies rise and fall not only on military conflicts, but now on simple climate to regulatory changes in local regions. Therefore the definition of leadership has also expanded from a local to a global scale, and it is imperative that the universities and education system equip the future leaders of the 21st century.

How do we equip these leaders? This has been the focus and mission of Handong Global University (HGU). The three important components of global leadership education are global communication ability, global character, and global professional capability. The global leadership education of combining the following: professional capability, character education, and global perspective education. On a final note, the global leadership education is not an "option" or "nice to have" education philosophy, but a "must" and "need to have" for the future leaders of the 21st century.

View from Inside a Cocoon  Oct 2, 2006
After a twenty year career as a college professor, I continue to read books that challenge the academic world.

This time I was reminded of the time I attended an academic conference in my field. The keynote panel focused on a task force charged with investigating "how to motivate top researchers to stay active throughout their careers." I wondered why the 300 or so audience members should care about half a dozen well-paid, tenured professors at top-tier schools.

And that's how I felt as I thumbed through this book. In a televised interview, Lewis claims he received supportive comments from colleagues at all sorts of universities. But much of this book has to be about Harvard or a clone. Grade inflation makes less sense when your university accepts a wide range of students. And Lewis's claim that professors are "volunteers" who could easily get another job should draw scornful laughter from professors all over the world. After ten years in the academy, many professors are unemployable elsewhere, and only the most exceptional tenured professors can move to other schools.

Ironically, this book about academia does not draw on academic scholarship. As a result, Lewis, a math teacher, comes across as what another reviewer calls a "cranky old man."

For example, Lewis reminds us, at one time teachers and scholars lived together. A woman could study Classics one-on-one with a male professor, finishing with a civilized glass of sherry.

These nostalgic observations should be discussed in the framework of cultural and social change. Trends related to privacy, compartmentalization of home and work and gender roles all account for these changes. Lewis barely notices that his own privileged career at Harvard would have been difficult (if not impossible) for a woman of equal merit.

Ultimately that lack of framework can lead readers to question Lewis's most earnest proposals. Why should professors seek to develop the moral lives of their students? Who cares if they're "good" people and if some of them are characterized by Lewis as "despicable?" In fact, who judges professors' moral character at all? Students choose a secular university precisely because they want to compartmentalize. They want to learn math, science and sociology, not morals. Those who seek goodness can choose faith-based alternatives or New Age options like Maharishi University.

It's also notoriously hard to evaluate teaching. Lewis himself disparages standard, widely-used student evaluations. But professors who sit in on classes often have political agendas. Early in my career I was warned that, at teaching schools, rewards depend on how much colleagues and administrators "like" you. I've found that's an accurate observation.

Perhaps the best section of the book comes in the chapter about athletic departments. As a professor, I often received notes from coaches asking me to report students who missed class or failed tests. I couldn't help wishing all students had access to the support athletes get: tutors, mentors, schedules and more. In her books, Lady Vols Coach Pat Summitt tells us she assigns upperclass players to play big-sister to the entering freshmen.

And I agree that the NCAA places ludicrous restrictions on players' earning power. As he says, an oboist can earn money in a summer orchestra but a basketball player has to sell socks in a sporting goods store. Ridiculous.

But Lewis goes on to note that recruiting committees ask coaches (but not professors), "What would you do if a student cries in your office?"

Except for the very best and/or highly motivated, students don't seek close ties to their professors, who see them a few times a week for a few months in specialized settings. Coaches see students almost every day for their entire four years, often in close locker room settings at odd times of day.

Like Lewis, I wish students would take more responsibility for themselves and lose the helicopter parents. I once got a call from a mom who explained her son would be "absent" for the first two classes of the term. The 25-year-old son would in my MBA class after finishing his stint as an officer in the US Navy.

I also agree that both men and women need to accept more responsibility for their own social conduct. Students who attend parties with alcohol need to recognize what may happen. Although nobody would condone date drugs and rape, I've seen first-hand how false accusations can destroy a career. And even when an accusation is true and the attacker gets justly punished, nobody wins.

Finally, both as student and teacher, I've always felt that administrators placed too much emphasis on formal curricula. Should students take course A or course B? And in what order? Often decisions boil down to politics Course A adds enrollment numbers to Department A, which translates to resource allotments and faculty positions.

A "history of medicine through the ages" might seem a poor substitute for European History 1200-1750. But as we learn about one corner of a subject, we might be motivated to keep going and get the bigger picture.

Perhaps the problem isn't with Lewis but with the topic. In my opinion, the best views of academia come not from essays but from memoirs, such as those by Jill Ker Conway and Patrick Allitt, where the authors adhere to the old maxim of "show, don't tell." Alternatively, a social science framework (even the Malcolm Gladwell lite version) might give us a unified coherent commentary.
Big surprise  Sep 7, 2006
My best friend from first grade went to Harvard College in 1971. Since the Ivy League at that time was still all-male, I went to Mount Holyoke College. We met again at Tufts, him in the Medical School and myself in the Dental School. Don said the hardest part of Harvard was getting in; no course he took in the pre-med department could hold a candle to the AP Chemistry course he took at our public high school. I feel he sold out his considerable abilities as a paper-pusher for an HMO, but he may disagree. But the fact remains that although he has an MD he doesn't see many patients. Classmates of mine who spent semesters at the Ivy League schools also commented on the easy courses and high grades.Granted, at MHC some students took the easy way out; our class valedictorian was a French major who was from France! And for that you paid what?This book doesn't tell other college grads anything they didn't already suspect. My daughter graduated from Quinnipiac, and my son is a sophomore at Centenary College in New Jersey. The only parents I met who wanted their son to go to Harvard weren't interested in what he wanted or if he belonged there.That's the trouble with being Harvard: so many people just want the name. Both my kids had interests and looked for the schools that had the programs they wanted.The book is well-written and a good read, and it will make you glad your kids didn't want to go to Harvard!

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