WASHINGTON -- What is your vision of a university?
Is it the classic vision, with profs walking the ivy-clad pathways, their books under their arms? Perhaps they wear tweed coats and smoke pipes -- not the lady profs, but the men. The ladies dress accordingly, and maybe they smoke pipes. All pore over their books for hours and impart their knowledge to a select body of students. Not the mob that today is forced -- rather cruelly -- to attend classes in remedial education to make up for what they missed in high school, very elementary things, such as reading and the rudiments of writing.
No, not at all -- the profs are indistinguishable from the students today. Most are disgruntled. Some are furious. In years gone by, they felt superior because of their learning. Today they feel superior because of their ontological existence and because they are tabernacles of certain mysteries. The mysteries are to be found in feminism, African-American studies, gay studies and matters too obscure and tedious for ordinary Americanos to grasp.
As for a vision of the university most Americans hold, think of a football team or a basketball team. The athletes are uncommonly large. They attend classes, but mostly they attend practice. Some fight criminal charges for fracases in which they have involved themselves. I am told that the football coach and the basketball coach have an informal budget for criminal lawyers just to keep the athletes out of jail. Or the athletes are fighting drug charges or are in rehab. To be really expert, the coach of the football team or the basketball team on most campuses has to be versed in pharmacology and possibly in mental health. For all intents and purposes, the athletes are preparing themselves for a tryout with a professional team. Those who fail to make the pros disappear. Tom Wolfe drew a vivid portrait of what goes on in college in his masterful book "I Am Charlotte Simmons."