The American Dream   /   Summer 2013   /    Essays

Knowledge, Virtue, and the Research University

Chad Wellmon

Recently, a broad literature has chronicled, diagnosed, and attempted to solve what many have referred to as a “crisis” in higher education.1 Some authors tie the purported crisis to an out- of-touch faculty or lackadaisical students, while others blame a conservative or liberal political culture or the public’s general distrust of univer- sities. Amidst all of these anxious arguments, however, we can discern four basic types.

the first type is technocratic. these books tend to be sociological, data-driven critiques of the university as an institution. Exempli ed by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s recent Academically Adrift, they cast a pall on the university by focusing on particular problems: low graduation rates, skewed admissions poli- cies, indi erent faculty, disengaged students, or uncontrollable costs.2 In response, the authors of these studies o er speci c, procedural suggestions for solving the university’s various problems.

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