Willimon and Naylor on College Student Life

RJO’s Reviews on Amazon.com

These brief book reviews have been posted to Amazon.com, and they may be viewed there in their original form either collectively (on my public reviews page) or individually (by following the link at each title below).

An Important, Not Faddish, Book on University Reform

The Abandoned Generation: Rethinking Higher Education
William H. Willimon and Thomas H. Naylor
Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995

Along with Kors and Silverglate’s The Shadow University, this is one of the most important higher education books published in many years. Based on their studies of the Duke University campus, Willimon and Naylor correctly identify the real problem in American higher education as the poverty of student life, not the politicization of the curriculum.

For more than a generation, student life has been under the control of a vacuous bureaucracy of “student affairs” and “residence life” workers who exist in a state of co-dependency with underprepared and delinquent students. Out-of-control dormitories, alcohol abuse and vandalism, institutionally-promoted segregation, and a complete disconnection between the classroom and life outside the classroom—all these problems have been endemic for a generation in institutions that advertise themselves as “caring” and “student-centered.”

The solution to these problems, Willimon and Naylor show, is not left politics, nor right politics, nor politics of any kind: it is sustained, personal contact between students and faculty throughout the institution.

It is unlikely that this book will have much effect on university administrators who profit from the existing problems, but it should be read by all students, parents, and (especially) legislators who want to improve the quality of higher education.

Note: For an important follow-up report by Willimon, see the Collegiate Way news for 27 November 2000.

© RJO 1995–2022