Those WhonCan’t Do . . .nby Jacob NeusnernProfscam: Professors and thenDemise of Higher Educationnby Charles J. SykesnChicago and Washington, DC:nRegnery Gateway; 304 pp., $18.95nIwanted to hate this sustained attacknon the academy, which condemnsneverything to which I have dedicatednmy life, but I loved every word. Thisnman is a truth-teller, therefore he isnshrill, obnoxious, abusive, aggressive,noffensive, and absolutely right. His indictmentnspells out the following academicnfelonies: “teachers who don’tnteach, students who don’t learn, overcrowdednclassrooms, lousy instruction,nthe hyperspecialization of the faculty,nand the incoherence and narrowness ofnthe curriculum.” But that does notnexhaust the bill of particulars. CharlesnSykes works his way through the humanities,nwhich he finds illiterate andnpurposeless, the social sciences, nowntransformed by pseudo-math into a fakenscience, and the natural sciences, devotednto advancing not learning but lucre.nAs judge and jury, I find for the plaintiff:na first-rate analysis of a major nationalncalamity—the end of the universitynas a suitable medium for educatingnyoung people.nSykes deems that professors are overpaid,nunderworked, unapproachable,nuncommunicative, and unavailable.n”They have created a culture in whichnbad teaching goes unnoticed and unsanctionednand good teaching is penalized.”n”They have cloaked their scholarshipnin stupefying, inscrutable jargon.nThis conceals the fact that much ofnwhat passes for research is trivial andninane.” “They have twisted the ideals ofnacademic freedom into a system innwhich they are accountable to no one,nwhile they employ their own rigidnmethods of thought control to stampnout original thinkers and dissenters.”nAmerican universities are “vast factoriesnREVIEWSnof junkthink. . . .” These are not thenonly items, but they form the wellcomposednand carefully researchednshank of the book.nThe indictment may appear scattershot,nuntil you realize that every pelletnhits a big fat turkey. Lest you thinknSykes has written a mere diatribe, a scannof the contents shows otherwise. Thenbook is orderiy and systematic, and itncovers scandal after scandal. It conveys,ntime and again, a single impression: thenacademic world affords no place forncreative and thoughtful people, but onlynfor conformists. Academic freedomnserves only those who believe the rightnthings in the right way. Sykes finds thenstudents victimized by a system thatnrewards research and penalizes teaching.nHis book covers the flight fromnteaching and the crucifixion of teaching,non the one side, and the vacuity ofnthe curriculum, on the other. He turnsnto research, covering matters in general,nwith attention to “the weird world ofnacademic journals” and academic license,nand concludes with his stunningnpictures of the humanities (“the abolitionnof man”), the social sciences (“thenpseudo-scientists”), and the sciencesn(“beyond the dreams of avarice”).nGood as the book is, I find thenindictment insufficient. His criticismnmay suffice for the professoriat (thoughneven here I think he vastly overestimatesnthe volume of publication, since in mynobservation most people publish little ornnothing, and he thinks one in ten hasnpublished). But he seems to me to havenforgotten three other fundamentalncoconspirators in the demise of higherneducation in this country.nFirst come the trustees and legislators,nwho govern through indifference,nin the former case, and who fundnwithout asking tough questions, in thenlatter. Across the board state universitiesnmaintain somewhat higher standardsnthan private universities. The statesupportednscholars rarely appeal to prestigenand tradition to justify themselves.nMany of the private ones do. The totalnand well-documented fraud that is educationnat Harvard could not have takennplace in Arkansas, for instance (thoughnnneven there, the legislatures fund, in thenend, whatever they are told to fund.)nBoards of trustees of private institutionsnrestrict themselves to the ritual of choosingna president, and then back theirnchoice until they fire him.nSecond come the administrators, thenself-serving timeservers and careerists. Inthink Sykes pays too little attention tonthe mediocre quality of most presidents,nprovosts, and deans. His account of anfew impressive figures—Arnold Weber’snhandling of the Foley case at Northwestern,ncontrasting with James Freedman’sndenial of fair play to the DartmouthnReview — obscures the virtuallynunique standing of the few with intellectnand courage. The faceless, purposelessnpresident, worrying in this jobnabout getting the next, far more accuratelyncharacterizes the universities today.nSykes has failed to assess thenimpact upon academic life of the Vietnamnprotest. The great academic presidentsnof that age were driven off campus,nand no one took their place: nonone.nThird and most responsible of allncome the students, willing coconspiratorsnin the fraud. Most students havenno academic purpose in the four yearsnthey spend in college. We conduct thenworld’s most expensive baby-sitting operation.nStudents want not thoughtful,nhard criticism of their thinking andnwriting, but praise and fellowship. Seeingnthe critic of their work as thenenemy of their egos, they flock to theneasy. Professors who go along getnalong, and students love them. Thengeneration of the 80’s, at least atnBrown, proved utteriy lacking in thenmost fundamental social virtues —nincapable of respect, and indifferent tonsimple decencies such as honor andncivility. I had to threaten a lawsuit forndefamation to stop Brown studentsnfrom signing my name to anti-Semiticnletters, for example.nThe indictment of the students is,nabove all, what is lacking in this marvelousnwork of criticism. A personal referencenmay be pertinent here. In Mayn1981,1 wrote a brief pseudo-speech fornthe Brown Daily Herald, “the com-nJUNE 1989/37n