Crisis of Purpose

Christopher Lucas, writing in 1996, identified the crisis at the heart of higher education in America as a “crisis of purpose”, a result of a chain of historical events that resulted in the multiversity we have today, which must be all things to all people.

From Crisis in the Academy: Rethinking Higher Education in America by Christopher J. Lucas:

Second, if there is a true crisis in American higher education today, it is chiefly a crisis of purpose within the university. The hegemony of the multiversity as a regulative idea is well-nigh complete, but its preeminence does not seem to have come about as the outcome of principled decisions or any discernible process of rational choice. On the contrary, it appears to have been the inevitable result of an academic system seeking to garner popular support by attempting in most times and places to be all things to all people. In the process, a single model of the university as a multipurpose institution dedicated simultaneously to teaching, research, and service has gained the ascendancy. Its predicament at this historic juncture, it must be observed, is not unlike the juggler balancing too many objects in midair. The spectacle is awe-inspiring, vastly entertaining even. But whether and for how long it can be sustained seem open to serious question. (books)

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