After the ivory tower falls How college broke the American dream and blew up our politics-- and how to fix it

William Bunch

Book - 2022

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist presents a deeply researched look at the broken state of higher education in America and how we can work towards a new model that works for all Americans. 50,000 first printing.

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2nd Floor 378.73/Bunch Checked In
New York, NY : William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers [2022]
Main Author
William Bunch (author)
First edition
Physical Description
viii, 312 pages ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • Introduction College Like My Grandma Used to Make
  • Chapter 1. Life During Wartime in Knox County, Ohio
  • Chapter 2. When College in America Almost Became a Public Good
  • Chapter 3. Why the Kent State Massacre Raised Your Tuition
  • Chapter 4. Yuppies, Dittoheads, and a "Big Sort": College and the Culture Wars
  • Chapter 5. The "Whole College Thing" Awkwardly Enters the 2020s
  • Gap Year
  • The Quad: The Four People You Meet in Today's America
  • Chapter 6. A College Debt Crisis, Occupy Wall Street, and the Rise of a New New Left
  • Chapter 7. From Resentment of College to America's Rejection of Knowledge
  • Chapter 8. The Soul of a New Truman Commission
  • Chapter 9. A Bloodless War to Save America's Youth
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes on Sources
  • Index
Review by Library Journal Review

Arguing that the United States is essentially split between those who are educated and those who are not, which makes access to college today's most crucial issue, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bunch investigates everything that's wrong with U.S. higher education in After the Ivory Tower Falls and proposes how to build it better (50,000-copy first printing). In Historically Black Colleges and Universities' Guide to Excellence, President Harvey of Hampton University--one of 107 HBCUs in the United States--explains that HBCU graduates have achieved success through a blend of moral values, personal grown, and community responsibility that has allowed them to navigate the white world while retaining their core Blackness. Award-winning educators Liang and Klein look at the newest generation of stressed adolescents, whose physical and mental burnout will carry through college right into their first jobs, to show how they can shut out the noise and shift from performance to purpose in How To Navigate Life (50,000-copy first printing).

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

An award-winning journalist examines how higher education has unwittingly fostered the divides plaguing American society. Before the end of WWII, college had been a "narrow pathway to success for the pampered elites," writes Bunch, national opinion columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer and author of Tear Down This Myth. However, postwar economic expansion and government programs like the GI Bill transformed colleges into places where less-privileged citizens could climb toward the prosperity their parents did not have. Bunch shows how the explosive growth in higher education, intended as a "public good," would eventually lead to the fracturing of American society. The liberal arts curriculum--and the leisure time that went along with student life--gave rise to a generation of young liberals who, at institutions like Berkeley and Columbia, protested against their imperfect democracy. The author suggests that this led to an inevitable political backlash from conservative politicians who questioned government/taxpayer support for higher education. It also gave rise to "credentialism," the idea that a college degree was necessary to obtain a good job. By the 1980s, government policies forced families to bear the ever increasing cost of a college education--especially through loans--and the desire for a diploma transformed into a kind of "rough show-us-your-papers demand for clinging to the middle class." Circa 2020, the university system, which caters to the wealthy and turns students of modest means into "indentured servants of debt," has become an often hated symbol of elitism among what Bunch calls the "Left Behind." In this consistently compelling, thought-provoking book, the author is quick to point out that no easy fix--e.g., cancelling student loan debt--exists. However, Bunch suggests that reform should include a national service like Franklin Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps that targets qualified high school graduates to receive quality employment while fostering "a broader sense of shared purpose." A must-read for anyone who cares about educational--and societal--reform. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.