H. L. MENCKEN had a simple plan for reforming American higher education. He suggested that anyone who really wanted to improve the universities should start by burning the buildings and hanging the professors. It's easy, of course, to dismiss Menckens prescription as frivolous, lacking the ponderous gravity that afflicts debates about
higher education. And surely stringing up a few professors ofociology, chemistry, and French, along with the stray expert in Chaucerian verse, is hardly a serious or humane reform program, entertaining as it might be for the undergraduates.
But Menckens plan did something the hosts of critics and would-be reformers before and after him have failed to do: It went directly to the rot at the heart of the university. In recent years, dozens of commissions, foundations, and free-lance pathologists have conducted endless post-mortems on higher education: the decline of humanities, the fragmentation of the curriculum, the
pathetic state of teaching, and the boggling price tag on the universities' tapestry of failure.
And predictably, they have rounded up the usual suspects: the students themselves, television, the federal government, capitalism, public grade schools and high schools, teenage sex, German philosophers Nietzsche and Heidegger, and, for good measure, the Walkman radio.
So far they all have missed the mark.
"Profscam" reveals the direct and ultimate reason for the collapse of higher education in the United States--the selfish, wayward, and corrupt American university professor. In this fiercely argued, often infuriating book, investigative journalist Charles J. Sykes charges that college teaching has become a lucrative racket, where the most important responsibility--undergraduate teaching--has been abandoned in favor of trendy research, the pursuit of personal or political agendas, outside consulting contracts, and the drive for tenure.
Samples of the reaction to ProfScam
"Mr. Sykes' vivid and occasionally eloquent expose is sure to
provoke howls of indignant rage in the academy But as a
report from the front, ProfScam is an incisive and convincing
indictment that deserves to be read by anyone concerned about
the future of American higher education."
—The New York Times Book Review
"[A] pugnacious, absorbing, funny, informative book Could
Charles Sykes be the Ralph Nader of a coming academic reform
movement? To the professors, such a movement will probably
look like a horde of barbarians storming the gates of the Temple
of Knowledge. But the mass of evidence chronicled by Sykes
suggests that the barbarians are on the other side of the gates." —The Detroit News
"...a lively indictment
ProfScam is uncomfortably on
mark in its depiction of the ills of the academy." —The Wall Street Journal
"Sykes demonstrates both his skill as an investigative reporter
and as an essayist. His thesis—that the professoriate is responsible
for inflicting terrible damage to our system of higher education
—is well-documented and delineated in a clear, engaging and often
humorous style ProfScam is a stunning and disturbing piece1 of
work. One can only hope that it will be an influential one as well."
—The California Review
". . . an extraordinary book about higher education in America—
The thrill of Mr. Sykes's book resides in its relentless specificity."
"This man is a truth teller, therefore he is shrill, obnoxious.
abusive, aggressive, offensive, and absolutely riuht \ firstrate
analysis of a major national calamity the end of the
university as a suitable medium for educating our young people."