Tom Wolfe may deny that his novel is about Duke, but having spent 20 years there I know a few things about the school. Wolfe’s “Dupont University” has the same number of undergrads as Duke, the same fraternity-sorority dominance of the social scene, the same veneration of basketball, and a dozen other similarities.
I loved reading in this issue about great teachers, teachers who have a way of changing lives. I found it impossible not to think about the teachers who changed me. My best college teacher was Sid Wise, professor of government at Franklin and Marshall College. He was short, funny, brilliant and engaging.
Many of us have vivid memories of teachers who changed our lives. Whether or not we can say exactly what they did to nurture us, we recognize the hallmarks of transformative learning. One of the turning points in my own development was the result of a course for which one of the texts was Van Harvey’s The Historian and the Believer.
It was a few weeks after the election, and the question came at the conclusion of a report I had made to the university trustees. “We have been hearing a lot about red states and blue states, the role of religion in the election, and a lot of other things about religion in public life. There seems to be a lot of division.
Summer is sailing past and we are trying to catch up to it in our 1988 Volvo with its worn upholstery, carpet of crushed Ritz crackers and Freon-guzzling air conditioner. We are on the road, not as carefree summer bohemians, but as the sober, hopeful parents of a high school senior searching for a good liberal arts college.
As the Supreme Court issued its ruling upholding, in a limited way, affirmative action, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor expressed the hope that in 25 years higher education will not require “race-conscious” admissions programs. Her remark underscored the provisional nature of affirmative action: the idea is to eliminate racial preferences in the future by employing them now.