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Campus Life Book Review Synthesis

Paula S. Fass—University of California-Berkeley (Maragret S. Byrne Professor Emerita and Professor of the Graduate School)  Her books include The Damned and the Beautiful: American Youth in the 1920s, Oxford University Press, 1977; Outside In: Minorities and the Transformation of American Education, Oxford University Press, 1989; Kidnapped: A History of Child Abduction in the United States, Oxford University Press, 1997; Children of a New World, NYU Press, 2006 and Inheriting the Holocaust: A Second-Generation Memoir, Rutgers University Press, 2009. The editor-in-chief of the award winning and ground-breaking three volume Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood: In History and Society, Paula Fass was President of the Society for the History of Children and Youth from 2007 to 2009.

Burton J. Bledstein—Professor of History Emeritus at University of Illinois-Chicago

Professor Bledstein taught Cultural, Intellectual, and Social History of the U.S. at UIC until 2011.  Among major awards, he has received four National Endowment of the Humanities Fellowships.  A Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy at U.C.L.A., and graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Professor Bledstein earned his Ph.D. in History at Princeton University. His first book was The Culture of Professionalism: The Middle Class and the Development of Higher Education in America (W.W. Norton, 1976). In 2001, he published “Storytellers to the Middle Class” in a collection, Bledstein and Johnston ed., The Middling Sorts: Explorations in the History of the American Middle Class (Routledge 2001). He was Project Director of a university supported website, “In the Vicinity of the Maxwell Street Market” and is currently finishing a book, “Visual Thinking in Urban America: Jane Addams Encounters Lewis Hine’s Hull-House Photography.”

PAUL H. MATTINGLY–Paul H. Mattingly holds a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin and taught American history at New York University for nearly forty years. At NYU he directed the Program in Public History, which seeks to advance historical knowledge via engagement with institutions and groups often left out of textbook history. His published work includes Suburban Landscapes: Culture and Politics in a New York Metropolitan Community (John Hopkins University Press, 2001).

Synthesis:

Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz’s Campus Life:  Undergraduate Cultures from the Eighteenth Century to the Present has fantastic prose, according to the three reviewers, but it was her broad generalizations and shoddy research that led the reviewers to discredit much of her findings.  Horowitz’s three “ideal types” of college student cultures are torn apart by all three of the reviewers.  Dr. Fass says that because Campus Life “looks primarily at students at select (usually Ivy League) colleges, it misses the real extent and diversity of college settings and college life, especially in the twentieth century.”  Dr. Mattingly states that “the broader social and political forces that created numerous colleges and filled them with different populations over time does not really concern the author,” while Dr. Bledstein says that “the traditions of college life seemed to be too removed from the historical disturbances, disappointments, and discontinuities beyond campus life,” and “it is also disappointing that the author did not set out to explain more fully the difficulties in understanding events and change, indeed the density and ambiguities embedded in social types.”  All three of the reviewers felt that Horowitz would have better served herself, her readers, and future historians by digging deeper into the history, finding details to share instead of painting such a broad picture of the cultures of college students.

Their other complaints were similar as well.  They agree that Horowitz’s final conclusion is almost entirely unsupported by the nearly 300 pages of prose that precede it, in which she proves that there were three distinct student cultures throughout the history of the American university system, yet she concludes that the present issues stem from two different cultures that she neglects to mention until the very end of her work.  Even then she hardly explains the New Outsiders and Quiet Rebels.  Dr. Horowitz attempted a very difficult task when she started with an answer to her question before she researched the question.  Dr. Fass and Dr. Bledstein agree that Horowitz’s previous book was much better researched, with the same excellent prose and ease of comprehension, but they fault her for not allowing her evidence to guide her to a conclusion in this work.

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