Harper Academic

After the Ivory Tower Falls

How College Broke the American Dream and Blew Up Our Politics—and How to Fix It

by Will Bunch

On Sale: 08/02/2022

Price: $28.99

After the Ivory Tower Falls

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After the Ivory Tower Falls

How College Broke the American Dream and Blew Up Our Politics—and How to Fix It

by Will Bunch

On Sale: 08/02/2022

Format:

Price: $28.99

About the Book

From Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Will Bunch, the epic untold story of college—the great political and cultural fault line of American life

"This book is simply terrific." —Heather Cox Richardson, publisher of the "Letters from an American" Substack

"A must-read." —Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains

Today there are two Americas, separate and unequal, one educated and one not. And these two tribes—the resentful “non-college” crowd and their diploma-bearing yet increasingly disillusioned adversaries—seem on the brink of a civil war. The strongest determinant of whether a voter was likely to support Donald Trump in 2016 was whether or not they attended college, and the degree of loathing they reported feeling toward the so-called “knowledge economy of clustered, educated elites. Somewhere in the winding last half-century of the United States, the quest for a college diploma devolved from being proof of America’s commitment to learning, science, and social mobility into a kind of Hunger Games contest to the death. That quest has infuriated both the millions who got shut out and millions who got into deep debt to stay afloat.

In After the Ivory Tower Falls, award-winning journalist Will Bunch embarks on a deeply reported journey to the heart of the American Dream. That journey begins in Gambier, Ohio, home to affluent, liberal Kenyon College, a tiny speck of Democratic blue amidst the vast red swath of white, post-industrial, rural midwestern America. To understand “the college question,” there is no better entry point than Gambier, where a world-class institution caters to elite students amidst a sea of economic despair.

From there, Bunch traces the history of college in the U.S., beginning with the first technical schools, through the landmark GI Bill, and the culture wars of the 60’s and 70’s, which found their start on college campuses. We see how resentment of college-educated elites morphed into a rejection of knowledge itself—and how the explosion in student loan debt fueled major social movements like Occupy Wall Street. Bunch then takes a question we need to ask all over again—what, and who, is college even for?—and pushes it into the 21st century by proposing a new model that works for all Americans.

The sum total is a stunning work of journalism, one that lays bare the root of our political, cultural, and economic division—and charts a path forward for America.

Critical Praise

"Like a surgeon homing in on a cancerous tumor, Will Bunch exposes a prescription that has poisoned our public life since the 1970s: the notion that college is the only route to economic security and a good life--just as ending free tuition to public universities put that remedy out of reach for most Americans. With wisdom, grace and a gripping narrative, After the Ivory Tower Falls reveals what is so wrong in the way many of us think about higher education. A must-read for Democrats, in particular, to stop pushing snake oil to rightly suspicious voters." — NANCY MACLEAN, author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America

“[A] consistently compelling, thought-provoking book. … A must-read for anyone who cares about educational—and societal—reform.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"A comprehensive and elegantly written overview of higher education in the U.S. since World War II, this book is a must-read for anyone trying to understand how we got to our current political crisis. Bunch expertly weaves the human story of the American dream in the twentieth century with the political story of attacks on higher education to explain how a country that once prided itself on knowledge has fallen into the grip of those who proudly reject science. This book is simply terrific." — HEATHER COX RICHARDSON, author of How the South Won the Civil War

“With masterful storytelling and deep reporting, Will Bunch traces the history of how American higher education evolved from a public good into a massive industry that has saddled a generation with huge debt but without the return on the investment of previous college graduates. But it’s much more than that: Bunch gives a blueprint for how we should rethink college and work for young adults. This indispensable book should be read by politicians, higher ed leaders, parents, students, and anyone else who cares about the future of our country in a rapidly changing world.” — JEFFREY SELINGO, New York Times bestselling author of Who Gets In and Why and There Is Life After College

“No other country except the United States makes people go $30,000 or $40,000, or more, into debt to get an education or certain job skills. In After the Ivory Tower Falls, Will Bunch does a masterful job explaining exactly how we got into the mess, and offers some good ideas for getting us out of it. A must-read for anyone who cares about fixing our ruptured politics and making higher education a public good once again.”  — RO KHANNA, member of Congress and author of Dignity in a Digital Age: Making Tech Work for All of Us

"Will Bunch's book about American politics and the state of college education is both perceptive and provocative. Bunch traces the bitter divide between voters who went to college and those who didn't, and skillfully explores the consequences of college being affordable only for the select few, with so many others either shut out or forever mired in student debt. Bunch's reporting skills are on full display in After the Ivory Tower Falls, and so are his talents for seeing broad patterns and for original thinking. This is an important and necessary book." — MARGARET SULLIVAN, media columnist, Washington Post

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Product Details

  • ISBN: 9780063076990
  • ISBN 10: 0063076993
  • Imprint: William Morrow
  • On Sale: 08/02/2022
  • Trimsize: 6.000 in (w) x 9.000 in (h) x 1.050 in (d)
  • Pages: 320
  • List Price: $28.99
  • BISAC1 : POLITICAL SCIENCE / Commentary & Opinion
  • BISAC2 : SOCIAL SCIENCE / Social Classes
  • BISAC3 : EDUCATION / Higher