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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

After the Ivory Tower Falls: How College Broke the American Dream and Blew Up Our Politics - and How to Fix It

by Will Bunch
After the Ivory Tower Falls: How College Broke the American Dream and Blew Up Our Politics - and How to Fix It

After the Ivory Tower Falls: How College Broke the American Dream and Blew Up Our Politics - and How to Fix It

by Will Bunch


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

Longlisted for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction | "This book is simply terrific." —Heather Cox Richardson | "Ambitious and engrossing." —New York Times Book Review | "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., from the landmark GI Bill through 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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780063076990
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/02/2022
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 35,475
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Will Bunch is national opinion columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer and author of several books, including Tear Down This Myth: The Right-Wing Distortion of the Reagan Legacy, The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, Paranoia Politics and High-Def Hucksters in the Age of Obama, and the e-book The Bern Identity: A Search for Bernie Sanders and the New American Dream. He has won numerous journalism awards and shared the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for spot news reporting with the New York Newsday staff.

Table of Contents

Introduction College Like My Grandma Used to Make 1

Chapter 1 Life During Wartime in Knox County, Ohio 11

Chapter 2 When College in America Almost Became a Public Good 42

Chapter 3 Why the Kent State Massacre Raised Your Tuition 70

Chapter 4 Yuppies, Dittoheads, and a "Big Sort": College and the Culture Wars 103

Chapter 5 The "Whole College Thing" Awkwardly Enters the 2020s 127

Gap Year

The Quad: The Four People You Meet in Today's America 157

Chapter 6 A College Debt Crisis, Occupy Wall Street, and the Rise of a New New Left 190

Chapter 7 From Resentment of College to America's Rejection of Knowledge 215

Chapter 8 The Soul of a New Truman Commission 243

Chapter 9 A Bloodless War to Save America's Youth 274

Acknowledgments 295

Notes on Sources 297

Index 303

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