Restoring the Soul of the University by Perry L. Glanzer, Nathan F. Alleman, and Todd C. Ream

“Theology can and must be understood as essential to the soul of the university. It enlivens and connects to every discipline or every part of the academic body. It cannot be isolated to a particular part of the body.”

Modern America is very fragmented. There is no controlling, overarching narrative. Only a few decades ago there were very few television stations, most Americans only had a handful of in home entertainment options. Today, we have endless options at our immediate disposal. Anyone can find their niche and hide in it. This fragmented lifestyle has influenced every part of society including colleges and universities.

Restoring the Soul of the University addresses the fragmentation of higher education is great detail. In order to talk about today, the authors discuss the past, and, of course, they offer the all the greatest hits including German universities, Harvard’s humble beginnings, and Kerr’s multiversity.

Though I speak in jest, I think the authors provide a well-balanced look at higher education. It was never perfect. Theology was kicked out at some places, but at others, Theology willingly and enthusiastically left and separated itself from the grand scheme of education.

Can we “restore the soul” of higher education? That’s a difficult question. I am not convinced higher education was ever united, so I am not sure if we can “restore” anything. I think the authors understand this and admit near the end of the book that “a university with soul will never be fully embodied on this earth.”

So the question could be, can we give higher education a united soul? I am not sure either. Colleges and universities are filled with silos. But are these silos inherently bad or are they logically sound? We have highly trained individuals in their field doing the best they can. General physicians are great and definitely needed, but when you have a specific health issue, you want an expert.

This book includes a lot of generic words: wisdom, virtue, identity, purpose, values. They are generic because they are not defined easily. We obviously want these on our campuses, but where do they originate? Christian schools have an advantage here because they start from a commonly accepted theological foundation, but I don’t know where public universities start. But on the other hand, Christian schools are not bastions of unity either.

I liked this book because it didn’t just rely on a romantic view of the past. They see the problem, address them, offer options, remain optimistic but realistic.