Rose Be's Reviews > Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports Has Crippled Undergraduate Education

Beer and Circus by Murray A. Sperber
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's review
Mar 02, 2012

did not like it
bookshelves: non-fiction
Recommended to Rose by: Class reading
Recommended for: Old Grouches
Read from March 02 to April 07, 2012 — I own a copy

Here, let me sum up this book:

> Undergraduate education is declining rapidly

> Logical error!

> Undergraduates everywhere drink beer all the time. Even the gluten intolerant ones, probably.

> Overgeneralization!

> Faculty are wonderful angels (Sperber is faculty) who sometimes can't be bothered to connect with their apathetic students.

> Students are either collegians (drink all the time, don't care), academic (future faculty) or vocational (have a job, don't care about grades). Sperber admits no overlap-- clearly, students cannot work, have above a C average, and drink! It's just not possible!

In general Sperber makes factually insupportable claims about undergraduate life. He ignores the nuances of collegiate life, change over time, different students, different schools, etc. He come off as extremely bitter and condescending to students almost across the board. He also fails to anticipate possible counterarguments, and does not cite sources well if at all.

If this were a college paper, I would give Sperber a D-.

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Reading Progress

03/12/2012 page 68
19.0% "What a whiny man. He also seems to be able to dodge almost all serious discussion."
03/20/2012 page 68
19.0% "Let me summarize this book: administration is evil and sucks money from students to funnel into sports, but all students everywhere are too busy drinking to care."
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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Nicholas Norris He says several times that the Clark and Trow model of college subcultures is a rough guide to which almost all students have overlap. He explicitly says it in the book, and it's one of the first things he mentions in the notes. On page 15 he even goes as far as to say "These are types of subcultures and not types of students, and stereotyping undergraduates seves no purpose; in fact, it obscures the study of them."

Also, I don't understand how you see him portraying faculty as angels. If anything, Faculty are easily the villains of this book. He characterizes a good portion of professors at large public universities as simply not caring for undergraduates, viewing the students as useless scholars that get in the way of important research. He quotes one professor as saying "Every minute I spend in an undergraduate classroom is costing me money and prestige!" Worse yet, rather than an annoyance, the administrators are described as viewing undergrads simply as a source of income. Their cold view of academia as a business coming from public education's transformation to more or less a private, for profit model, due to a loss of government funding.

Ultimately, when I read this book, I did find criticism of student subcultures, but I think he views the students as ultimately a combination of ignorant, distracted, and powerless, while the faculty is either exploitive or dismissive of undergrads. I think he has a lot of sympathy for the students, especially the student-athletes who he sees has being forced to work a very demanding job, with longer than fulltime hours, for no compensation. They do receive scholarships, but the majority of them are destined to fail to learn much because they're ill-prepared for college, don't have time to study, or a combination of the two.

Moreover, I don't understand why you're faulting him for making some generalizations. Afte all, his subject matter encompasses millions of people. Besides, isn't it the ultimate goal of science to take specific, concrete, observations and make generalizations about them? I read plenty of specific and pertinent observations along with his generalizations.

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