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Leon Botstein on the 'Tragedy' of Antioch

June 19, 2007

Few American college presidents may have as much insight into leading progressive colleges as does Leon Botstein. And the announcement last week that Antioch College would be shut down has left him frustrated and disappointed.

In the 1970s, while in his 20's, Botstein led Franconia College, an alternative, progressive institution that has since died. Botstein is currently the president of Bard College, where he has promoted the arts, early college programs for high school students, the education of prisoners, and the idea that college presidents need to focus less on their endowments and more on the educations they provide.

In this podcast interview, Botstein is highly critical of American liberals for failing to rally around Antioch the way conservatives rally around establishment higher education. He also faults Antioch for some poor decisions and for failing to evolve -- and discusses how progressive colleges need to improve to succeed. For example, he talks about the importance of the sciences, which he says most progressive colleges never pushed as hard as they should have.

Botstein -- speaking from Jerusalem, where he is music director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra -- also discusses the challenges facing progressive colleges, and offers approaches for them to find continued relevance and success.

 

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