It turned out to be about Hillsdale College. I knew the name because we get the Imprimis flyer in our mail, but I didn't really know anything about it. Turns out to have quite an admirable history; it was founded in 1844 and from the very beginning did not exclude anyone based on gender or race. In fact, in 1957, coached by Muddy Waters, the college was invited to the Tangerine Bowl *on condition that it leave its black players at home*. It refused. When other colleges were accepting government funding in return for various restrictions and oversight, Hillsdale did not.
So the book was about the history of American education as it related to the educational history of this particular college, in particular about "liberal education". A shortish book but interesting in the issues it raised.
The trend in modern univerrsities has been towards the enormous research-oriented conglomeration, firmly tied to the government by funding and by thousands of pages of regulation. This tendency is not generally questioned, or so it would seem, just as the behemoth of centralized public education funded by the taxpayer and regulated by people far away from the locality has not been questioned. As Larry Arnn, the author of the book, points out, the Founders thought that education like family life was too vitally important to be tied up with the government.
Interesting -- and a nice tie-in with the Life of Frederick Douglass that Kieron is to read this year. Frederick Douglass came and spoke at the college and said, according to Mr Arnn, and you can find it on this site too:
“All I ask is, give him (the Negro) a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone . … If you see him going into a workshop, just let him alone — your interference is doing him a positive injury....“Everybody has asked the question, … ‘What shall we do with the Negro?’ I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us!””I guess the theme of the book is that this insistence applies to education and family too: "Do nothing with us!"