Education: A Class Hires a Scholar

A notable yearning of today's college students is for broad courses that cut a swath across academic disciplines and focus on major social issues. One problem, however, is that there is rarely a niche for such freewheeling scholars in the modern, highly compartmentalized university. Berkeley Lecturer Ernest Becker, 42, who attracted overflow crowds into a 900-seat auditorium for a wide-ranging course embracing religion, anthropology and sociology, was reminded of that disturbing fact last month when Cal's anthropology department failed to rehire him.

At Berkeley, students have a knack for getting what they want. And what they clearly want is Ernest Becker. Calling...

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