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Bring Me the Head of John D.

"Studying" philanthropy is a new academic enterprise, and one riven by various interests. Though a growing camp of scholars is following grant money, their studies, even when critical, generally confirm the conventional wisdom of foundation leaders. As a permanent supplicant, the academy approaches organized philanthropy with either a tugged forelock or an upraised list.

Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, a professor of education at Teacher's College, Columbia, is skeptical yet yielding to the reasons for the politics of philanthropy. Her Politics of Knowledge is a royal history of the Carnegie Corporation, just as the professional heirs to Andrew's great dream of the "gospel of wealth" would have it. Teresa Odendahl, on the other hand, demands new layers of political control over private philanthropy. Here is the controversial reappearance of the orthodox case against private wealth.

Though Lagemann repeatedly apologizes for writing "elite" history, the Carnegie Corporation has shaped the nation by pioneering efforts to elevate popular culture. One of the oldest foundations in America, and until World War II the largest, its current assets of about $800 million make it the nation's eleventh largest. Lagemann's detailed analysis is done with Teutonic care and focuses on Carnegie's various legacies, from the public libraries and the establishment of adult and art education...

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