|Book of the Month|
American Higher Education in the Twenty-First Century: Social, Political, and Economic Challenges (Third Edition). Edited by Philip G. Altbach (Boston College), Patricia J. Gumport (Stanford U), and Robert O. Berdahl (U of Maryland). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins U Press, June 2011, 511p, $60; $49.95pb.
Higher education worldwide is an important, complex, and growing enterprise. It is not like it was several decades ago, and it will change again in the coming decades, due to globalization, new digital technology and on-line courses, population growth, rising aspirations, financial stress, and growing complexity demanding more education and, arguably, a reorganization of traditional academic arrangements.
AHEin21C is clearly the best current overview of American higher education, which once was the global paragon. First Europe and now the developing world are catching up, however, and, as noted by Altbach (who has written several books on global higher education), "the golden age of the American university is probably over." Many changes are taking place, and "much of this will adversely affect the academic profession," not only in the US but elsewhere. This extensive volume offers 17 amply-documented essays in four parts:
I. The Setting (global trends, history of US higher education, autonomy and accountability, and academic freedom);
II. External Forces (the federal government, the states, increasing legalization, external constituencies);
III. The Academic Community (harsh realities for the professoriate, college students in changing contexts, complexities of campus leadership); and
IV. Central Issues for the 21st Century (financing, digital technologies, graduate education and research, curriculum reform, increased commercialization, and the diversity imperative). See the GFB Book of the Month
listing for elaboration.
The authoritative essays cover virtually every topic. One notable omission is big-time college athletics as a source of income, entertainment, connection with alumni and local communities, and distraction from institutional mission (see Varsity Green
). Even more important, little if anything is provided on positive directions that institutions ought to pursue (see special category, below, on Moving Forward). Altbach laments that "The curriculum lost its coherence in the rush toward specialization. Now it is necessary to reestablish a sense of academic mission." And now is the time to start this difficult process.
Many other books have also been recently published on American higher education, mostly by major university presses. More than 50 titles appearing since early 2009 are mentioned below in eight categories that parallel the organization of AHEin21C: Global Trends, Losing Autonomy, Faculty, Students, Finance, Digitization, Curriculum, and Diversity. A ninth category, Moving Forward, suggests several books that might help to "reestablish a sense of academic mission" in difficult times, which are not likely to become less difficult soon-if ever.
Higher Education: Global Trends
The best long-term global overview is offered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in its multi-volume work, Higher Education to 2030 . Vol. 1 on Demography (OECD, Nov 2008, 300p) looks at aging OECD populations with more immigrants and minorities, and the impact of various trends on tertiary education. Vol. 2 on Globalization (OECD, Nov 2009, 356p) considers the growing flows of knowledge, people, and financing that cross national borders, the future of higher education in China and India, European reforms, and scenarios for financial sustainability. A third volume will look at impacts of technology and a fourth volume will have scenarios on future higher education systems. (Descriptions available at www.oecdilescibrary.org.) Also see Adapting Universities to the Global Society edited by Charles F. Bonser of Indiana U (LIT Verlag/Transaction, Aug 2009, 192p) on the impacts of globalization and global competition, The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities Are Reshaping the World by Ben Wildavsky (Princeton U Press, May 2010, 248p) on international mobility of students and the spread of branch campuses, Higher Education in a Global Society edited by D. Bruce Johnstone et al. (Edward Elgar, June 2010, 256p) on higher education as a force for globalization, and Governing Universities Globally: Organizations, Regulation and Rankings by Roger King of the Open U (Edward Elgar, 2009, 256p), on the growing influence of global regulatory governance and the processes of purposeful standardization.
|Higher Education: Losing Autonomy|
Several books nicely reinforce the chapters in AHEin21C on the loss of faculty power and the advent of state regulation and legalization. The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters
by Johns Hopkins political scientist Benjamin Ginsberg (Oxford U Press, Aug 2011, 272p) critiques the growth of "deanlets" without academic background or experience who are setting the educational agenda. The Lost Soul of Higher Education: Corporatization, the Assault on Academic Freedom, and the End of the American University
by Yeshive U historian Ellen Schrecker (New Press, Spring 2010, 336p) warns of pressure groups that have staged massive challenges to academic freedom, and private-sector encroachment on academic life. Wannabe U: Inside the Corporate University
by U of Connecticut sociologist Gaye Tuchman (U of Chicago Press, April 2011, 272p) criticizes the new corporate administrators obsessed with success measures. No University Is An Island: Saving Academic Freedom
by AAUP president Cary Nelson (New York U Press, March 2010, 288p) claims that "the university is presently under siege from all corners" and that workers are being exploited. The Trials of Academe: The New Era of Campus Litigation
by Amy Gadja of the U of Illinois (Harvard U Press, Oct 2009, 298p) looks at the trend toward litigation in many areas and the implications for academic freedom. Policies and Performance in American Higher Education: An Examination of Cases across State Systems
by Richard Richardson Jr of NYU and Mario Martinez of UNLV (Johns Hopkins U Press, July 2009, 224p) portrays higher education systems of five states and shows that their policies are often complex to implement and costly.
Higher Education: Faculty
Complementing the excellent AMEin21C chapter on "harsh realities for the professoriate," The American Academic Profession: Transformation in Contemporary Higher Education
edited by Joseph C. Hermanowicz of the U of Georgia (Johns Hopkins U Press, June 2011, 371p) covers movements to reform college teaching, professional jurisdiction, graduate teaching and mentoring, anomie in the American academic profession, academic freedom and the state, the growing uses of business rhetoric in the academy, shifts in regulation of academic research, and professional control in the complex university. Off-Track Profs: Nontenured Teachers in Higher Education
by John G. Cross of Bloomfield College and U of Michigan political scientist Edie N. Goldenberg (MIT Press, 2009, 208p) describes the expanding role of "contingent" part-time faculty. The Faculty Lounges and Other Reasons Why You Won't Get the College Education You Paid For
by Naomi Schaefer Riley (Ivan R. Dee/Rowman & Littlefield, June 2011, 144p) also looks at contingent faculty teaching large swaths of the undergraduate population. Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids
by CUNY-Queens political scientists Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus of the New York Times (Holt/Times Books, Aug 2010, 288p) argues that the $420 billion higher education industry is immune from scrutiny and that overly vocationalized colleges have lost sight of their basic mission to challenge the minds of the young; proposes replacing tenure with multiyear contracts, fewer sabbaticals, and ending exploitation of adjuncts and inflated "quasicorporate" salaries of college presidents.
Higher Education: Students
If the faculty is stressed and watered down by exploited adjuncts, what happens to learning? Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses
by Richard Arum of NYU and the Social Science Research Council and Josipa Roksa of the U of Virginia (U of Chicago Press, Jan 2011, 256p), reports on the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a standardized test showing that 45% of a sample of 2,300 students at 24 institutions showed no significant improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing during the first two years of colleges; instead, they were distracted by socializing, working, and an institutional culture that puts a low priority on learning. Getting Wasted: Why College Students Drink Too Much and Party So Hard
by Ohio U sociologist Thomas Vander Ven (NYU Press, Aug 2011, 224p) describes the "vibrant drinking scene" on most US college campuses, and how college itself encourages drinking habits. In a society of growing inequality, several books illustrate the problem and how to help low-income students. Degrees of Inequality: Culture, Class, and Gender in American Higher Education
by U of Toronto sociologist Ann L. Mullen (Johns Hopkins U Press, Jan 2011, 256) contrasts the differing student experiences at Yale University and nearby Southern Connecticut State, which reinforces the inequalities that higher education seeks to transcend. Affirmative Action for the Rich: Legacy Preferences in College Admissions
edited by Richard D. Kahlenberg (Century Foundation Press, Sept 2010, 400p) describes the long-standing affirmative action program that benefit the children of wealthy alumni. Rewarding Strivers: Helping Low Income Student Succeed in College
also edited by Richard D. Kahlenberg (Century Foundation Press, June 2010, 231p) calls on universities to expand preferences beyond race to also include socioeconomic status. Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America's Public Universities
by former Princeton president William G. Bowen and two others (W. W. Norton, Sept 2009, 392p) worries that <60% of entering students graduate, notably those from poor and minority families. Given the rising price of college tuition and the system failing low-income and first-generation students, why not "do it yourself"? DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education
by Anya Kamenetz of Fast Company
magazine (Chelsea Green, April 2010, 208p) argues that the future lies in personal learning networks and free and open-source educational models.
Higher Education: Finance
The College Cost Disease: Higher Cost and Lower Quality by Robert E. Martin of Centre College (Edward Elgar, May 2011, 180p) notes that college costs per student have been on the rise at a pace that matches-or exceeds-that of healthcare costs, but, unlike healthcare, teaching quality has actually declined. Privatizing the Public University edited by Christopher C. Morphew of the U of Georgia and Peter D. Eckel of the American Council on Education's Center for Effective Leadership (Johns Hopkins U Press, July 2009, 224p) explains the substantial budget cuts in public institutions, along with increased calls for accountability, leading to more reliance of private revenue streams and institutions functioning like businesses. Saving Alma Mater: A Rescue Plan for America's Public Universities by James C. Garland (U of Chicago Press, Oct 2009, 320p) warns that many public universities, which educate 80% of US college students, have fallen into decline due to state fiscal problems, and urges a new compact between states and universities. Mission and Money: Understanding the University by Burton A. Weisbrod of Northwestern U and two others (Cambridge U Press, April 2010, 356p) highlights the tension between higher learning and revenue-driving activities, notably intercollegiate athletics, and considers various revenue sources. Varsity Green: A Behind the Scenes Look at Culture and Corruption in College Athletics by Chicago sportswriter Mark Yost (Stanford U Press, Jan 2010, 208p) looks at the high-revenue business of college sports and the corrupting factors that related big money (from TV, bowl games, etc.) has on college athletics, youth sports, and academic integrity. For-Profit Colleges and Universities: Their Markets, Regulation, Performance, and Place in Higher Education edited by Guilbert C. Hentschke of USC and two others (Stylus Publishing, Feb 2010, 224p) discusses such issues as governance, academic freedom, development of programs and courses, and receipt of public money by this new and expanding class of institutions such as the U of Phoenix.
Higher Education: Digitization
Somewhat overstated, The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age
by Cathy N. Davidson of Duke U and David Theo Goldberg of the U of California Humanities Research Institute (MIT Press, March 2010, 320p) is the full-length report of an earlier summary, The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age, one of the MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning. It shows how traditional institutions can become as innovative, flexible, robust, and collaborative as the best social networking sites. (But to simply replicate the same patterns of research and teaching?) Unlocking the Gates: How and Why Leading Universities Are Opening Up Access to Their Courses
by Taylor Walsh (Princeton U Press, Jan 2011, 320p), with a Foreword by Princeton President Emeritus William G. Bowen, reports that some of the world's leading universities are now providing free access to undergraduate course materials, e.g.: MIT supplies online courseware for nearly all its courses. (A significant trend, or of limited importance?) The New Digital Shoreline: How Web 2.0 and Millennials Are Revolutionizing Higher Education
by Roger McHaney of Kansas State U (Stylus Publishing, March 2011, 256p) shows how Web 2.0 and the inexorable influx of tech-savvy students on campus are shaping the new shoreline of higher education by social networking, time shifting, instant access to an over-abundance of information, personalization, etc. (Changes of course, but "Revolutionizing"?) More disturbing, at least to older generations, is My Word! Plagiarism and College Culture
by Notre Dame anthropologist Susan D. Blum (ILR Press/Cornell U Press, Dec 2010, 240p), reporting that >75% of students admit to having cheated, while 68% admit to using material from the Internet without citation; this is not seen as lowered ethical standards, but an indication of dramatic shifts in education and the larger culture.
Higher Education: Curriculum
Books that focus on curriculum take two polarized positions: those lamenting the decline of the liberal arts and those advocating new directions to break old molds (interdisciplinarity, globalism, and sustainability).
Liberal Arts at the Brink
by Victor E. Ferrall Jr., president emeritus of Beloit College (Harvard U Press, March 2011, 238p) shows how spiraling demand for career-related education has pressured liberal arts colleges, which account for 2% of enrollees, to become vocational, distorting their mission and core values. In The Future of History
(Yale U Press, April 2011, 224p), historian John Lukacs traces the decline in history teaching throughout higher education and the state of disarray of the profession. The Community College and the Good Society: How Liberal Arts Were Undermined and What We Can Do to Bring Them Back
by Chad Hanson of Casper College (Aldine Transaction, March 2010, 160p), proposes new teaching strategies, curriculum, and organizational structure. Decline and Revival of Higher Education
by Herbert I. London, president of the Hudson Institute and former NYU professor of humanities (Aldine Transaction, June 2010, 248p), bemoans the demise of classic books programs, lack of opposition in campus publications, and collapse of moral judgment.
Interdisciplinary Conversations: Challenging Habits of Thought
by Myra H. Strober of Stanford U (Stanford U Press, Nov 2010, 216p) notes growing enthusiasm for interdisciplinary work, but barriers such as the academic reward system, disciplinary cultures and habits of mind, and interpersonal dynamics. The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University
by Harvard English prof Louis Menand (W.W. Norton, Dec 2010, 174p) asks why it is so hard to institute a general education curriculum, and notes that interdisciplinarity is "the ratification of the logic of disciplinarity; in practice it actually tends to rigidify disciplinary paradigms...these practices tend to reinforce the Balkanized structure of knowledge production that universities inherited from the 19th century." A new edition with a new introduction of The Reforming of General Education: The Columbia Experience in Its National Setting
by recently deceased Harvard sociologist and sometime futurist Daniel Bell (Transaction Publishers, Sept 2010, 357p) advocates a structural change of universities and secondary schools to help balance general education and specialism Global Civics: Responsibilities and Rights in an Interdependent World
edited by Brookings senior fellow Hakan Altinay (Brookings Institution Press, Feb 2011, 145p) argues that we cannot achieve the cooperation needed for a globalizing century without developing some sort of "global civics," and explores how to build an effective curriculum for institutions of higher learning worldwide. Educating Globally Competent Citizens: A Tool Kit for Teaching Seven Revolutions
, edited by Dennis R. Falk of U of Minnesota-Duluth and two others (Center for Strategic and International Studies, April 2010, 133p), stems from a collaboration of CSIS, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and The New York Times, focusing on seven areas of change expected to be most revolutionary in 2025: population growth, environment/resources, technological innovation and diffusion, dissemination of knowledge, economic integration, the nature and mode of conflict, and the challenge of governance. Global Citizenship and the University: Advancing Social Life Relations in an Interdependent World
by Robert A. Rhoads of UCLA and Katalin Szelenyi of UMass-Boston (Stanford U Press, May 2011, 344p) notes that new ideas of "global citizenship" are emerging, and calls for enhanced opportunities for students and faculty to be involved. Sustainability Education: Perspectives and Practice across Higher Education
edited by Paula Jones and two others (Earthscan/Stylus, July 2011, 364p) features 14 case studies of greening campuses and transforming curricula, showing what has worked and what has not. Hope Is an Imperative: The Essential David Orr
by distinguished environmentalist/political scientist David W. Orr of Oberlin College (Island Press, Dec 2010, 375p) collects 33 essays of a leading champion of ecological literacy in higher education, including "What is Education For?" and "The Campus and the Biosphere." On a note of specialized urgency in light of growing concern about food, Transforming Agricultural Education for a Changing World
by the National Research Council (National Academies Press, Sept 2009, 206p) urges nine steps for a transformed role of colleges of agriculture in the next 10 years, including a dynamic curriculum and more connections between institutions, to re-establish the college of agriculture as a cornerstone institution in academe.
|Higher Education: Diversity|
Diverse Administrators in Peril: The New Indentured Class in Higher Education
by Edna Chun of Broward College and Alvin Evans of Kent State U (Paradigm Publishers, June 2011, 192p) exposes patterns of racism, sexism, and heterosexism, offering strategies and models for inclusive leadership practices. Gender and Higher Education
edited by Barbara J. Bank of U of Missouri (Johns Hopkins U Press, March 2011, 456p) challenges recent claims that gender inequities in US higher education no longer exist, revealing the many ways in which gender is embedded in curriculum, institutional structures, and governance. Between Race and Reason: Violence, Intellectual Responsibility, and the University to Come
by Susan Searls Giroux of McMaster U (Stanford U Press, Aug 2010, 288p) criticizes "raceless" racism at home, a persistent civilizational war abroad, and university failure to produce an informed and reflective democratic citizenry. Uncommon Schools: The Global Rise of Postsecondary Institutions for Indigenous People
by Wade M. Cole of Montana State U (Stanford U Press, April 2011, 288p) describes the rise of a global indigenous rights movement, the massification of postsecondary education, and developments in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
|Higher Education: Moving Forward|
What can and should be done, and how? Making Reform Work: The Case for Transforming American Higher Education
(Rutgers U Press, Sept 2009, 240p), by Robert Zemsky (U of Pennsylvania Institute for Research on Higher Education and chair of the Learning Alliance for Higher Education), offers ideas that should have come from the 2005 Commission on the Future of Higher Education, on which he served. They include a renewed effort to help student performance in high schools, a stronger focus on the science of active learning, and a three-year baccalaureate as standard. Zemsky was also co-author of Re-making the American University
(Rutgers, 2005). Smart Leadership for Higher Education in Difficult Times
edited by David W. Breneman of the U of Virginia and Paul J. Yakoboski of the TIAA-CREF Institute (Edward Elgar, March 2011, 240p) examines challenges and opportunities to advance core missions of education, research, and service in a resource-constrained environment. Building Organizational Capacity: Strategic Management in Higher Education
by J. Douglas Toma of the U of Georgia (Johns Hopkins U Press, Nov 2010, 272p) outlines eight essential organizational elements (such as purposes, policy, processes, and culture) and illustrates their influence through case studies of eight institutions. The Future of Higher Education: Perspectives from America's Academic Leaders
edited by Gary A. Olson of Idaho State U and John W. Presley of Illinois State U (Paradigm Publishers, Oct 2010, 256p) addresses the multiple challenges facing higher education today, with advice on university finances, student access, changing technologies, and the philosophical underpinnings of college education. Finally, Abelard to Apple: The Fate of American Colleges and Universities
(MIT Press, Oct 2011, 336p-not yet posted) by Richard A. Demillo (Director, Center for 21st Century Universities, Georgia Institute of Technology), offers ten rules to help colleges reinvent themselves, such as establish your own brand, use technology, be open, and cut costs in half. But do these books simply tinker with the dismal status quo? Or do they really address the basic underlying issues, and offer a possibly brighter future for higher education in the 21st century?
|Coda: The Two Missing Scholarships|
This biblio-essay is an experiment in horizontal thinking, synthesizing books on American higher education published since early 2009. It does not claim to be comprehensive, but surely the great majority of recent books on higher education have been identified here. It is one form of integrative scholarship, of which there can be many.
Is this essay of little or no interest? Or, as hoped, does it open up many fresh perspectives by assembling recent books in a "big picture" framework that enhances understanding of trends, barriers, and preferred directions? If such a "frontier frame" works for the higher education sector, why not similar frames, continuously updated, for all sectors and issues? It is fairly simple to prepare, but there are no models to follow. Why this lack of overview scanning? The answer can be found in the conventional definitions of "scholarship."
In a seminal report, Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1990, 147p), Carnegie Foundation president Ernest L. Boyer stated that, "for America's colleges and universities to remain vital a new vision of scholarship is required... (one that can) relate the work of the academy more directly to the realities of contemporary life." Boyer goes on to propose that the work of the professoriate should be seen as having four separate, yet overlapping functions: the scholarship of discovery (the traditional notion of research), the scholarship of teaching (making the work of the professor understood by others), the scholarship of integration (making connections across the disciplines, placing the specialties in larger context; serious, disciplined work that seeks to interpret, draw together, and bring new insight), and the scholarship of application (service to the nation and the world related to one's special field of knowledge, which is serious and demanding work). In building a truly diverse higher learning system, Boyer concludes, we need real research centers where undergraduate instruction is also honored, promotion of integrative studies as an exciting mission, and top priority given to relating learning to real life.
"Ultimately, in the current scheme of things, the nation loses, too. At no time in our history has the need been greater for connecting the work of the academy to the social and environmental challenges beyond the campus. And yet, the rich diversity and potential of American higher education cannot be fully realized if campus missions are too narrowly defined or if the faculty reward system is inappropriately restricted. It seems clear that while research is crucial, we need a renewed commitment to service, too. Thus, the most important obligation now confronting the nation's colleges and universities is to break out of the tired old teaching versus research debate and define, in more creative ways, what it means to be a scholar. It's time to recognize the full range of faculty talent and the great diversity of functions higher education must perform." (Boyer, p.xii; GFB emphasis).
In American Higher Education in the Twenty-First Century
, co-editor Philip G. Altbach does cite the 1990 Carnegie Foundation report, but only to say that some critics "urge that higher education reconsider its priorities and place more emphasis on teaching." (p.227) No suggestion whatsoever is made of the other two scholarships of integration and application! In The American Academic Profession
, sociologist Steven Brint does have a long discussion of Scholarship Reconsidered, and does mention the four types of scholarship in passing, but then goes on to state that the scholarship of integration is "the distinctive activity of humanistic scholars" and the scholarship of application is "the distinctive activity of professors in professional schools" (p81), which is a simplistic hardening of the categories not in the slightest suggested by Boyer's report.
Of course there is some integrative scholarship and some application to problems of the wider world. But, arguably, far from what is needed. Leaving the research vs. teaching tension aside (which receives lots of attention), the academy remains massively imbalanced insofar as the scholarship of specialized research vs. the scholarships of integration and application, and Boyer's report is more important than ever. Not only does the nation and the world suffer from a flood of disconnected and too often trivial pieces of knowledge that lack context, but ultimately higher education suffers too from ill-informed citizens and policy-makers and bad policies that work against the public interest.
Imagine a world of far more integration, where up-to-date, futures-oriented overviews of informed, evidence-based thinking in every sector and for every issue are widely available, readily understandable, and openly discussed. Imagine a world of far more scholarly application-three, five, even ten times more than at present-where professors would help to clarify energy options and the dangers of climate change, explain the best ways to create jobs and cut government spending, point to the most successful ways to reform schools and the criminal justice system, debate the most cost-effective ways to enhance security and freedom, ponder all of the consequences pro and con of the new communications technologies, and much more. With more informed discussion and in-depth debate, rather than the usual talking heads and partisan posturing, public discourse would be greatly improved, eventually leading to better policies-and a more promising future for higher education.
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