Monday, August 9, 2010

Brief Review of "Higher Education?"

I just got the book Higher Education? How Colleges are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids-And What We Can Do About It by journalist Claudia Dreifus and former professor Andrew Hacker. In a nutshell, I highly recommend the book to anyone who cares about higher education - especially people who are not directly involved in it (like, professors). I think administrators should be forced to read this book, although I worry it will lead to the formation of another layer of bureaucracy to more closely study and then implement what the book calls for (more on that later). Parents and high school students need to read this book, from all walks of life, from those who aspire to Harvard or those who will be going to community college because that is all they can afford. And we should all be horrified by many of the truth about higher education this book exposes. 

What is written in the book is nothing new. I've written on a number of the topics the authors deal with here on this blog, as has The Chronicle, Inside Higher Ed, New Faculty Majority, AAUP, etc. The strength of this book is that it is found all in one place, in one (more or less) cohesive narrative. It is a popular book, so if you're looking for an academic book, filled with the usual trappings, then look elsewhere. This is not a criticism. There is enough research and number-crunching to give the book the right amount of heft and credibility. Perhaps the most convincing aspect of the statistics/numbers presented is that they are all publicly available, if you're willing to dig around a little on universities' websites. 

I do think the authors miss some important arguments, rush through others, and present an inconsistent picture at times of the university experience. Over the course of this week, I want to write some of my own thoughts and reactions to the their book. I hope that others will read it and engage in the same kind of debates, with the authors and with each other. The future of higher ed demands it.

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