Education Reading

In late December, early January there were two separate, superb articles written–one in the Los Angeles Review of Books by Steven Brint (called “The Educational Lottery: On the Four Kinds of Heretics Attacking the Gospel of Education”) and and one in the New York Review of Books by Tony Grafton (called “Our Universities: Why Are They Failing?”) that each covered a range of books on Higher Ed Reform, providing, together, a rather detailed and finely analyzed look at the criticisms and proposed solutions of higher education reform.

Together they cover 12 books and provide a thoughtful look at the primary components of the higher ed conversation taking place nationally all around us.

I was going to put some excerpts up but so much of both is so great that I couldn’t choose. Do yourself a favor and check them both out (HERE and HERE)..



Day 1 (In Review)

So, the first day of this year’s DWFDW is in the books, and I have to say that it went as well and smoothly as last year’s went poorly! I’m sure some of that had to do with the general appreciation for the adjustment down to a two day District Wide event and three days for local business at the colleges–it’s always nice to feel heard.

There were many other things, too, though, that were strikingly different from last year’s event and showed greater understanding of the whole endeavor or improvements with respect to competence with this sort of thing or attention to the things that faculty have been shouting, saying, and whispering over the course of the last year.

For me, at least, it was a significantly better experience in lots and lots of ways, and so I’m sitting here now a bit relieved, a bit satisfied, and a lot hopeful. Among the people I talked to, the sentiment(s) seemed to be similar; nearly every conversation I had gave off a nice kind of cautiously optimistic vibration, which is a nice way to start the year, I’d say.

Kudos to Mike Davis and the whole planning team, I would say (Heather Shevitz had a big role and I know there were a few other people, too, but I don’t know who. Please add any names to whom we can give due credit in the comments if you happen to know them).

How about you? What did you think?

More Book Reviews

Three education books reviewed in the same column!

Nussbaum’s Not for Profit, Menand’s The Marketplace of Ideas and Castle’s The Professor and Other Writings:

If the question of the ’80s and ’90s was, “What should we be reading, and how?,” the question that dogged the opening years of our new millennium was of a vastly more dismal kind: “Why bother?” The commenters’ hate registered a broader structural truth about a crisis in the humanities. News items have been bouncing around academic Facebook pages and Chronicle of Higher Education links throughout the last year: furloughs; steep declines in academic hiring; bankrupt state governments; ever more fiendishly impossible demands for humanists to justify their existence. Meanwhile, in the UK, the managerial talent of New Labour made enormous strides in making their vision of cost efficiency take on flesh: departments and high-profile professorships vanished, it seemed, each week. American administrators looked with envy at the audacity of British budget-slashers. The accelerated dismantling of humanities programs across the world demanded a response from the professors. So the call went round the 
academic-professional world: Comrades, to the barricades!

Which means, academic talent being what it is, to manifestos. And so there emerged, as the last academic year staggered to a close, a series of counterstrikes. Two are of particular note, since they come from Louis Menand and Martha Nussbaum, academics whose professional accomplishments within humanistic disciplines (English and philosophy, respectively) are coupled with effective public voices. Writers of lean, flexible prose, they offer distinct kinds of humanistic styles: Menand, the historicist, reminding us of how we got here (and the attendant ironies); Nussbaum, the ethicist, telling us where we should want to go (and the attendant dangers). Both books are short, concise answers to the call to defend and rearticulate the mission of the humanities in an age of neoliberal resentment…

If the ethics or the histories of humanities education are not quite helpful in regaining some collective nerve, perhaps a less abstract genre would work better — something, that is, that would tell us in intimate terms why one studies in the humanities, what it feels like to do so, and how doing so changes the ways one feels. If that is what is wanted, Terry Castle’s The Professor could scarcely be bettered. Not quite a biography, it is a witty phenomenology of humanistic life; it opens up what such a life feels like from the inside. One of its happy paradoxes is that its essays, each seemingly written as a jeu d’esprit, elegantly perform the public service of articulating the claims of the humanities.

Check out the whole thing and then order one up for Spring Break!