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Making Reform Work: The Case for Transforming American Higher Educationby Robert Zemsky
Synopses & Reviews
Making Reform Work is a practical narrative of ideas that begins by describing who is saying what about American higher educationand#249;who's angry, who's disappointed, and why. Most of the pleas for changing American colleges and universities that originate outside the academy are lamentations on a small number of too often repeated themes. The critique from within the academy focuses on issues principally involving money and the power of the market to change colleges and universities. Sandwiched between these perspectives is a public that still has faith in an enterprise that it really doesn't understand.
Robert Zemsky, one of a select group of scholars who participated in Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings's 2005 Commission on the Future of Higher Education, signed off on the commission's report with reluctance. In Making Reform Work he presents the ideas he believes should have come from that group to forge a practical agenda for change. Zemsky argues that improving higher education will require enlisting faculty leadership, on the one hand, and, on the other, a strategy for changing the higher education system writ large.
Directing his attention from what can't be done to what can be done, Zemsky provides numerous suggestions. These include a renewed effort to help students' performance in high schools and a stronger focus on the science of active learning, not just teaching methods. He concludes by suggesting a series of dislodging eventsand#249;for example, making a three-year baccalaureate the standard undergraduate degree, congressional rethinking of student aid in the wake of the loan scandal, and a change in the rules governing endowmentsand#249;that could break the gridlock that today holds higher education reform captive.
Making Reform Work offers three rules for successful college and university transformation: don't vilify, don't play games, and come to the table with a well-thought-out strategy rather than a sharply worded lamentation.
Book News Annotation:
This volume discusses higher education reform in America and offers three lessons school leaders can use for success: don't vilify, don't play games, and come to the table with a well thought out strategy. Zemsky briefly describes his work with the Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education and what their final report missed, especially about teaching and learning, and what is being said about higher education in the US from within and outside academia, and notes that reform must fall somewhere between what academics want and the necessity of the marketplace. He discusses issues such as globalization, scandals, rankings, affordability, accountability, access, quality, and technology, as well as why learning hasn't mattered. He then provides a list of things not to do, like reforming accreditation, and a list of things to do, like putting learning at the top of the agenda. Zemsky has served in planning, at the Institute for Research on Higher Education, with The Learning Alliance, and in other roles at the U. of Pennsylvania. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Robert Samuels explains why universities cost so much and offers solutions as to how they can reduce their expenses by concentrating on their core mission of instruction and research. Not only can tuition be reduced, but public universities and colleges can be made free by allocating existing resources to provide quality undergraduate education and diminishing the amount of money spent in the areas of athletics, administration, and public research.
A New Deal for the Humanities brings together twelve prominent scholars who shed light on the many concerns swirling around the humanities todayandmdash;exploring the history of the liberal arts in America, their present state, and their future direction. The volume focuses on public higher education, for it is in our state schools that the liberal arts are taught to the greatest numbers, where the decline of those fields would be most damaging, and where their strength is most threatened.
Many in higher education fear that the humanities are facing a crisis. But even if the rhetoric about andldquo;crisisandrdquo; is overblown, humanities departments do face increasing pressure from administrators, politicians, parents, and students. In A New Deal for the Humanities, Gordon Hutner and Feisal G. Mohamed bring together twelve prominent scholars who address the history, the present state, and the future direction of the humanities. These scholars keep the focus on public higher education, for it is in our state schools that the liberal arts are taught to the greatest numbers and where their neglect would be most damaging for the nation.
The contributors offer spirited and thought-provoking debates on a diverse range of topics. For instance, they deplore the push by administrations to narrow learning into quantifiable outcomes as well as the demands of state governments for more practical, usable training. Indeed, for those who suggest that a college education should be andldquo;practicalandrdquo;andmdash;that it should lean toward the sciences and engineering, where the high-paying jobs areandmdash;this book points out that while a few nations produce as many technicians as the United States does, America is still renowned worldwide for its innovation and creativity, skills taught most effectively in the humanities. Most importantly, the essays in this collection examine ways to make the humanities even more effective, such as offering a broader array of options than the traditional major/minor scheme, options that combine a studentandrsquo;s professional and intellectual interests, like the new medical humanities programs.
A democracy can only be as energetic as the minds of its citizens, and the questions fundamental to the humanities are also fundamental to a thoughtful life. A New Deal for the Humanities takes an intrepid step in making the humanitiesandmdash;and our citizensandmdash;even stronger in the future.
Universities tend to be judged by the test scores of their incoming students and not on what students actually learn once they attend these institutions. While shared tests and surveys have been developed, most schools refuse to publish the results. Instead, they allow such publications as U.S. News & World Report to define educational quality. In order to raise their status in these rankings, institutions pour money into new facilities and extracurricular activities while underfunding their educational programs.
In Why Public Higher Education Should Be Free, Robert Samuels argues that many institutions of higher education squander funds and mislead the public about such things as average class size, faculty-to-student ratios, number of faculty with PhDs, and other indicators of educational quality. Parents and students seem to have little knowledge of how colleges and universities have been restructured over the past thirty years.
Samuels shows how research universities have begun to function as giant investment banks or hedge funds that spend money on athletics and administration while increasing tuition costs and actually lowering the quality of undergraduate education. In order to fight higher costs and lower quality, Samuels suggests, universities must reallocate these misused funds and concentrate on their core mission of instruction and related research.
Throughout the book, Samuels argues that the future of our economy and democracy rests on our ability to train students to be thoughtful participants in the production and analysis of knowledge. If leading universities serve only to grant credentials and prestige, our society will suffer irrevocable harm. Presenting the problem of how universities make and spend money, Samuels provides solutions to make these important institutions less expensive and more vital. By using current resources in a more effective manner, we could even, he contends, make all public higher education free.
About the Author
Robert Zemsky is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania where he heads the Learning Alliance. A leading voice for American higher education reform for three decades, his major works include The Structure of College Choice, the first major study of the market for higher education; Higher Education as Competitive Enterprise, a comprehensive typology of higher education; and Remaking the American University (Rutgers University Press), a host of new, often radical ways to think about American higher education.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Prelude to Reform
Chapter 2. The Wine of Our Discontent
Chapter 3. Commodification and Other Sins
Chapter 4. The Way We Are
Chapter 5. The Rain Man Cometh-Again
Chapter 6. Scandals Waiting to Happen
Chapter 7. The Four Horsemen of Academic Reform
Chapter 8. Flat-World Contrarians
Chapter 9. The Wrong-Way Web
Chapter 10. We're Learning to Matter
Chapter 11. Building Blocks
Chapter 12. Changing Strategies
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