The following is a collection of seminal books, articles, and reports
on the Academy. They range from classic texts on the ideal of the
University to commentaries and reports on more recent academic problems.
The list does not purport to be complete, but offers a listing of
works fundamental to understanding problems of the modern academy.
Whether interested in education in the broad sense, or investigating
a particular issue, we encourage you to consider these excellent
Education, Then and Now
By Peter Berkowitz, Policy Review, December &
An auto repair shop in which mechanics and owners could not distinguish
a wreck from a finely tuned car would soon go out of business. A
hospital where doctors, nurses, and administrators were unable to
recognize a healthy human being would present a grave menace to
the public health. A ship whose captain and crew lacked navigation
skills and were ignorant of their destination would spell doom for
the cargo and passengers entrusted to their care.
Yet at universities and colleges throughout the land, parents and
students pay large sums of money for - and federal and state governments
sizeable tax exemptions to support - liberal education, despite
administrators and faculty lacking a coherent idea about what constitutes
an educated human being. To be sure, American higher education,
or rather a part of it, is today the envy of the world, producing
and maintaining research scientists of the highest caliber. But
liberal education is another matter. Indeed, many professors in
the humanities and social sciences proudly
promulgate in their scholarship and courses doctrines that mock
the very idea of a standard or measure defining an educated person
and so legitimate the compass-less curriculum over which they preside.
In these circumstances, why should we not conclude that universities
are betraying their mission?
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Coming Crisis in Citizenship
Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Feburary 2007
Responses from college seniors to a selection of individual questions
display how little they actually know about basic historical facts,
ideas, and concepts germane to meaningful participation in American
- Seniors lack basic knowledge of America's history. More
than half, 53.4 percent, could not identify the correct century
when the first American colony was established at Jamestown. And
55.4 percent could not recognize Yorktown as the battle that brought
the American Revolution to an end (28 percent even thought the Civil
War battle at Gettysburg the correct answer).
- College seniors are also ignorant of America's founding documents.
Fewer than half, 47.9 percent, recognized that the line "We
hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,"
is from the Declaration of Independence. And an overwhelming majority,
72.8 percent, could not correctly identify the source of the idea
of "a wall of separation" between church and state.
- More than half of college seniors did not know that the Bill
of Rights explicitly prohibits the establishment of an official
religion for the United States.
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Politics of Campus Reform
An excerpt from Our
Underachieving Colleges (Princeton University Press) by
Derek Bok, Harvard President Emeritus. (By permission
of the author)
What are the prospects for turning colleges into effective learning
organizations? Not good, unfortunately. The weaknesses of undergraduate
education may be real, but they serve important faculty interests.
Like most human beings, professors do not relish having their work
evaluated by others, especially when the evaluators ask potentially
awkward questions, such as whether their students are actually making
progress toward widely accepted goals. Nor do instructors who are
used to lecturing welcome research on new pedagogies that may put
pressure on them to change the way they teach.
too, have special interests to protect. They have a natural inclination
to resist any effort by outsiders to influence the content of their
concentration, even if there are indications that it is undermining
other important aims of undergraduate education. They may permit
their majors to fill more space in the curriculum than is truly
necessary, because such a policy lets them spend more time teaching
the courses closest to their professional interests. They allow
writing courses and language instruction to remain substandard at
any colleges, because professors in the sponsoring departments not
only refuse to teach these classes themselves but also find it advantageous
to use them to finance a larger cadre of graduate students.
In theory, presidents and deans are supposed to counteract self-interested
behavior to make sure that the legitimate needs of students are
properly addressed. In practice, however, academic leaders often
fail to fulfill this responsibility. Ultimate power over instruction
and curriculum rests with the faculty. While leaders have considerable
leverage and influence of their own, they are often reluctant to
employ these assets for fear of arousing opposition from the faculty
that could attract unfavorable publicity, worry potential donors,
and even threaten their jobs. After all, success in increasing student
learning is seldom rewarded, and its benefits are usually hard to
demonstrate, far more so than success in lifting the SAT scores
of the entering class or in raising the money to build new laboratories
The point of these remarks is not to berate professors or their
academic leaders, most of whom are serious, dedicated people. But
they are also human and hence are no quicker than anyone else to
alter practices that serve important personal and professional interests
if there are no compelling reasons to do so. Until Ph.D. programs
include a serious preparation for teaching and convey a deeper understanding
of the complexities of student learning, faculties will not even
perceive much need to do so. Without more prodding and encouragement
than they are currently receiving, president and deans are also
unlikely to challenge the status quo. In the present environment,
then, it would be myopic simply to wait in the hope that reform
will emerge spontaneously from withinů.
In every institution, moreover, academic leaders can place their
agenda before the faculty and see that it is discussed. They can
bolster the chances of achieving results by backing their proposals
with research that offers persuasive evidence of problems that deserve
attention. Empirical studies can counter skepticism about the value
of moral reasoning and civic education by demonstrating how moral
awareness and citizen participation can increase through well-planned
educational interventions. Careful research can make a powerful
case for change by showing faculty members that the quality of student
writing in particular departments declines during college, or that
certain methods of instruction produce greater gains in critical
thinking than others, or that conventional ways of teaching do not
produce as strong a performance on exams as group study or self-paced
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