CFE Guest Blogger – Bryn Upton
Recently there has been a boom in the cottage industry of complaining about higher education. As the number of people pursuing a college education increases and the expectations change, we find ourselves besieged by well-meaning policy makers, helicopter parents, anxious students, and expectant employers. They all want to know what it is they can expect from a college education. As the so-called crisis in higher education proliferates on American’s bookshelves, we in higher education have entered into the discussion often feeling the pressure to justify our life’s work to people who know nothing of what it is that we really do.
Last semester a good-sized group of faculty came together to discuss the book Academically Adrift (Arum and Roska, 2010). We shared anecdotes and data, passed around articles and charts, did a decent amount of hand-wringing and (as academics do) and agreed to keep talking about it. To that end I think many of us would find interesting and informative an article from the most recent issue of the New Yorker in which Louis Menand offers his perspective on the crisis in higher education and the book. You can read that article here via this link.
What I continue to take away from the book and discussion on it is this: what we do as a liberal arts college has great value, and when we are at our best we are doing what colleges are supposed to be doing. I know many of us are spending part of our summers thinking about the issues raised in books like Academically Adrift while also thinking about contact hours and credits. As we sit down to write and rewrite our syllabi for the coming year there are many discussions to be had and ideas to share, perhaps the perspective offered here by Menand can and should be a part of it.