Review of the Week: 5/1/17

With college and university graduations just a few weeks away, our current Review of the Week discusses modern higher education.

Toward a more perfect university

Cole, Jonathan R. PublicAffairs, 2016
409p index, 9781610392655 $29.99, 9781610392662 $29.99

Cole’s book ranks him with classical, medieval, Renaissance, and modern US educational thinkers, including Thomas Jefferson, Jacques Barzun, Laurence Veysey, Parker Palmer, and Frederick Rudolph. It proposes ways to adapt the best 100 US colleges and universities to 21st-century challenges. Cole’s central theme is that the interconnectedness of disciplines and the unifying role of the humanities must be strengthened. Merit, not irrelevant quotas, must guide admissions. Selection of new students must rest with professional staff members and, in the final steps, involve professors. The outsize growth of administration and reduction of athletics to NCAA-III policies must be employed to curb costs. A faculty of gifted teacher-scholars must instruct and work directly with students in an environment of free, untrammeled, civil, orderly discourse about even unpopular ideas (if in class, under the guidance of properly qualified instructors). Excessive use of electronic teaching media cannot replace direct student-professor contact. The only important remaining question (excepting specialized professional institutions) is this: what educational and social roles can the remaining thousands of lesser schools—many of them barely remedial secondary institutions—play and how and why? A classic.

Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries.
Reviewer: D. Steeples, Mercer University
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – Education
Choice Issue: Aug 2016