Friday, May 13, 2011

Bad Educations by Ben Wildavsky

The Wilson Quarterly: Book Reviews: Bad Educations by Ben Wildavsky

Another one of these books scrutinizing American higher education?

Yes, and this is fine. Why? Because unlike the cottage-industry of publishing books on how God does not exist or how stupid the people who believe in God are (this is the gist for a lot of these books), at least by scrutinizing higher education we can maybe, just maybe, move into a problem-solving stage in our culture regarding all things education.

One can dream, right?

The conclusion to this book review says it best:

Whatever criticism this book provokes in the higher-education establishment, its value is enormous. The disconcerting findings of Arum and Roksa should resonate well beyond the academy. What good is broadening college access—an eminently worthy mission—if students aren’t acquiring analytical abilities? With better information on academic outcomes (and more transparency from colleges), it will be possible to evaluate which institutions teach students the most, and which offer the best value. Only then can we insist that colleges and universities that don’t measure up deliver the undergraduate education American students deserve.

This analysis comes from the supply side of education discourse. On the demand side (you know, the students) students are already questioning the relevance of their college education and this has been showing through apathy. We humans are very perceptive creatures; we have developed cognitive mechanisms that let us "feel" the reality of things (see theory of mind research). It is no surprise that given the increasing cost of education and the dismal employment opportunities for college graduates, we have witnessed and are witnessing the age of "man-childs" and slackers--otherwise known as those who are  "still 25 and living with your parents?"

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