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A leading educational thinker argues that the American university is stuck in the past -- and shows how we can revolutionize it for our era of constant change Our current system of higher education dates to the period from 1865 to 1925. It was in those decades that the nation's new universities created grades and departments, majors and minors, all in an attempt to prepare A leading educational thinker argues that the American university is stuck in the past -- and shows how we can revolutionize it for our era of constant change Our current system of higher education dates to the period from 1865 to 1925. It was in those decades that the nation's new universities created grades and departments, majors and minors, all in an attempt to prepare young people for a world transformed by the telegraph and the Model T. As Cathy N. Davidson argues in The New Education, this approach to education is wholly unsuited to the era of the gig economy. From the Ivy League to community colleges, she introduces us to innovators who are remaking college for our own time by emphasizing student-centered learning that values creativity in the face of change above all. The New Education ultimately shows how we can teach students not only to survive but to thrive amid the challenges to come.


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A leading educational thinker argues that the American university is stuck in the past -- and shows how we can revolutionize it for our era of constant change Our current system of higher education dates to the period from 1865 to 1925. It was in those decades that the nation's new universities created grades and departments, majors and minors, all in an attempt to prepare A leading educational thinker argues that the American university is stuck in the past -- and shows how we can revolutionize it for our era of constant change Our current system of higher education dates to the period from 1865 to 1925. It was in those decades that the nation's new universities created grades and departments, majors and minors, all in an attempt to prepare young people for a world transformed by the telegraph and the Model T. As Cathy N. Davidson argues in The New Education, this approach to education is wholly unsuited to the era of the gig economy. From the Ivy League to community colleges, she introduces us to innovators who are remaking college for our own time by emphasizing student-centered learning that values creativity in the face of change above all. The New Education ultimately shows how we can teach students not only to survive but to thrive amid the challenges to come.

30 review for The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World In Flux

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I love it when a historian takes on the challenges of higher education in the US today. However, there wasn’t really a fix, just ideas of how some institutions are doing things to widen educational access. It doesn’t figure out how to do it cheaper or provide a model for what it SHOULD look like. BUT, in the best tradition of historians, it shows how change in higher ed has occurred over time and encourages us not to be scared of what might come. It should be paired with books on the dangers of I love it when a historian takes on the challenges of higher education in the US today. However, there wasn’t really a fix, just ideas of how some institutions are doing things to widen educational access. It doesn’t figure out how to do it cheaper or provide a model for what it SHOULD look like. BUT, in the best tradition of historians, it shows how change in higher ed has occurred over time and encourages us not to be scared of what might come. It should be paired with books on the dangers of contingent labor in academia.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    I can feel the capital letters and italics. Davidson is a person who is entirely sincere about the need to Innovate and Revolutionize and Engage higher education with 21st Century Challenges. She sees big looming problems ahead for colleges, which haven't been substantially reorganized in centuries. However, to meet these problems all she has are good wishes and a handful of anecdotes. The book begins cannily enough, with the story of a wealthy college graduate unprepared for the tough job marke I can feel the capital letters and italics. Davidson is a person who is entirely sincere about the need to Innovate and Revolutionize and Engage higher education with 21st Century Challenges. She sees big looming problems ahead for colleges, which haven't been substantially reorganized in centuries. However, to meet these problems all she has are good wishes and a handful of anecdotes. The book begins cannily enough, with the story of a wealthy college graduate unprepared for the tough job market following a financial collapse. This isn't some Millennial, rather she begins with Charles Eliot, a young man who in the wake of the Panic of 1857 would seek to reform higher education as a long-serving president of Harvard, essentially inventing the modern university of departments, majors, standardized testing, and courses designed to filter unprepared students. Her history of the university basically ends with the Industrial Revolution, with only cursory overviews of the research revolution and academic-military-industrial complex of the Cold War, the university as a center of resistance during Vietnam, and pretty much anything that's happened since 1980s, aside from austerity driven budget cuts. Davidson decries higher education as it exists today, a system that burdens students with debt and has a shockingly high amount of failure, one that serves to insulate the 1% rather than drive an engine of economic mobility. She's right that the conventional set of assignments; tutorial driven problem sets, content-recitation multiple choice questions, and essays to be read only by the instructor. She's right to note that the increasing adjunctification means that the most youngest and most connected teachers have little incentive to rock the boat. But beyond that? She points to some stuff that her CUNY school as done to improve graduation rates from an abysmal ~10% to a merely mediocre ~50%. And she points to innovative units at Kansas State, ASU, and Georgetown as new models. But ultimately it's just a reiteration of "we need flexible and engaging curricula", while glossing over the fact that real learning is often hard. Incorporating new modes of thinking, new facts, new skills, into your personal repertoire is one of the hardest things imaginable. I strongly believe that the best classes don't require any sort of exotic standards. Can you read pdfs? Do you have someone to talk about them with? Do you have something to write with? Okay, let's go. If you're willing to do the work. Enthusiasm is no substitute for effort. Knowledge is cumulative, and without an approach that balances the "why" and the "how", you either get appliers who know how to find an answer without understanding what it means, or people who invent the universe from first principles to bake an apple pie. There are opportunities for solid, data driven work in this space. I recommend Arum and Roska's Academically Adrift for having both a better thesis, and better evidence.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    Thiscreally is one of the most important books I’ve read in a long time, as all of the people I’ve been quoting the book to as I’ve been reading it can attest to. There’s a lot to process here—I’ll likely write a blog post about it soon.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Michael Austin

    The New Education is a worthwhile book, though it is not quite the revolutionary volume that it promises to be. It is more of a catalogue of what is wrong with the current education system with a few glances towards what could improve it than it is a sustained and intentional. It feels more like a curated collection of essays about the state of higher education than it does a coherent plan to replace it with something. The book announces in its title and its first chapter that it will position it The New Education is a worthwhile book, though it is not quite the revolutionary volume that it promises to be. It is more of a catalogue of what is wrong with the current education system with a few glances towards what could improve it than it is a sustained and intentional. It feels more like a curated collection of essays about the state of higher education than it does a coherent plan to replace it with something. The book announces in its title and its first chapter that it will position itself towards the needs of the modern world in much the same way that Harvard President Charles Eliot positioned himself towards the needs of his modern world in his 1869 essay, "The New Education." Eliot, as Davidson explains, lead the 19th century revolution in education that replaced what was basically classical philology--the same curriculum taught in the middle ages with perhaps a little bit more science thrown in--with what we have now: universities with departments, lectures, distribution requirements, and tenured professors. She is right about all of this. Eliot's university was designed for the industrial revolution. It did its job well, but it is poorly suited to the needs of the information age. Davidson explains a lot of the reasons why this is so: universities do not take advantage of the technology that many of their students come with, they are too obsessed with grades and measurements, they do not encourage truly innovative teaching, and the government has rapidly disinvested in state universities driving costs, and debt loads, through the roof. And she makes some good observations about what is working today. One of these things is the community college, which, because of its mission (to take the top 100% of students) has had to be more innovative in teaching, retention, and student service. I think that she ignores, though, the fact that the vast majority of colleges and universities have adopted the same kinds of innovations for roughly the same reasons: they need to attract and retain students because they have become too tuition-dependent to function in the same "weed-out" environment that she bemoans in the early part of the book. One of the blind spots of The New Education, I think is that most of the critiques of four-year and graduate education come from looking at prestigious universities--Harvard, UC Berkeley, and Duke (where she taught for years), where the comparisons with the community college model are the most stark and where some of the issues with large-lectures and inflexible pedagogy are the most pronounced. She does give some interesting anecdotal data from her current institution, the CUNY Graduate Center, though, which is one of the stronger elements of the book. But the larger issue that I had with the book is that Davidson is calling for a deep structural revolution of how we understand the very idea of higher education, but most of her examples and suggestions amount to tinkering around the edges and trying to incrementally improve the status quo. Her opening chapters did a good job of convincing the reader that higher education has to be fundamentally re-envisioned, but the rest of the book doesn't really explain what the new model will look like or what fundamental problems the design is going to have to solve.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dan Graser

    As a rule, I hike my skepticism dial up to 11 anytime I see statements like, "How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux." (that is the subtitle of this book) The reason for this skepticism is that you are talking about vastly different types of universities, varying degrees of student-body demographics, a ridiculously huge array of disciplines, not to mention the day-to-day life of over 20 million students. You are going to tell me how to revolutionize that in a As a rule, I hike my skepticism dial up to 11 anytime I see statements like, "How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux." (that is the subtitle of this book) The reason for this skepticism is that you are talking about vastly different types of universities, varying degrees of student-body demographics, a ridiculously huge array of disciplines, not to mention the day-to-day life of over 20 million students. You are going to tell me how to revolutionize that in a 300 page book? That being said, there are some very good qualities to this work from CUNY Professor Cathy Davidson. The first is her excellent summary of the influence of Charles Eliot on what we now know as the traditional university setting/administration. Working in the decades following the Civil War as professions and industries were rapidly changing, Eliot saw a great need for universities to adapt and laid down a vast array of reforms. Now, in the 21st century, we are still very much using this model from nearly 150 years ago. However, at every university I have ever attended and at which I taught, the conversation as to how to adapt to current trends in our professional field is constantly happening and actually producing results. I have no doubt that there are several places where this is not the case but the author seems to paint with an unnecessarily broad brush in her critiques. Two back to back chapters are such wastes of time and make a mountain out of a molehill, those being, "Technophobia," "Technophilia." Long story short, technology in its numerous forms can be a potent tool if used properly and done for the benefit of the student, not merely to appear "with it," in the 21st century. If the data is there that using said technology will benefit the student then do so and find innovative ways that haven't yet been tried. However if you're doing it merely for the superficiality of being in the know technologically speaking then you are wasting resources. Simple as that. The ultimate problem with the book is that it spends so much time explaining that we are using a dated system, puts in some scattershot anecdotes of professors and administrators who are effectively modernizing their classrooms/universities, and then summarily makes a couple lists of suggestions for students and professors that are so vague I can't think of a single major/course of study to which even half of them would meaningfully apply. I have no doubt that there is a huge portion of academia that is head-in-the-sand oblivious to several of the changing trends in the professional job market and on this point Davidson is right, they are living in a system designed for 19th century America. However, she provides little in the way of tangible, usable material for anyone in this field that the book doesn't deliver on its alleged focus. Bottom line if you are unfamiliar with the formation of university systems that you may take for granted then the history provided here will serve as an effective précis. However if you are looking for great suggestions for changing this situation in your discipline at your university, I would recommend starting a dialogue with your colleagues and current professionals and take stock as to what specifically is developing and changing rather than rely on the vague advice, obscure anecdotes, and occasional buzzword-laden style of this text.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Wiebke Kuhn

    I enjoyed this book about ways that we need to think differently about higher education in the US. With lots of examples how some places are starting to change what a US higher education experience can be, and with a lot of data on what kinds of problems, rooted in its 150-year history, higher education is suffering from, this book could lead to some interesting discussions and ideas for change.

  7. 5 out of 5

    K

    I literally couldn't put this down. This book is part manifesto, part handbook, and part critique of higher education. I found it incredibly inspiring and I can't wait to think more creatively of how to do such an important part of my job -- teaching undergraduate students. I literally couldn't put this down. This book is part manifesto, part handbook, and part critique of higher education. I found it incredibly inspiring and I can't wait to think more creatively of how to do such an important part of my job -- teaching undergraduate students.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Pablo Martin

    As a lifetime educator, I loved this book. I was moved intellectually and emotionally by the studies and stories she shares here. This excellently researched work concludes that students “want a flexible, expansive curriculum that allows more opportunities for intellectual exploration and personal growth and that prepares them not just for jobs but for consequential careers and for what they all know will be a bumpy road ahead.” (p. 254) See chapter assessments below. Introduction From her openin As a lifetime educator, I loved this book. I was moved intellectually and emotionally by the studies and stories she shares here. This excellently researched work concludes that students “want a flexible, expansive curriculum that allows more opportunities for intellectual exploration and personal growth and that prepares them not just for jobs but for consequential careers and for what they all know will be a bumpy road ahead.” (p. 254) See chapter assessments below. Introduction From her opening with a reference to the hero's cycle to ending as a cheerleader for interdisciplinarity, I’m all in for the vision Davidson (2017) lays out The New Education. This is a movement that “seeks to redesign the university beyond the inherited disciplines, departments, and silos by redefining the traditional boundaries of knowledge and providing an array of intellectual forums, experiences, programs, and projects that push students to uses a variety of methods to discover comprehensive and original answers" (pp. 13-4). Her vision is a welcome alternative to the calls for the techno or vocational fix, both of which I’ve endured in my time as a high school and college professor and whose failings I’ve experienced firsthand. Davidson wonders, “What would it mean to redesign higher education for the intellectual space travel students need to thrive in the world we live in now?” (p. 6). She argues that we need to revolutionize the way higher education works because of the way the Internet has remade the world. We need to teach active learning that encourages students to create new knowledge from the world around them; they must learn not from experts, but they must “learn how to be experts themselves” (p. 8). This would give “them agency, [and] arm them to take on a difficult world, to push back and not merely adapt to it” (p. 13, emphasis added). In sum, Davidson argues, higher education needs to start teaching students to learn how to learn. It's not about workforce readiness, it's about world readiness. How else can we prepare them for the unknown, the future where there “be dragons” and the next economic downturn, although invisible, is just over the horizon? Ch. 1: "Quarter Life Crisis" In this chapter, Davidson discusses the career of Charles Eliot, the man who transformed Harvard from a Puritan College into the template for the modern American University. The times, the late 1850s, were much like today in many ways (with major industrial changes afoot, unregulated banks and finance, partisan political bickering, etc.) and he wanted to reinvent higher education to better serve students for the future. Davidson references William Cronon's analysis of just one example, people's changing eating habits, demonstrates the massive changes affecting society at the time (pp. 21-3). The university thus needed to train people for the jobs of the coming future. Eliot traveled to Europe to research how the universities in Germany and France operated, interviewing people from all walks of life along the way. He advocated for a well-rounded, general education--"the vigorous training of the mental powers" (p. 32) (much like that gained at Humboldt's University of Berlin) in order to prepare students for their training in the professional/career schools. He and the other university presidents in the late 1800s formed a network that "began to redefine the university as a place and a a means for training professional managers who could thrive amid the economic, technological, and social dislocations of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century" (p. 31). Many of these changes were influenced by the work of Frederick Winslow Taylor and his "scientific labor/learning management" (p. 41), just as "every worker should be held to production quotas and that specialized labor is more productive than general competency, Eliot and other educators of the day designed the modern university to train the nation's elite to assume their role as leaders of the industrial age" (p. 40). While Eliot transformed the university for a time of industrialization and capitalist expansion, it has now become ossified and needs to change again. There is little, Davidson argues, in higher education today that prepares people for the "integrated, merged, and chaotic work and home lives" (p. 44) we live today. Those programs that are most vibrant and prepare graduates best for this world, such as interdisciplinary programs, are either insecure or seen as antagonistic to core departments are the most vulnerable to cutbacks. Ch. 2: “College for Everyone” In this chapter, Davidson discusses the great many things that community colleges are doing right and how they could help transform four-year universities. Her main point is that while typical research and other four-year universities focus on being selective, partly as a way to easily improve their rankings, for community colleges, student success “is a feature” (p. 72). CCs start where the student is, and help them to build a foundation upon which they can then build a successful academic career in whatever field they choose to go into, whether it’s vocational or professional. CCs typically embody a growth mind-set, rather than a fixed mind-set, where “‘I don’t know’ is a baseline, a starting place toward success, not a signifier of failure’” (p. 56). CC faculty, she argues, also focus on honing their teaching skills, something that is not formally included in professor promotion at four-year universities nor, in a world of assessment, data, and metrics, is there any established way to measure “good teaching.” She describes how three different approaches at three different schools can help inform a “new education”: 1) President Gail Mellow at LaGuardia CC in Long Island City in Queens vision and management style; 2) professor Joshua Belknap’s project-based/student as expert approach to ESL, and 3) Dean John Mogelscu’s ASAP program that created the ASAP program (“We have your back. And your books. And your Metro card.”). She concludes the chapter with a discussion of a problem that is often framed as “the crisis in higher education,” where students leave college only to be unemployed or underpaid. She, and Mogelscu, argue that the problem would be more accurately framed as a social crisis, “the ‘crisis of American life, the end of the middle class’” (p. 70). Mogelscu argues that colleges and universities need to engage with the world beyond their walls, with the civic society of which they are integrally a part. Ch. 3: “Against Technophobia” In “Against Technophobia,” Davidson argues that professors should use the strengths and benefits that technology provides us to improve our classes and better prepare our students for the future. She defines technophobia as “a fear of the new and a fear of change as embodied in new technology” (p. 75), especially technologies that younger generations grasp more quickly and fully than their elders do. She uses math professor Derek Bruff as an example. Bruff uses metacognition and “mastery learning” (where “you take each student from where she is and build her up to a point of mastery of the next most complex concept, then build on that” p. 81) and with the help of clickers, employs active learning to do it, such as teaching the complex concept of Markhov Chains through identifying probabilities in the board game Monopoly (pp. 83-7). Davidson cites studies that show that active learning is much more effective in terms of success and completion rates, as well as exam scores, than traditional lecturing methods. Professors who wish to implement technology must “think deeply about what [it] can do, what the students can learn with it and about it, and how devices can help students think together, remix one another’s ideas, iterate, respond, and contribute to an evolving whole” (p. 90). Davidson challenges us, stating if a professor’s pedagogical practices can be replaced by a computer screen, then they should be. Andrea Lunsford’s work on literacy in the Internet generation at Stanford revealed results that surprised the technophobic. She found that they are unusually adept at writing for distinct audiences, that they read more than any generation since WWII, but that they don’t do very well writing papers “just for the sake of writing papers” (p. 93). They want to write for an audience, they want to have an impact, they don't just want to write for their professors. Ch. 4: “Against Technophilia” Davidson spends much of the chapter describing her experience facilitating a MOOC with an experimental twist—fourteen on site seminar students to help her turn the course into “something student-centered” (p. 104). The results are astounding, and the professor, together with thousands of online and fourteen onsite students, created a rich and robust “DIY peer-to-peer learning experience” (p. 115) that documented the evolution of education from a truly global perspective. (Speaking to the collaborative nature of the participants, she mentioned that Millenials are best known as the “We Generation,” p. 111.) Still a MOOC skeptic, Davidson sees their potential to create interactive, student-centered online communities. MOOCs are more popular in 2016 than in their heyday of hype in 2012, offer a better option than no college to millions of (persistent) people around the world, and help small liberal arts colleges round out their course offerings. She closes by discussing a new program started by Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom in Digital Sociology (looking at the inequalities, and their effects, that are fostered and persist in digital environments). A key to this program’s success lies in its reliance on a cohort of students taking all of the same classes together as well as it’s constructivist nature. Cottom is adamant that her program is not a for-profit endeavor, but that it is “embedded in a stable institution” (p. 131), Virginia Commonwealth University. She believes “students’ lives are too precious to be squandered on an institution that exists for someone else’s profit” (p. 131), and she is guided by a quotation from Frederick Douglass: “‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men’” (p. 131). Given “the power and influence of online interaction” (p. 131) in today’s world, digital literacy is key to navigating it. Ch. 5: "Palpable Impact" In this chapter, Davidson focuses on a number of professors/educators at specific colleges across the country to highlight how they are implementing approaches to the new education that she believes will truly prepare students for "the scale and scope of change in the world they face" (p. 161). She concludes: "The new education isn't simply a change in curriculum or implementation of a new kind of pedagogy. It's not just a course or a program. It is all of the above, undergirded by a new epistemology, a theory of knowledge that id deep, synthetic, active, and meaningful, with real impact in the world." (p. 161) She first discusses that while Stem field are important to learn, they must be taught within a greater context. She cites some surprising statistics: 74% with a B.S. in a STEM field do not stay in STEM-related occupations (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014); there will be an 8% decline in existing STEM-related occupations by 2020 (The Bureau of Labor Statistics) (pp. 138-9). With automation and AI on the rise, we need to focus on training people to do best what only humans can do: "an understanding of human needs, desires, requirements, and aspirations" (p. 139). She highlights a number of educational leaders who are doing this: Sha Xin Wei at Arizona State University; Sara Henden, who promotes the idea of the "public amateur;” and Christine Ortiz who wants to develop a university that works "for the good of humanity and the improvement of society" through learning that is "learner-centered, collaborative, and project-based" (p. 155). Davidson hard work researching the ways effective higher education reformers can create the graduates the future needs are on excellent display in this chapter. Ch. 6: "Why College Costs So Much" A point that she made again and again is that funding in American higher education has been going down for 40 years, a decline that started right after two memos (Powell’s and the Trilateral Commission’s) warned of the challenges an overly democratic and educated populace would have cause the existing power structure. This cost-cutting has huge consequences. A team of doctors who helped save her life have an average of $400,000 in student loan debt (the national average being $250,000) and that many of them are likely to go into lucrative, specialty fields (such as cosmetic surgery) to pay these debts. Now I know why very few graduates are going into general practice and our society will suffer because the majority of us won’t have enough doctors (especially in the inner cities and rural areas). In 2015, a governor like Scott Walker of Wisconsin can take $250 million away from UW and put it toward a new NBA stadium. Davidson discusses other examples where such “cost-cutting” moves achieve only limited savings and were baldly political and racist, too. Davidson wraps up her discussion highlighting a number of different ways that higher education institutions might try to be successful in the current climate. Ch. 7: “The Measure of a Student” Davidson’s focus in this chapter is the antiquated, standardized approach to testing and ranking students that pervades higher education, and the K-12 system as well. Most of these, she demonstrates, are ground in a focus on greater efficiency, not greater education, and we’re often co-opted for oppressive purposes. Her discussion of standardized tests, the IQ test, and the Bell Curve are illuminating. Davidson also provides examples of a small and large university doing amazing things to buck the trend of standardization and assessment (Hampshire College and Kansas State). The biggest take away is the power of formative assessment. Students who are told what they are doing right and what they can improve on for the future do much better on future assessments than students who receive summative (grades) or both. Ch. 8: “The Future of Learning” Davidson describes a few different colleges and programs that embody her vision of “The Future of Learning.” Near the end of the chapter, Davidson outlines eight different problems/solutions that higher education must grapple with. She finds that all college students are “asking for the same thing: a new education designed to prepare them to lead a meaningful life in the years after college” (p. 254). None that she spoke to are asking for the “remedies” suggested by the “great disruptors” and other pundits writing in The New York Times nor The Wall Street Journal. Davidson asks: “Disrupt for what purpose, to what end, for whose profit?” (p. 229). These are sounds words for all of us to live by, regardless of our profession.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Barbara White

    My academic husband, who is not on Goodreads, asked me to post this review of Ms. Davidson's book: There is no doubt that education is both more important than ever and, at the same time, suffering from a wide range of challenges, attacks, self-doubts, and crises. The New Education reminds us of two crucial ideas, at least concerning higher education. First, that the current structure of higher education--the structures of disciplines, the particular ways scholarship and teaching are unequally t My academic husband, who is not on Goodreads, asked me to post this review of Ms. Davidson's book: There is no doubt that education is both more important than ever and, at the same time, suffering from a wide range of challenges, attacks, self-doubts, and crises. The New Education reminds us of two crucial ideas, at least concerning higher education. First, that the current structure of higher education--the structures of disciplines, the particular ways scholarship and teaching are unequally tethered together--are historical developments. The university has been changed in profound ways before as it endeavored to meet the challenges of its world, and to take advantage of the resources that world made available. The point is, the university can and should be changed--in fundamental ways. And second, that our understandings of the goals, means and practices of education also have and have to change, again in response to the changing demands and possibilities of the world we live in. But more than just make these arguments--compassionately AND persuasively, Davidson provides us with a series of truly inspiring examples of people and groups that are doing something about the crises of education now. I have been teaching a long time. Since reading The New Education, I have been thinking about pedagogical possibilities I had not even imagined before. If there is an academic equivalent of a page-turner, this is it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ope Bukola

    A fantastic plea for changing higher education for 21st century realities. The book is a clear & concise history of how today's American universities became the way they are, why the things we take for granted made sense at the turn of the 20th century and how & why they need to change now. Davidson does a great job of highlighting the small innovative pockets that exist in higher Ed today, with a particular focus on institutions and individuals serving majority students. It's a realistic expose A fantastic plea for changing higher education for 21st century realities. The book is a clear & concise history of how today's American universities became the way they are, why the things we take for granted made sense at the turn of the 20th century and how & why they need to change now. Davidson does a great job of highlighting the small innovative pockets that exist in higher Ed today, with a particular focus on institutions and individuals serving majority students. It's a realistic expose of just how badly broken the system is, but also a reason to hope. A well-researched but concise read for anyone concerned with the future of learning.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joe Beckmann

    This is a remarkable book in several ways. First, Davidson's history of Eliot and Taylor is crisp, sharp, accurate and telling. For those who defend the existing mystique of courses, departments, hierarchies of academe, it is more than enough to show the absurdity of their defenses. Second, she also highlights several strategies of innovation, all student-centered, many tech aware, most replicable in traditional classrooms with nontraditional teachers. Ideally, they would represent a serious alt This is a remarkable book in several ways. First, Davidson's history of Eliot and Taylor is crisp, sharp, accurate and telling. For those who defend the existing mystique of courses, departments, hierarchies of academe, it is more than enough to show the absurdity of their defenses. Second, she also highlights several strategies of innovation, all student-centered, many tech aware, most replicable in traditional classrooms with nontraditional teachers. Ideally, they would represent a serious alternative to those classrooms, but she doesn't go far enough to make that feasible. Her premise is to ask open ended, largely unstructured questions and inspire creative approaches to their answers. Her examples are rich enough to help any reasonable innovator address at least some of the worst features of colleges as we know them. Unfortunately, it's clear in those examples, as well as in her context of interdisciplinary problem solving, that any real solution will be far more radical and far less sympathetic to the problems of good teachers in a miserable system. Perhaps her most cogent, and least realizable, critique is the cost of higher ed, which has risen to reflect the arrogance of wealth that infects most universities. I was surprised that she largely ignored the Early College High Schools, over 200 of which offer up to two years of college credit for dual enrolled high school students. She also ignored the potential of engineering Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PiLoT) payments that most nonprofit universities pay their communities instead of the tax they would pay as a for-profit organization. In most cases these payments are a fraction of what they ought to be - Harvard pays around $7,500,000 to the three cities it occupies, and would be paying at least three times that if the cities had leverage to demand what the university costs in deferred income and commerce. Yet Harvard pays twenty times what Tufts pays, and almost as much as M.I.T. Were they to offer students in Cambridge, Watertown, Brighton, Somerville or Medford free class credit for coursework equivalent to existing courses, parents and kids would get their money's worth, and the universities would end their exploitation of their neighbors. They would probably broaden their diversity, since Somerville, for one example, already has 67 languages in its current high school. It also surprises me that, for somebody with Davidson's depth in the field, she never mentioned the Secretary (of Labor)'s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) or the revolt against high stakes testing, for both admission and graduation. She does note that tests are fairly useless, but she might have focused on the reason for that: they test what data faculty are supposed to pour into the minds of their ignorant student victims rather than ask what students know. But ignoring SCANS is, in fact, a bigger failure, since industry - corporate as well as union as well as nonprofit or government - is dominated by a spectrum of "work readiness skills." Ironically, most students do quite well on those scales, but it's not because of their Universities. Rather it's their own curiosity, as Davidson implies, that drives them to explore "what it takes to succeed." Finally, as uneven as this book really is - and the other criticisms are not all wrong - it is one of the best and most progressive texts on why and how to develop student-centered instruction. Her examples are remarkable for both her passion and the insights of her peers and their students. Anyone who goes back to stand in front of a large class and control every idea is either virtually unique in their teaching skill (she does have at least one example of that), or as deaf as stone and rigid as steel. College is supposed to be collegial and to foster a community of scholars, and most of what is college today is far from that ideal. Her critiques are on point. Her suggestions insightful. And her tone is flavored by that collegiality. She may not specify all that needs take place, but her most critical contribution is that those solutions have to be local, have to engage students as well as faculty, and may or may not fit into what we now consider higher education.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    I struggled to rate this book so low because I wholeheartedly agree with the author’s call to reform higher education so that it’s technologically savvy, accessible to all, and intellectually nimble. But the book needs a more cohesive structure and a clearer focus (also less description of ethnographic nature if this isn’t an ethnographic project—I don’t need to know a person’s height or hair color when learning about this kind of topic). It stars out with a great hook: a well-researched history I struggled to rate this book so low because I wholeheartedly agree with the author’s call to reform higher education so that it’s technologically savvy, accessible to all, and intellectually nimble. But the book needs a more cohesive structure and a clearer focus (also less description of ethnographic nature if this isn’t an ethnographic project—I don’t need to know a person’s height or hair color when learning about this kind of topic). It stars out with a great hook: a well-researched history of the current university model and how it evolved as a result of and response to the Industrial Revolution. This is followed by two particularly compelling and nuanced chapters on the pitfalls both of technophilia and technophobia. Unfortunately, a few poor structural decisions sidetrack a promising start: referencing too many of the same anecdotes (and not enough data) to make key points, a misplaced and contrived chapter on the high cost of higher education that (rightly) emphasizes budget cuts while largely ignoring the impact of bloated administrative bureaucracies, irrelevant overpriced degrees, and wasteful spending on college sport culture, and the fact that the book kind of stops without a proper conclusion. Yes, the author provides very useful tips on how to improve education near the end but I was hoping for a few final thoughts that tied the thesis together. For example, I thought the book implicitly (and often explicitly) advocated for teaching that focuses on skills that transcend technological, cultural, and economic circumstances such as ethics, collaboration, and communication. But this is never formally addressed. There are a lot of valuable lessons here, particularly in the first one third of the book. It’s a bit disappointing that the book doesn’t live up to its initial promise.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    "If you want students to succeed not only on the final exam but in everything else in life and work, it makes little sense to ban the devices essential to life and work outside of school. It seems sensible to , instead, teach the skillful, critical use of these tools." "Every older generation defends cherished practices." In 1975 our nation's policymakers switched direction and began thinking of higher education as a luxury rather than a public good." "The United States has ended its era of strateg "If you want students to succeed not only on the final exam but in everything else in life and work, it makes little sense to ban the devices essential to life and work outside of school. It seems sensible to , instead, teach the skillful, critical use of these tools." "Every older generation defends cherished practices." In 1975 our nation's policymakers switched direction and began thinking of higher education as a luxury rather than a public good." "The United States has ended its era of strategic investment in its youth." "In other countries students pay differential tuition's depending on the field they will be entering." "Every economic study of higher education shows it's the best investment a country can make." "All two-year and four-year colleges in the City University of New York and the State University of New York system tuition fee for all New York residents whose families earn less than $125,000 a year." "If there is anything you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now." "The new education must prepare our students to thrive in a world of flux, to be ready no matter what comes next. It must empower them to be leaders of innovation and to be able not only to adapt to a changing world but also to change the world. That is the core requirement of the new education. All the rest is mere elective."

  14. 5 out of 5

    Caroline (Bordinaro) Coward

    Davidson examines long held institutional structures and practices in higher education, and explains in detail why they are no longer relevant or effective in our current society. After outlining the history of the modern university over the last 150 years, she describes examples of innovative solutions to sticky problems such as retention, GPA, diversity and equity, and time to graduation. She also advocates for tearing down the topical department-school-college structure, as well as completely Davidson examines long held institutional structures and practices in higher education, and explains in detail why they are no longer relevant or effective in our current society. After outlining the history of the modern university over the last 150 years, she describes examples of innovative solutions to sticky problems such as retention, GPA, diversity and equity, and time to graduation. She also advocates for tearing down the topical department-school-college structure, as well as completely rethinking the funding model, for both students and government agencies. The book just won the AAC&U Frederic W. Ness award – a feat in itself for telling such an intractable institution as higher education what it’s doing wrong - and how to fix it. The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World In Flux

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    Truly brilliant book about challenging higher education to meet the needs of the current population in today's ever changing economy. We live in an innovation economy that requires people to creatively synthesize human data, media and science to solve problems and provides services and products that fit people's lives. Today's education from K-12 through higher education is a remnant of the industrial age economy and preparing people to manage in an assembly line. Higher education needs to leap Truly brilliant book about challenging higher education to meet the needs of the current population in today's ever changing economy. We live in an innovation economy that requires people to creatively synthesize human data, media and science to solve problems and provides services and products that fit people's lives. Today's education from K-12 through higher education is a remnant of the industrial age economy and preparing people to manage in an assembly line. Higher education needs to leap frog the knowledge economy to a networked global economy where information is ubiquitous but requires verification. Higher Education has become prohibitively expensive to most Americans and yet necessary for most jobs that pay a living wage. But job preparation is not a lasting education. Davidson advocates for the importances of the arts and humanities with STEM education. This book profiles pioneering college professors who are testing the norms of college teaching. Davidson offers a path forward to reform education to adapt to today's student and the challenge of designing a lifelong career with impact in an ever changing world.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Phil Simon

    As a new professor, I have a good deal to learn about contemporary higher education. Brass tacks: I can safely say that I am more informed about the industry's challenges, opportunities, and history after reading Davidson's book. Davidson points out the numerous and formidable challenges inhibiting higher ed. (Her tale of Alexander Coward at the UC Berkeley Mathematics Department reminded me of 'Dead Poets Society.') At the same time, though, she provides real solutions—and not just from a pedest As a new professor, I have a good deal to learn about contemporary higher education. Brass tacks: I can safely say that I am more informed about the industry's challenges, opportunities, and history after reading Davidson's book. Davidson points out the numerous and formidable challenges inhibiting higher ed. (Her tale of Alexander Coward at the UC Berkeley Mathematics Department reminded me of 'Dead Poets Society.') At the same time, though, she provides real solutions—and not just from a pedestal. Rather, she details a number of innovative programs, professors, and universities. The latter include my employer Arizona State University, Georgetown University, and many community colleges. Collectively, these progressive institutions are redefining education and providing students with the requisite skills necessary to succeed in an increasingly turbulent and complex world. Yes, we educators have our work cut out for us, but I am hopeful for the future. Disclaimer: Davidson's publisher sent me a copy for a Huffington Post review or interview.

  17. 5 out of 5

    KaysiH

    This is a must-read for anyone in higher education: students, faculty and institutional leaders alike! It's an insightful and powerful look at the institution of higher education in the United States, which Davidson argues hasn't substantially changed since the Industrial Revolution. She demonstrates how the rising costs of education and public defunding of education, coupled with hierarchical structures have produced a system bent on exclusion. She then uses examples of Community Colleges and o This is a must-read for anyone in higher education: students, faculty and institutional leaders alike! It's an insightful and powerful look at the institution of higher education in the United States, which Davidson argues hasn't substantially changed since the Industrial Revolution. She demonstrates how the rising costs of education and public defunding of education, coupled with hierarchical structures have produced a system bent on exclusion. She then uses examples of Community Colleges and other higher education institutions who are changing their ethos and methods to one of inclusivity of the nation's increasingly diverse students. She also provides creative, engaging ways that professors (and all teachers) can structurally change their classrooms to better support student learning, as well as strategies that students can use to get the most out of their education.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    This book should be required reading for every university president in this day and age. Not only does Davidson do a great job of explaining the history of our current university structure, but she also explains why it is so necessary to change it. She incorporates examples from across the United States and draws on research to show the most effective ways that we can help students learn. More importantly, she brings to the forefront the argument that universities should have educating their stu This book should be required reading for every university president in this day and age. Not only does Davidson do a great job of explaining the history of our current university structure, but she also explains why it is so necessary to change it. She incorporates examples from across the United States and draws on research to show the most effective ways that we can help students learn. More importantly, she brings to the forefront the argument that universities should have educating their students and supporting them to be successful as their mission instead of their own reputations and rankings. I really appreciated everything about this book, and I really hope I get to see some of her recommendations come to fruition in higher ed in the coming years.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Samuel Lubell

    Author claims that college students have a raw deal because schooling they received is based on late 19th early 20th century model that does not make sense in the 21st century. Designed for world that no longer exists. In the post-industrial Internet world work is precarious with expanded automation, disappearing professions, and rapid change. Colleges today needs to respond as did Charles Eliot did with drastic change to antiquated institutions. But current college system focuses on test and ou Author claims that college students have a raw deal because schooling they received is based on late 19th early 20th century model that does not make sense in the 21st century. Designed for world that no longer exists. In the post-industrial Internet world work is precarious with expanded automation, disappearing professions, and rapid change. Colleges today needs to respond as did Charles Eliot did with drastic change to antiquated institutions. But current college system focuses on test and outputs,standards, not learning for success in future world. Education technology too often means dumping computers without changing teaching or assessments. Colleges are afraid of active student-centered learning.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kara

    Good examples, realistic and reasonable in her approach. This is not going to be solved overnight, but the book illustrates how the change is already happening, and it needs attention and support to become the new norm for higher ed. This will likely be a sea change across education writ large, but higher ed has far more flexibility if it's willing to challenge the legacy assumptions and industries that are holding them back from being more impactful and productive incubators and creators of inn Good examples, realistic and reasonable in her approach. This is not going to be solved overnight, but the book illustrates how the change is already happening, and it needs attention and support to become the new norm for higher ed. This will likely be a sea change across education writ large, but higher ed has far more flexibility if it's willing to challenge the legacy assumptions and industries that are holding them back from being more impactful and productive incubators and creators of innovation the rest of society benefits from.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Nidalmia

    This book is a must-read for anyone who is even thinking about a college education in America. Cathy Davidson expertly reveals the tragedy of tradition in academia and society’s embrace of outdated models for higher ed that reinforce disparity and lack of forward thinking. Hurray that she has started this conversation and has also highlighted some promising programs and individuals who are pushing the boundaries to grow education that can truly meet the needs of our current generation of student This book is a must-read for anyone who is even thinking about a college education in America. Cathy Davidson expertly reveals the tragedy of tradition in academia and society’s embrace of outdated models for higher ed that reinforce disparity and lack of forward thinking. Hurray that she has started this conversation and has also highlighted some promising programs and individuals who are pushing the boundaries to grow education that can truly meet the needs of our current generation of students and innovators.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sheree Meyer

    The historical context is critical to the primary assertion that what was once the "new education" is no longer a viable option and that we need to to create yet another model to serve the needs of our students today and for their future. While the book raises as many questions as it answers (apropos of the wicked problems curriculum it discusses), it is well-worth reading and more important, discussing. The historical context is critical to the primary assertion that what was once the "new education" is no longer a viable option and that we need to to create yet another model to serve the needs of our students today and for their future. While the book raises as many questions as it answers (apropos of the wicked problems curriculum it discusses), it is well-worth reading and more important, discussing.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    An important and accessible take on the problems that characterize higher education today. Among the many things to admire about this book, the thing I like the best is that Davidson is far from a pessimist. She's adamant about what needs to be changed, but equally enthusiastic and optimistic that such changes could take place. Indeed, she even provides ideas and evidence of where such changes are already taking place. An important and accessible take on the problems that characterize higher education today. Among the many things to admire about this book, the thing I like the best is that Davidson is far from a pessimist. She's adamant about what needs to be changed, but equally enthusiastic and optimistic that such changes could take place. Indeed, she even provides ideas and evidence of where such changes are already taking place.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Reina Callier

    I don't necessarily agree with *everything* Davidson suggests in her book, but she has lit a fire in my soul. I am currently working to incorporate her core messages and strategies into my own teaching (even if I can only do so incrementally), to make my classroom more focused on active, creative, collaborative, practical, and critical learning. If I can get my students to think about their education the way that Davidson does, I will consider myself successful. I don't necessarily agree with *everything* Davidson suggests in her book, but she has lit a fire in my soul. I am currently working to incorporate her core messages and strategies into my own teaching (even if I can only do so incrementally), to make my classroom more focused on active, creative, collaborative, practical, and critical learning. If I can get my students to think about their education the way that Davidson does, I will consider myself successful.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    A really interesting read. While there's the usual breathless teaching reporting, where nothing ever goes wrong, in general she has some interesting ideas connecting austerity to teaching, and making a strong pedagogical case that higher education is valuable. It's not just about the politics of starving higher education, but also about what students aren't learning because of it. I enjoyed this a lot. A really interesting read. While there's the usual breathless teaching reporting, where nothing ever goes wrong, in general she has some interesting ideas connecting austerity to teaching, and making a strong pedagogical case that higher education is valuable. It's not just about the politics of starving higher education, but also about what students aren't learning because of it. I enjoyed this a lot.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Camilla

    A really, surprisingly enlightening and entertaining read. It was definitely written from an academic standpoint, but Davidson had really excellent points about the nature of academics in America and the historical changes that came about because of the need for it. She promotes a push toward another change since we're clearly overdue and itemizes reasons why we need the change and what the change might look like. It was an interesting read. A really, surprisingly enlightening and entertaining read. It was definitely written from an academic standpoint, but Davidson had really excellent points about the nature of academics in America and the historical changes that came about because of the need for it. She promotes a push toward another change since we're clearly overdue and itemizes reasons why we need the change and what the change might look like. It was an interesting read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Hiba

    I enjoyed reading this book and learning about the different problems facing higher education (several of which I was not aware were problems). A strong argument is made about the need for a new educational system and several obstacles for achieving this new system are explored. The author does not offer clear solutions to the problems, but she does a great job of highlighting some of the ways different universities have addressed these issues.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    It's a book that could have been handled in an academic article or two, but it didn't need a book to get the point. By making it a book, it becomes redundant. We need to change the way we see higher education. We get that. Some interesting examples, but all of that could have been accomplished in about 20-30 pages. It's a book that could have been handled in an academic article or two, but it didn't need a book to get the point. By making it a book, it becomes redundant. We need to change the way we see higher education. We get that. Some interesting examples, but all of that could have been accomplished in about 20-30 pages.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ann Campbell

    I read this book for a summer reading club organized for faculty by my administration. It was well written and had some practical ideas about how to initiate active learning in college courses. Much of it was anecdotal and felt like articles or lectures sutured together, but I appreciated the fact it was grounded in real teaching experiences.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Molly Grear

    This book gives voice to a lot of ideas that I've been simmering for the last few years of my PhD. There's so much to think on and so much to aspire to, now on to actually getting a faculty teaching job. This book gives voice to a lot of ideas that I've been simmering for the last few years of my PhD. There's so much to think on and so much to aspire to, now on to actually getting a faculty teaching job.

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