Education without Compromise
From Chaos to Coherence in Higher Education
Undergraduate programmes in colleges and universities are confused tangles of unrelated and specialized electives. Courses aimed at career preparation far outnumber those emphasizing intellectual development. As a result, our graduates are not prepared to enter a workplace where ability to change and flexibility to adapt are facts of life, nor can they become fully contributing members of a rapidly changing society. Drawing on his experience as a professor, chief academic officer, and association leader, Schaefer exposes the problems that cut across all of academia, such as student consumerism, overspecialization of disciplines, and a system that rewards esoteric publishing over good teaching. He suggests specific changes that must take place if the education of the young is to be really effective.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
If Johnny can't read in grade school, what happens to him when he goes to college? The very disturbing answers to this question have produced a significant cottage industry of books. Near the top of them should be placed this concise, readable, and heartfelt examination of what to do - and how to do it. Schaefer's credentials - UCLA/English; past executive director of the Modern Language Association - also include a great deal of common sense, and this combination of pragmatism and experience gives his recommendations great weight. What's first needed, he argues, is a reappraisal of the whole system - "to rethink the college curriculum and restore meaning to the liberal arts degree" so that "an education without compromise" is a viable goal. According to Schaefer, the many compromises now adulterating the basic college program include the mixing of vocational and academic courses, game-playing with communications skills, overemphasis on publication of "scholarly drivel," the sudden explosion of knowledge that many departments cannot handle effectively. Correcting many of these ills can be done, he says, but it will be painful and expensive, and will require a good deal of time, patience, and commitment. One way to start is to seek new approaches to knowledge, using different methods that integrate new computer skills. Essential to any redesigning of the curriculum, however, is still that invaluable tool, the teacher, whose love and knowledge of his subject should continue to tower over the failures in the system. These failures, Schaefer correctly surmises, cannot be blamed upon science and technology: "The problem is not with society or with institutions of higher learning. We are betrayed by what is false within." An impressive, thoughtful statement about the educational crisis. (Kirkus Reviews)