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Colleges at the Crossroads

Taking Sides on Contested Issues


Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis and Pietro A. Sasso

Focusing on crucial issues in higher education, this book challenges readers to go beyond taken-for-granted assumptions about America’s colleges and universities and instead critically examine important questions facing them in today’s troubled world. Each chapter presents divergent perspectives, that is, "pro" and "con" views, in the hope of stimulating reasoned dialogue among students, faculty, administrators, and the public at large. Readers will explore how internal factors in the academic community often interact with external social, economic, and political influences to produce conflictual results. They will see that academe is hardly value-neutral and inevitably political. This book urges them to transcend strident political persuasion and instead engage in the careful analysis needed to make colleges better.

The text provides in-depth appraisal of key topics of controversy: the purposes of higher education, liberal education, academic freedom, political correctness, tenure, shared governance, faculty workload, admissions tests, student learning, Greek life, the worth of college, equity and social justice, athletics, student entitlement, technology and distance instruction, and college amenities. The book will appeal to students, faculty, staff, and all those interested in the future of higher education. It is especially useful for courses in contemporary issues in higher education, foundations of higher education, higher education and society, college student development, and the organization and administration of higher education.

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Part One: What Should Be the Purposes of Higher Education?


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Part One:  What Should Be the Purposes of Higher Education?

In “What Is College for?” Johann N. Neem contends that the essential aim of collegiate education should be to develop the student’s learning in an atmosphere as unfettered as possible by external pressures. The liberal arts and sciences are the core drivers of his abiding faith in immersing students in a kind of Aristotelian kind of education: providing them deep knowledge of the human and natural world, habituating them to asking questions about it, and building their curiosity about all things under the sun. While arguing that college is not for everyone, Neem characterizes liberal education as fundamental for those who choose to attend and have the ability to benefit from their intellectual desire for lifelong thinking about “thoughts worth thinking.”

Patricia A. McGuire, in “Modernizing College Purposes to Save a Troubled World,” offers a broad analysis of the imperative to redefine the purposes of higher education in ever-changing times. The author traces the historical nature of college purposes from traditional frameworks to what she describes as one that required “the new college student of the 21 century.” She does not relinquish her firm commitment to liberal education, but views it from more contemporary perspectives. Focusing on the needs of an increasingly diverse student population, McGuire calls for more relevant curricula, pedagogy, and delivery systems as well as more serious attention to academic governance and accountability issues. Finally, she underscores the necessity...

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