Education

A Rescue Plan for America’s Public Universities

October 23, 2009
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A Rescue Plan for America’s Public Universities

Today’s Inside Higher Ed. contains an interview with James C. Garland, author of Saving Alma Mater: A Rescue Plan for America’s Public Universities. In the interview Garland discusses the economic difficulties that many public universities currently face, among them declining faculty salaries, dramatic rises in tuition costs, and deferred maintenance that “far exceeds state renovation budgets.” More than just fallout from the nation’s worst recession since the ’30s, as Garland argues “the historic economic model—ample public subsidies resulting in affordable tuition—has broken down and cannot be fixed. The current economic crisis has obviously accelerated the decline, but even after the economy recovers I believe there will be no turning back the clock.” Thus in Saving Alma Mater: A Rescue Plan for America’s Public Universities Garland offers readers a timely and comprehensive “rescue plan” for America’s public universities that would tie university revenues to their performance and exploit the competitive pressures of the academic marketplace to control costs, rein in tuition, and make schools more responsive to student needs. In the interview Garland cites four elements to his approach including: turning public universities into autonomous state-owned entities governed by independent boards of trustees; pushing states to redirect taxpayer dollars that previously . . .

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The hard reality of the hard sciences

August 6, 2009
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The hard reality of the hard sciences

In a review of Joseph C. Hermanowicz’s new book Lives in Science: How Institutions Affect Academic Careers for the current issue of Nature magazine, reviewer Rachael Ivy highlight’s the book’s surprising conclusions about the career paths of scientists (specifically physicists) at the nation’s elite universities: many of them end up feeling like they’ve been conned. Ivy summarizes Hermanowicz’s argument, writing that while physicists at less-prestigious universities learn early on how to console themselves with the probability that their contributions to the field will be marginal, those granted tenure at elite universities tend to remain optimistic about the level of prestige they can achieve in the course of their careers, that is, until their careers draw to a close. Ivy writes: Those at less-prestigious universities, who were also more likely to have graduated from similar institutions, were generally satisfied because of the balance they ultimately achieved in their lives. Like other academics, they had once hoped to achieve scientific greatness, but quickly realized that such recognition would elude them. They dealt with disappointment about their career paths early on. By contrast, physicists who got the early prize of an elite university job were satisfied with their careers—until the end. Then they . . .

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Press Release: Brown, Beyond the Frontier

May 1, 2009
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Press Release: Brown, Beyond the Frontier

In 2006 David S. Brown’s Richard Hofstadter, a sweeping intellectual biography of a man and his era, was published to great acclaim— E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post called it “the most important political book of the year that’s not about politics”—and definitively established the continuing importance of Hofstadter’s work and his legacy as a leader of the Eastern intellectual establishment. With Beyond the Frontier: The Midwestern Voice in American Historical Writing, Brown returns with a collective biography of the prominent intellectuals—including William Appleman Williams, Charles Beard, and Christopher Lasch—who publicly opposed Hofstadter and the growing interventionist consensus he represented among America’s postwar elite. Troubled by the burgeoning military-industrial complex and what they saw as America’s reckless fomenting of the cold war, they argued strenuously for a different path: a return to an older American tradition of progressivism and reform. Only that way, they believed, could the individual freedom and self-sufficiency that historically had represented the heart of American democracy survive. And while America’s imperial ambitions clearly remain strong, Brown shows how these ideas remain potent today, animating the work of prominent figures like William Cronon and Thomas Frank. A fascinating follow-up to Richard Hofstadter, Beyond the Frontier draws . . .

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Higher learning as a “complex adaptive network”

April 27, 2009
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Higher learning as a “complex adaptive network”

Since the onslaught of the financial crisis, the federal government has bailed out Wall Street and Detroit. But at least one more venerable institution now needs saving, according to polymath and long-time UCP author Mark C. Taylor: the University. In an op-ed contribution published yesterday in the New York Times, Taylor lays out a six-point plan for restructuring higher education in this country. Among the many controversial recommendations Taylor offers—including dissolving academic departments and abolishing tenure—is a prescriptive that affects the publishing community in general and the academic press world in particular: the publication of dissertations. Taylor suggests that graduate students produce “analytic treatments in formats from hypertext and Web sites to films and video games” instead of traditional “books modeled on the medieval dissertation, with more footnotes than text.” Whether or not that evolution comes to pass, Taylor’s call to critically examine the state of the modern university has been met with vociferous debate in the Times’ online comment forum. Many of the ideas that Taylor espouses in the piece, especially that of complex adaptive networks, have been explored in books ranging from The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture to Confidence Games: Money and Markets in a World . . .

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Drug money

March 3, 2009
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Drug money

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Is the financial crisis eroding the ivory tower?

January 14, 2009
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Is the financial crisis eroding the ivory tower?

Introducing a report yesterday on Stanford University’s newly announced energy institute—to be funded by a $100 million gift by wealthy alums—the host of American Public Media’s Marketplace noted that though “it’s tough sledding out there if you’re a charity or a foundation or a university endowment … the money hasn’t completely dried up.… schools will have to rely on private funding for a while, and that could cause some sticky situations.” Daniel S. Greenberg, whom Marketplace interviewed for yesterday’s report, is an expert on those kinds of situations, and in Science for Sale: The Perils, Delusions, and Rewards of Campus Capitalism, he reveals that the ties between private wealth and college campuses are more complicated—and less profitable—than media reports would suggest. But just because potential corruption is overhyped, Greenberg argues, doesn’t mean that there’s no danger. As he told Marketplace, “the Ivory Tower is gone.… The record seems to show that universities are much more interested in getting the money and getting on with the project than they are in protecting their traditional values.” For its part, Stanford noted that, in the words of university president John Hennessy, “universities such as Stanford need to focus their full talent on . . .

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An education in education

December 16, 2008
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An education in education

President-elect Obama’s nomination of Arne Duncan as Education Secretary has put U.S. education policy—and educational reform in the Chicago system—in the national and international spotlight. With all the global tumult in the news, these headlines will, inevitably, recede, but our growing list of education titles will sustain anyone’s continuing interest in education and the people for whom it’s not a passing news story but a way of life. Dan C. Lortie’s Schoolteacher: A Sociological Study, for example, has been dubbed one of the best portraits available of the world and culture of this vitally important profession. And we are excited to announce that, this spring, Lortie will follow up his classic text with School Principal: Managing in Public, a compelling look at what principals do, how they do it, and why. Examining a third group of people vital to children’s education, Parents and Schools: The 150-Year Struggle for Control in American Education is an invaluable guide to understanding how parent-teacher cooperation, which is essential for our children’s educational success, might be achieved. And if your interest in education runs deep enough that you choose to pursue it as a career? We publish a slew of books in curriculum and methodology . . .

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Chicago guides for weathering the recession

December 8, 2008
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Chicago guides for weathering the recession

With universities across the country slashing budgets and implementing hiring freezes, the job market for many PhDs seems to be, as the Chronicle of Higher Education recently put it, cloudy. But our career guides can serve as sturdy life rafts in this storm of bad news. Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius’s “So What Are You Going to Do with That?”, for example, covers topics ranging from career counseling to interview etiquette to translating skills learned in the academy into terms an employer can understand and appreciate. A witty, accessible guide full of concrete advice for anyone contemplating the jump from scholarship to the outside world, “So What Are You Going to Do with That?” is packed with examples and stories from real people who have successfully made this daunting—but potentially rewarding—transition. Taking a more specific approach, The Chicago Guide to Landing a Job in Academic Biology is designed to help students and post-docs navigate the tricky terrain of an academic job search—from the first year of a graduate program to the final negotiations of a job offer. In the process, it covers everything from how to pack an overnight bag without wrinkling a suit to selecting the right job to . . .

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Physics for sale?

July 15, 2008
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Physics for sale?

In the July issue of Physics Today William H. Wing reviews Daniel S. Greenberg’s recent book Science for Sale: The Perils, Rewards, and Delusions of Campus Capitalism—a revealing look at academic science and its commoditization in the hands of private interests. From the review: Greenberg’s research is extensive. His knowledge of the institutions, policymakers, and industries involved in the development of marketable science, and their effects on the science community and public policy, is vast.… many of Greenberg’s examples pertain to the biomedical sciences. Some difficulties he describes—the complex ethical issues involved in human-subject research, extensive regulations, and massive documentation requirements—are issues that physical scientists rarely encounter. Thus those scientists may infer that the book is not relevant to them. They should not. Results in the physical sciences can have enormous human and societal impacts and can raise knotty moral problems, as history has shown. Science for Sale is a cautionary tale that should provoke thoughtful discussions among researchers and academic administrators. Read the review on the Physics Today website. . . .

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Who are scientists?

July 10, 2008
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Who are scientists?

The July 6 Boston Globe published an enlightening interview with Steven Shapin, Harvard professor of the History of Science and author of the forthcoming book The Scientific Life: A Moral History of a Late Modern Vocation. In the interview Shapin discusses his book and its critique of conventional notions about the various motivations and incentives that drive scientific production. Instead, Shapin proposes a much more nuanced picture of of the scientific career and character. From the preface to the interview: Testifying before congress in 1950, MIT president Karl Compton declared, of American scientists: “I don’t know of any other group that has less interest in monetary gain.” That view of scientists might draw a few wry smiles around Kendall Square today. But it also represents a lingering 20th-century ideal: The scientist as a virtuous academic who pursues knowledge as an end in itself. In contrast to that ideal stands the wealth-seeking industrial scientist, a specialist who merely applies science to the problem of putting new products on the market.… That’s the wrong way to think about the whole scientific enterprise, says Steven Shapin.… Scientists, Shapin thinks, do not merely choose between virtue and riches, instead worrying more about where they . . .

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