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It is one thing to lament the financial pressures put on universities, quite another to face up to the poverty of resources for thinking about what universities should do when they purport to offer a liberal education. In Powers of the Mind, former University of Chicago dean Donald N. Levine enriches those resources by proposing fresh ways to think about liberal learning with ideas more suited to our times.
He does so by defining basic values of modernity and then considering curricular principles pertinent to them. The principles he favors are powers of the mind—disciplines understood as fields of study defined not by subject matter but by their embodiment of distinct intellectual capacities. To illustrate, Levine draws on his own lifetime of teaching and educational leadership, while providing a marvelous summary of exemplary educational thinkers at the University of Chicago who continue to inspire. Out of this vital tradition, Powers of the Mind constructs a paradigm for liberal arts today, inclusive of all perspectives and applicable to all settings in the modern world.
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Donald N. Levine is the Peter B. Ritzma Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago, where he served as dean of the College from 1982 to 1987. He is the author of several books, including Visions of the Sociological Tradition,The Flight from Ambiguity, and Wax and Gold: Tradition and Innovation in Ethiopian Culture.Review:
"Writing as scholar, teacher, and dean, Levine provides rich evidence that current debates in the world of liberal education are part of a continuing negotiation that has deep but frequently forgotten roots. This study also reminds us that the norm of a four-year undergraduate experience, complete with majors and general education requirements, was not preordained and that the aims are more enduring than the forms." (Carol Schneider, president, Association of American Colleges and Universities 2006-03-16)
“Powers of the Mind will become an instant landmark in the history and analysis of education in the liberal arts. Donald Levine understands that liberal education is more than the content of a curriculum; liberal education is a set of pedagogies, an approach to assessment and evaluation, and a conception of intellectual and moral development that transcends particular authors and works. He does not stop at description and analysis; he courageously offers a compelling proposal for the reinvention of the pedagogies of the liberal arts for the future. I love this book and look forward to savoring it repeatedly.”(Lee S. Shulman, president, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching 2006-07-06)
“A truly significant book—both timely and timeless. Liberal education is challenged by the commercialism and indeed commodification of the university, exacerbated by growing aimlessness. In Powers of the Mind, Donald Levine recenters the necessary conversation about the reconstruction of liberal education by reflecting on its best traditions in the context of its present situation and mission. It’s hard to say which is more thrilling: the sweep and originality of Levine’s narrative about the history of liberal education at the University of Chicago or his own pedagogical and curricular prescriptions, based on a lifetime of engaged teaching, learning, and administrative leadership.”--Mark D. Jacobs, George Mason University(Mark D. Jacobs 2006-07-06)
"What does it mean to be liberally educated in 21st-century America, and what is the role of liberal education in a democracy? . . . . Levine . . . focuses on defining a curricular structure for liberal education (rooted primarily in the evolution of undergraduate programs at Chicago, which he calls exemplary). . . . [It] will appeal to those with an interest in higher education. . . . Levine provides a historical analysis of the development of undergraduate education at Chicago and a proposal for a contemporary model of liberal learning. . . . [This book] will help create balance between conservative and liberal volleys in the 'culture wars' in higher education and will appeal to many readers."(Scott Walker Library Journal 2006-08-30)
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