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College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be

Delbanco, Andrew

512 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0691165513 / ISBN 13: 9780691165516
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Bibliographic Details

Title: College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be

Publication Date: 2014

Binding: PAP

Book Condition:New

About this title


As the commercialization of American higher education accelerates, more and more students are coming to college with the narrow aim of obtaining a preprofessional credential. The traditional four-year college experience―an exploratory time for students to discover their passions and test ideas and values with the help of teachers and peers―is in danger of becoming a thing of the past.

In College, prominent cultural critic Andrew Delbanco offers a trenchant defense of such an education, and warns that it is becoming a privilege reserved for the relatively rich. In describing what a true college education should be, he demonstrates why making it available to as many young people as possible remains central to America's democratic promise.

In a brisk and vivid historical narrative, Delbanco explains how the idea of college arose in the colonial period from the Puritan idea of the gathered church, how it struggled to survive in the nineteenth century in the shadow of the new research universities, and how, in the twentieth century, it slowly opened its doors to women, minorities, and students from low-income families. He describes the unique strengths of America’s colleges in our era of globalization and, while recognizing the growing centrality of science, technology, and vocational subjects in the curriculum, he mounts a vigorous defense of a broadly humanistic education for all. Acknowledging the serious financial, intellectual, and ethical challenges that all colleges face today, Delbanco considers what is at stake in the urgent effort to protect these venerable institutions for future generations.

In a new afterword, Delbanco responds to recent developments―both ominous and promising―in the changing landscape of higher education.

From the Back Cover:

COURSE USE ENDORSEMENT: "We were the first to use College in a first year writing program. The book has been widely successful and served as a wonderful platform for classroom discussions about why students are in school, what do they want to learn, and who they think they want to become. Great praise to Andy Delbanco for writing such a compact book containing both history and wisdom."--Eli C. Goldblatt, Director of First-Year Writing and a professor of English at Temple University

COURSE USE ENDORSEMENT: "Andrew Delbanco's College offers first year undergraduates multiple perspectives onto an experience that each one of them is encountering for the very first time. It is a sophisticated but accessible text that speaks in multiple registers, challenging faculty, professional staff, graduate students, and undergraduates of all ages to think about the past, present, and future of the institution in which they work and live. As a common reading, College provides a framework for the question that every freshman in some way is asking throughout the year--what should college be? That very big question is at the center of a book that asks undergraduates to confront the ethical dilemmas posed by the increasing costs of a higher education that ever fewer people can afford. It also challenges students who will be our future leaders to consider what such inequality might portend for an American democracy whose vitality requires an educated majority citizenry."--Frank Wcislo, Dean of The Ingram Commons, Associate Professor of History and European Studies, Vanderbilt University

COURSE USE ENDORSEMENT: "I have been using the book in a freshman seminar in which we are exploring college. Most of the texts we are using are academic satire novels, but we are using Delbanco's book to help us talk about the place of college in American culture. Although some of the students are not as interested in the historical background, they do find his discussion of the current state of college to be interesting and informative. For example, nearly all of my students are on some form of financial aid, and when they read Delbanco's examination of the costs of college, they seem to wake up intellectually. For them, Delbanco's critique speaks directly to their own experiences and frustrations, and they appreciate learning the contexts. More to the point, they deeply appreciate seeing their anxieties about the costs of college are taken seriously enough to warrant such careful attention by Delbanco. My students also found Delbanco's analysis of teaching and learning methods interesting and informative. They have their own opinions about what creates a good classroom experience, but they had never before seen someone examine different classroom methods in a systematic fashion. Delbanco's discussion of "lateral learning" seemed to provoke the most interesting discussion, and we spent almost an entire class session talking about why that might work in some classes but not others and why they liked and disliked that method of classroom management. Delbanco also spoke at one of our campus colloquia, where he was well received. In the question and answer after his talk, one of my students asked a question, and he was impressed by how seriously Delbanco took his question and how carefully he answered. Delbanco's serious response highlights what my students most appreciated in his book. He takes the entire concept of education seriously and demonstrates a deep understanding of not just the state of the university as it applies to faculty and administrators but also the way it affects the largest--and most important--constituency: the students. It was a revelation to my students that someone in Delbanco's position would take the trouble to think about what it means to be a student."--Richard M. Magee, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English, Director of the Thomas More Honors Living and Learning Community, Sacred Heart University

"Those who love traditional colleges and universities, but also recognize the imperative of reducing inequalities in income and opportunity, confront a profound moral and intellectual challenge. Andrew Delbanco, one of our most humane and rigorous scholars, has turned his energies to this conundrum in his elegant and eloquent book. He writes that 'it is an offense against democracy to presume that education should be reserved for the wellborn and the well-off.' That is where all of our debates must start."--E. J. Dionne Jr., author of Our Divided Political Heart

"The special quality of this book stems from its firm grounding in the history of higher education. The result is a work that leads us to look with suspicion on claims that our colleges are deteriorating, challenges us to think anew about other trends that are often viewed as progress, and reminds us of the subtler aims achieved by teaching at its best."--Derek Bok, former president of Harvard University

"An intelligent, nonbombastic look at the state of higher education, College is a hugely useful primer for present and future faculty members, and their students. It should be read by every provost and dean, and by anyone responsible for maintaining a flourishing democracy. Delbanco's pen is neither dipped in the nostalgia for the golden days that never were, nor brushed with the cynicism that embitters those who have accepted the culture of universal commodification. This is a lively, engaging, and important book."--Mary P. McPherson, president emeritus of Bryn Mawr College and executive officer of the American Philosophical Society

"As a defense of liberal education, the humanities, and elite residential colleges, this book offers a more balanced and articulate argument than recent works on higher education and the professoriate. An easy read that is clear, varied, literate, and interesting, this book makes the reader think."--James Axtell, College of William & Mary

"This terrific book is wonderfully direct and engaging, and full of well-chosen historical examples and relevant quotations. Delbanco's love of learning comes through clearly. He eloquently articulates and defends a certain ideal conception of the undergraduate experience and rightly makes us worry about the prospects for preserving it."--Michael McPherson, The Spencer Foundation

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