Book(s) Review – Higher Education Doomsaying

I have a book review out with postemedieval on a collection of recent books about the state and future of higher education.

Where are we going? Why are we in this handbasket?” is open access.

You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.– Rahm Emmanuel, Mayor of ChicagoEvery week, another cry of crisis reverberates through the virtual and tangible spaces in which academics congregate. The pundits and publishers who cater to higher education know that crisis narratives find readers, not to mention re-tweeters, re-posters, online sharers and bloggers who will confirm or deny (often deploying their own rhetoric of crisis) a given analysis. In most cases, crisis narratives are claustrophobic. They shine a spotlight on the constraints and urgencies of the present situation in order to push their audience toward one particular course of action.

This review essay takes up and examines some recent cries of crisis (as well as refusals of the term), but it also attends to different imagery for describing the contemporary status of colleges and universities – that of entanglement. Entanglements, knots, mutual entailments, ongoing involvements, co-implications, networks, jumbles, meshes, messes and complex structures can challenge the monologic solutions so often offered in response to crisis. Entanglements can be constraining, but interweaving is just as likely to provide strength and resiliency. One way to understand the purpose of this volume is as an exploration of the entanglements among the arts and liberal arts. Entanglements of various sorts dominate the recent literature on the nature and future of higher education, but in this arena there’s no consensus about what the optimal bundle of entwined ideas, fields, peoples and places might be. For some, we need to build thicker bonds among the various components, making it harder to tear us apart. Others, though, want to slice through the whole mess, scattering the university into its components, claiming that through destruction we’ll all be made whole.

I address:
  • Robert B. Archibald and David H. Feldman – Why Does College Cost So Much? Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011, xii+289pp., $36.95. ISBN: 978-0199744503
  • Kevin Carey – The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere. New York, Penguin, 2015, 288pp., $27.95. ISBN: 978-1594632051
  • Daniel F. Chambliss and Christopher G. Takacs – How College Works. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2014, 224pp., $29.95. ISBN: 978-0674049024
  • Michael M. Crow and William B. Dabars – Designing the New American University. Baltimore, MD, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015, xiii+344pp., $34.95. ISBN: 978-1421417233
  • Michael Kennedy – Globalizing Knowledge: Intellectuals, Universities, and Publics in Transformation. Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press, 2014, xviii+406pp., $34.95. ISBN: 978-0804793438
I suspect folks in higher education will find the variety of crisis narratives and solutions interesting.

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