This week’s New Title Tuesday selection, The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux by Cathy N. Davidson, is not just for educators and college administrators, it is important information for parents of children  considering their college choices.

The New EducationPublisher’s Summary:  Our current system of higher education dates to the period from 1865 to 1925, when the nation’s new universities created grades and departments, majors and minors, in an attempt to prepare young people for a world transformed by the telegraph and the Model T. As Cathy N. Davidson argues in The New Education, this approach to education is wholly unsuited to the era of the gig economy. From the Ivy League to community colleges, she introduces us to innovators who are remaking college for our own time by emphasizing student-centered learning that values creativity in the face of change above all. The New Education  ultimately shows how we can teach students not only to survive but to thrive amid the challenges to come.

In The New Education Davidson makes the case that recent graduates and anyone who has been to college in the last 15 years, have “been given a raw deal.”  Having earned my bachelor’s degree in the early 1980s and my master’s in education in 2004, I experienced the vast change Davidson spoke of: “higher tuition, fewer course options and advising services, and exploited faculty.”

The problem is very complex and Davidson succinctly explains the historical, economic, and technological changes that have degraded the system that once provided a path to the middle class. And while many reformers believe they have the remedy to transform higher education, Davidson provides evidence as to why “their prescriptions fail.”

The public funding of higher education has decreased since the early 1980’s leading to one of the reasons for rising tuition.  In addition, an over-dependence on standardized testing and GPA as the primary tool to evaluate a student’s progress has also not provided optimal results.

Davidson writes that ninety years after it was developed, “a good score on the SATs continues to guarantee admission to college, even though many of the assumptions behind multiple-choice testing have been discredited.  Is a perfect score a testament to intelligence or passivity?  Is it a sign of aptitude or affluence and access to teachers trained to ‘teach to the test’?  Does it yield insight into someone’s creative potential and ability to change and learn and relearn, or is it a good indicator of exactly the opposite?”

Business is also part of the problem; too often a bachelor’s degree is required for minimum wage and low paying positions.   It is not the exception but the rule that, “At universities, now nearly half of all courses are taught by adjunct, part-time [instructors], some of whom effectively make less than the minimum wage,”  Davidson wrote.

Although The New Education  does not propose a one-size-fits-all solution, Davidson highlights innovative practices that are providing  skills training, creative problem solving, and strategies that support teamwork.  It’s not either STEM or liberal arts; true innovation requires both the sciences and the arts.

As parents fill out FAFSA applications and plan campus visits, The New Education provides some points to consider – not the least of which is that community colleges are more nimble and can innovate for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is a lower tuition and a non-reliance on rankings.  “By definition, community college centers on the student because there is no preset, a priori admission standard or criterion of selectivity based on a presumed ranked hierarchy of status.”

There is so much more to learn about higher education in The New Education.  Davidson has spent her entire career in this field and has the ability to fully explain multi-faceted issues.

With the high cost of tuition and the changing employment outlook, it is worth reading Davidson’s book before final decisions are made.

Happy Reading, Susan C.

Also by Davidson:

Now You See It Now You See It : How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn – Documents a 2003 experiment at Duke University where the author had free iPods issued to the freshman class to see how the device could be used academically, in a report that reveals other technological ideas that are revolutionizing education.

Contents: I’ll count : you take care of the gorilla — Distraction and difference : the keys to attention and the changing brain. Learning from the distraction experts ; Learning ourselves — The kids are all right. Project classroom makeover ; How we measure ; The epic win — Work in the future. The changing workplace ; The changing worker — The brain you change yourself.

You may also enjoy:

Where You Go is notWhere You Go is Not Who You’ll Be : an Antidote to the College Admissions Mania by Frank Bruni – Over the last few decades, Americans have turned college admissions into a terrifying and occasionally devastating process, preceded by test prep, tutors, all sorts of stratagems, all kinds of rankings, and a conviction among too many young people that their futures will be determined and their worth established by which schools say yes and which say no. That belief is wrong. It’s cruel. And in this book, Frank Bruni explains why, giving students and their parents a new perspective on this brutal, deeply flawed competition and a path out of the anxiety that it provokes.


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