Issues in US Higher Education

Clement Lime

This Freshman Seminar aims to help college students better understand their educational experience by examining the philosophy, sociology and political economy of higher education at the onset of the twenty-first century. The early weeks acquaint students with classical and modern theories of pedagogy and models of learning, while the remaining sessions deal with seminal controversies about issues like academic freedom, globalization, multiculturalism, and the role of technology in education. Students will leave the course with a better sense of how the university fits into global society, as well as a historical perspective on the most pressing problems that they as students will confront during their time in college.

Students will be evaluated four times during the semester, with opportunities to show their strengths in a variety of different ways. The first assignment calls for students to depict Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” in a medium of their own choice; the second is an in-class midterm exam, with identifications and short essay questions; and the third is an annotated bibliography including ten sources for the final project. Working in pairs, students will identify an issue in education and propose a specific policy to remedy a problem or resolve a conflict. Each proposal will include a ten page paper and a fifteen minute in-class presentation.

Amy Binder’s Contentious Curricula and Loren Eisley’s The Immense Journey are required texts. Most other readings can be purchased as a coursepacket at Village Copier; online readings are asterisked below.

Week 1: The Classical Tradition

• Confucius, The Analects (selections on teaching and learning)*
• Plato, “The Allegory of the Cave”*
• Felix C. Robb, “Aristotle on Education” (1943)*

Week 2: The Modern Tradition

• Mortimer Adler, “The Paideia Proposal” (1982)
• Robert Wiebe, The Search for Order (1967), 133-163
• FIRST ASSIGNMENT DUE: Depiction of “Allegory of the Cave”

Week 3: Pragmatism

• Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club (2002), 337-376
• Robert Westbrook, John Dewey and American Democracy (1993), 150-194

Week 4: Models of Knowledge

• B.F. Skinner, “Are Theories of Learning Necessary?” (1950)
• Paolo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970), 71-124
• Paul Edwards, “Metaphor and the Politics of Subjectivity” (1997)

Week 5: The Democratization of Higher Education

• Clifford Geertz, “A Life of Learning” (1999)
• Students for a Democratic Society, “The Port Huron Statement” (1962)*

Week 6: Pluralism

• Amy Binder, Contentious Curricula: Afrocentrism and Creationism in American Public Schools (2004)
• Menand, Metaphysical Club, 377-408

Week 7: Postmodernism

• Mara Beller, “The Sokal Hoax: At Whom Are We Laughing?” (1998)*
• David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity, 1-65
• Alan Sokal, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” (1996)*

Week 8: Academic Freedom and Intellectual Honesty

• Philip G. Altbach, “Academic Freedom: International Realities and Challenges” (2001)*
• Robert Churchill, “Guns and the Politics of History” (2001)*

Week 9: Science and Humanism

• Loren Eisley, The Immense Journey (1959)
• Manuel Castells, Technopoles of the World: The Making of Twenty-First Century Industrial Complexes (1994), 1-38

Week 10: Technology

• Critical Art Ensemble, “Utopian Plagiarism, Hypertextuality, and Electronic Cultural Production” (2004)*
• Peter F. Drucker, “Education in the New Technology” (1962)
• David F. Noble, “The Industrial Process of Higher Education” (1979)
• Stacey Schiff, “Know It All: Can Wikipedia Conquer Expertise?” (2006)

Week 11: Globalization of Education

• National Commission on Excellence in Education, A Nation at Risk (1983)*
• Aihwa Ong, “Higher Learning in Global Space” (2006)

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