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Kamis, 17 Mei 2012

College: What It Was, Is, And Should Be by Andrew Deblanco - Book review


What it Was, Is, and Should Be

By: Andrew Delbanco, Ph.D.

Published: March 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 240 pages
ISBN-10: 0691130736
ISBN-13: 978-0691130736
Publisher: Princeton University Press

"And so it is my unabashed aim in this book to articulate what a college - any college - should seek to do for its students", writes Director of American Studies at Columbia University and Columbia's Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities, Andrew Delbanco, Ph.D., in his visionary and engaging book College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be. The author examines the historical development of the American university, how higher education is perceived today, and the role of universities in the future.

Andrew Delbanco recognizes that universities in America represent a very diverse collection of institutions of higher learning. At the same time, however, this wide range of colleges and universities are facing an unprecedented level of outside pressures. One of the external forces is that of commercialization, and the transformation of the university student experience into the narrow pursuit of professional credentials. For Andrew Delbanco, this shrinking of the role of the university represents a danger of students and faculty losing a unique time of self discovery and and sharing of new ideas. The author defends the value of the traditional liberal arts education as important for all students, from all social backgrounds and income levels.

Andrew Delbanco (photo left) sees that unique exploration becoming the province of wealthy students, with less privileged students being denied the benefits of the humanities for gaining wisdom and personal development. Andrew Delbanco defends what he considers the role of higher education in personal growth, exploring individual passions, and for discovering and testing new ideas and fresh ways of thinking.

The author takes the reader on a guided tour of how higher education developed in America. Beginning with the Puritan gathered church concept, Andrew Delbanco describes the challenges faced by colleges in the nineteenth century as the new research universities rose to prominence, and moves to the twentieth century issues of lower income, gender and minority diversity that altered the composition of the student body.

Faced with today's landscape of globalization, technology, science, and financial problems, the author demonstrates the value of the humanities for instilling wisdom, ethics, and a search for ideas. The author shares his five interconnected qualities that should flow from higher education. They are as follows:

* Skeptical discontent with the present, tempered with a sense of the past
* Making connections between seemingly very different phenomena
* Appreciation of the natural world through science and the arts
* Willingness to see issues from the perspective of others
* A sense of ethical responsibility

For me, the power of the book s how Andrew Delbanco goes far beyond simply building a case for the humanities in higher learning, but shows the reader their true value and importance. The author points out that, because the universities and colleges are finding their scope narrowed to that of professional credential providers, much of the traditional benefit of education is being lost. For the author, the humanities are becoming the sole province of students from higher income groups, leaving their value out of reach for lower income students.

Andrew Delbanco points out that universities and colleges face real challenges in the modern globalized economy, but that higher education has faced many challenges in the past. In each case, the institutions have evolved and adapted to overcome the obstacles in their path. The author offers a vision for just such an evolution to guide humanistic education through the current crises, and to regain its status as the fount of wisdom and self knowledge that has been its hallmark throughout American history.

I highly recommend the landmark and thought provoking book College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be by Andrew Delbanco, Ph.D., to anyone within or outside of the halls of higher learning who seeks a visionary approach to university and college education that goes beyond the usual prescriptions and mounting cynicism found in many studies. This book will transform the way you think about the humanities, and their timeless and crucial role in the very purpose and nature of higher education.

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