Teaching to the World From Central New Jersey

What have you learned about teaching?

by Mitchell Duneier

A few months ago, just as the campus of Princeton University had grown nearly silent after commencement, 40,000 students from 113 countries arrived here via the Internet to take a free course in introductory sociology. The noncredit Princeton offering came about through a collaboration between Coursera, a new venture in online learning, and 16 universities, including my own.

When my class was announced last spring, I was both excited and nervous. Unlike computer science and other subjects in which the answers are pretty much the same around the globe, sociology can be very Continue reading “Teaching to the World From Central New Jersey”

Advertisements

The Role of Elite Institutions

Who gets to be on top?

By William Julius Wilson (Harvard)

The increase in the college premium­—the differential in what is earned by college graduates compared with what is earned by those with high-school diplomas—is a major factor contributing to rising inequality in America. A widely cited study by the economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz, The Race Between Education and Technology, reveals a sharp increase in the salaries of individuals with college diplomas and advanced degrees, because of the need for better-educated workers in our increasingly complex economy. According to Goldin and Katz, the college premium accounted for roughly 60 percent of the growth in wage inequality from 1973 to 2005. Continue reading “The Role of Elite Institutions”

Renewing The Commitment

Is higher education improving or going down hill?

By Sara Goldrick-Rab  (U Wisconsin)

In 1947 the historic Truman Commission called for national investments in higher education to promote democracy by enabling all people to earn college degrees. Subsequent expansion of community colleges, adult education, and federal aid occurred not in the name of economic stimulation but to reduce inequality and further active citizenship.

Those ambitions have been steadily corrupted. Today the Tea Party casts the college-educated as snobbish and fundamentally disconnected. Many four-year colleges and universities Continue reading “Renewing The Commitment”

Colleges Should Teach Intellectual Virtues

What should colleges teach?

By Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe (Swarthmore)

Look at what colleges state as their aims, and you’ll find a predictable list: Teach students how to think critically and analytically; teach them how to write and calculate; teach them the skills of their discipline. As important as such goals are, another fundamental goal is largely being neglected—developing the intellectual virtues they need to be good students, and good citizens.

Some academics may cringe at being charged with the task of developing virtue, believing that it’s a job for others—especially when there is so little agreement about what “virtue” even means in a pluralistic society like ours. They are mistaken. In fact, we often encourage such development—if a bit unreflectively. We would do much better to take the time to think through what the central intellectual virtues are, why they are so important, and how they should be integrated into our curricula: Continue reading “Colleges Should Teach Intellectual Virtues”

Stop Telling Students to Study for Exams

Are students learning the best way?

By David Jaffee (North Florida)

Among the problems on college campuses today are that students study for exams and faculty encourage them to do so.

I expect that many faculty members will be appalled by this assertion and regard it as a form of academic heresy. If anything, they would argue, students don’t study enough for exams; if they did, the educational system would produce better results. But this simple and familiar phrase—”study for exams”—which is widely regarded as a sign of responsible academic practice, actually encourages student behaviors and dispositions that work against the larger purpose of human intellectual development and learning. Rather than telling students to study for exams, we should be telling them to study for learning and understanding. Continue reading “Stop Telling Students to Study for Exams”

Growing Elitism

Who gets to be on top?

By Thomas J. Espenshade (Princeton)

On balance, elite higher education helps maintain social inequality in America, and the economic recession is magnifying that problem, especially at public institutions.

During the past two decades, research that Alexandria Walton Radford and I conducted found that a rising proportion of students who are enrolled at selective colleges and universities has come from the top two social-class categories: upper-middle- and upper-class families. And at the private institutions we studied, there is a pronounced upward slope to the relationship between the probability of being admitted and the socioeconomic status of one’s family. Continue reading “Growing Elitism”