Friday, May 25, 2012

U.S. Colleges Put Low Priority on Student Learning

Some blog followers might be interested in a recent discussion-list post “U.S. Colleges Put Low Priority on Student Learning.” The abstract reads:

ABSTRACT: Norman Stahl of the LrnAsst-L list pointed to Julie Mack’s report “U.S. colleges put low priority on student learning, say authors of ‘We're Losing Our Minds’.” Mack writes that Richard Hersh, co-author with Richard Keeling of We’re Losing Our Minds commented at a recent Educational Writers Association convention: “Higher education really needs to question its priorities, rewards, structures, principles and values. Learning itself must become a primary touchstone for decision-making.”

Among other recent books critical of higher education are: (a) Higher Education?: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids - and What We Can Do About It (Hacker & Dreifus, 2010); (b) Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (Arum & Roksa, 2011), and (c) College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be (Delbanco, 2012)

Richard Wolin, in his insightful review of Delbanco’s book, has this to say about the current state of higher education: “America's most prominent philosopher of democracy, John Dewey, devoted a considerable portion of his oeuvre to reflecting on the methods and goals of public education. . . . . In his view, the pedagogical key to cultivating the virtues of active citizenship lay with the antiauthoritarian, dialogic approach of the Socratic method: Dewey believed that democratic education, instead of acquiescing to the mind-numbing requirements of rote instruction, should focus on honing critical thinking, thereby nurturing autonomy. . . . . . . although contemporary educators might agree about the indispensable value of liberal learning, if directly challenged to define its content and purport, they become stricken with paralysis. . . . The end result has been the confused intellectual smorgasbord that defines undergraduate study today. . .[My italics.]. . . Regrettably, one of the major casualties of the restructuring of undergraduate education along vocational and pre-professional lines has been Dewey’s ideal of liberal study as training for democratic citizenship.”

To access the complete 19 kB post please click on

Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
Links to Articles:
Links to SDI Labs:

“The academic area is one of the most difficult areas to change in our society. We continue to use the same methods of instruction, particularly lectures, that have been used for hundreds of years. Little scientific research is done to test new approaches, and little systematic attention is given to the development of new methods. Universities that study many aspects of the world ignore the educational function in which they are engaging and from which a large part of their revenues are earned.”
- Richard M. Cyert, former president of Carnegie Mellon University, quoted in Tuma & Reif (1980):

REFERENCES [All URL’ shortened by and accessed on 25 May 2012.]
Hake, R.R. 2012. “U.S. Colleges Put Low Priority on Student Learning,” online on the OPEN! AERA-L archives at Post of 25 May 2012 16:57:20-0700 to AERA-L and Net-Gold. The abstract and link to the complete post are also being transmitted to several discussion lists.

Tuma, D.T. & F. Reif, eds. 1980. Problem Solving and Education: Issues in Teaching and Research, Lawrence Erlbaum. information at

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