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Politics & Current Affairs

American Universities Need a Makeover

A growing chorus of academics wants to count higher education along with health care and fossil fuel dependency as one item on the list of “big reforms of our time.” But not all agree that the ivory tower needs remodeling.

Eviscerating the institutional myopia of academia, Columbia religion scholar and department chair Mark C. Taylor writes a prescient argument for reforming the “dirty secrets of higher education.” He takes aim at the non-utility–yet perceived requirement among the upwardly mobile–of the graduate degree and the tweedy studies in irrelevance it leads to in many academic disciplines.

He clamors for six reforms to higher ed among them a synergistic meeting of the disciplines that surpasses the token “interdisciplinary” courses of the past decade; abolishing tenureship; and establishing issues-based curricula that analyze an single problem–Taylor mentions “water”–from every angle.

New York University president John Sexton had more muted criticism of higher education in a conversation with Big Think. Praising American colleges and universities as the “envy of the world” he noted what bedevils higher education as more of an external societal misunderstanding, or “subliminal devaluation,” of high-level academic advancement.


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