By James M. Lang
We are kidding ourselves if we believe students are learning deeply from sitting in 300-seat lecture halls, watching professors read from PowerPoint slides, and taking a couple of multiple-choice exams on the material.
“The institution of school,” according to the anthropologist Susan Blum, “has outlived its usefulness.”
She makes that forceful claim in her new book, “I Love Learning; I Hate School”: An Anthropology of College, which offers a comprehensive indictment of the American higher-education model today. Many of us who do research and write about teaching and learning in higher education (present company included) believe fundamentally in the enterprise but see room for improvement. But Blum sees a fatally flawed system and thinks incremental changes won’t cut it.
We can’t fix higher education completely, she writes, “because its foundation is flawed. And we can’t fix it piecemeal because it is a system. As with fundamental changes to conceptual systems in the history of science, the only solution is a radical transformation.”
Blum rests her case on a broad, learned, and interesting range of sources, including her own years of experience as a faculty member at multiple campuses. She has read deeply on the history of higher education, on traditional and alternative schooling models, and on theories of human cognition.
Read the entire review at The Chronicle of Higher Education.