Sunday, September 20, 2015

Book Review: The End of College

The End of College
by Kevin Carey
New York: Riverhead Books, 2015

Contrary to the title of this book, Kevin Carey isn't actually predicting that colleges are going to disappear. Instead the director of the Education Policy Program at the New America Foundation offers a historical overview of how colleges have developed over the centuries and how they need to change to face the new economic and global realities of our present age.

Starting with the days of the Greeks and Romans, Carey reviews how our modern college and university system came into being. He traces the development in Europe and then in America and discusses how various purposes of education came to be embodied in various institutions. American universities ultimately tried to do three things at the same time: offer practical training, provide scholars opportunities for research, and educate the whole person via the liberal arts.

The primary purpose of Carey's book is to describe how modern education is changing, especially with the EdX program begun by MIT and Harvard and now including several other colleges and universities offering classes for free (or a very small amount for a certificate of completion). Carey argues that employers need to start looking at different ways of verifying someone's knowledge other than simply looking for a degree, which may in fact tell relatively little about a person.

Carey gets bogged down a bit in the section describing how distance learning came to be. Other than that, this is a highly readable book with some interesting suggestions on how to reform higher education. It will definitely add to the conversation about what the future of college will be in this country and around the world.

As an aside, I am taking an EdX course offered by Harvard starting 9/21 on "Book Sleuthing in the 19th Century." I'm doing it to do something for me. I've wanted to go back to school for a long time, but the budget simply won't allow for that; this is a way to do it at little cost. It looks like a fun class on old books (how could I not love that?) and I'm also interested to see how these courses work to see if they would be a good fit for my children as they continue on their educational journey. I'll let you know how the experience goes. 

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