Crisis on Campus
A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities
By Mark C. Taylor
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307593290, 256pp.)
Publication Date: August 31, 2010
Enter your zip code below to find indies closest to you.
A provocative look at the troubled present state of American higher education and a passionately argued and learned manifesto for its future.
In Crisis on Campus, Mark C. Taylor—chair of the Department of Religion at Columbia University and a former professor at Williams College—expands on and refines the ideas presented in his widely read and hugely controversial 2009 New York Times op-ed. His suggestions for the ivory tower are both thought-provoking and rigorous: End tenure. Restructure departments to encourage greater cooperation among existing disciplines. Emphasize teaching rather than increasingly rarefied research. And bring that teaching to new domains, using emergent online networks to connect students worldwide.
As a nation, he argues, we fail to make such necessary and sweeping changes at our peril. Taylor shows us the already-rampant consequences of decades of organizational neglect. We see promising graduate students in a distinctly unpromising job market, relegated—if they’re lucky—to positions that take little advantage of their training and talent. We see recent undergraduates with massive burdens of debt, and anxious parents anticipating the inflated tuitions we will see in ten or twenty years. We also see students at all levels chafing under the restrictions of traditional higher education, from the structures of assignments to limits on courses of study. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Accommodating the students of today and anticipating those of tomorrow, attuned to schools’ financial woes and the skyrocketing cost of education, Taylor imagines a new system—one as improvisational, as responsive to new technologies and as innovative as are the young members of the iPod and Facebook generation.
In Crisis on Campus, we have an iconoclastic, necessary catalyst for a national debate long overdue.
Mark C. Taylor is chair of the Department of Religion at Columbia University, Professor of Philosophy of Religion at Union Theological Seminary and Professor Emeritus of Humanities at Williams College. His many awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Carnegie Foundation National Professor of the Year award. He is a frequent contributor to the op-ed page of The New York Times and has also written for the Los Angeles Times. He lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and New York City.
“Mark Taylor—a deeply original scholar and nationally celebrated teacher—sees American higher education as a bubble about to burst. For your students’ sake, your teachers’ sake, your childrens’ sake, and your country’s sake, read this book while there is still time.”
“Sure to provoke heated debate, this book convincingly tells us what we don’t want to hear: our colleges and universities are no longer sustainable—either financially or programmatically. Mark Taylor provocatively calls for big changes, both in how we use technology to help deliver educational services and in the role of professors. We should pay attention, or we will pay an enormous price.”
-Joel Klein, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education
“One of the jobs of a public intellectual is to warn us when he sees a fast-approaching freight train bearing down on us. In Crisis on Campus, Mark Taylor does that and much more. He offers specific and often radical suggestions about how to make higher education more fulfilling for students and more relevant to the networked world of the 21st century.”
“This is a book that needed to be written and one that must be read. Mark Taylor not only reveals an unclothed emperor; he also provides guidance to those of us who would properly serve as weavers. The only thing better than reading this book would be to have written it.”
-E. Gordon Gee, President of the Ohio State University
“Feisty . . . Measured in tone but devastating.”
-Christopher Shea, The New York Times Book Review
“Provocative . . . Cogent . . . Taylor has written a manifesto informed by his experience and dedication to innovative higher education, and he has pointed us to fundamental problems that must be addressed. We should be grateful.”
-Michael S. Roth, The Los Angeles Times
“At heart, Taylor has an old-fashioned sense of what it takes for students to become good writers and good thinkers: for starters, a lot of practice at writing and thinking . . . Technology can’t make a better curriculum: that will have to come from reformers who, like Taylor, have not forgotten the value of good thinking, good writing and a well-argued essay.”
-Naomi Schaefer Riley, The Wall Street Journal
“Taylor demonstrates an exuberant willingness to take on academic conventions . . . His innovative proposals will generate thoughtful, occasionally angry responses from academic leaders and interested laypeople alike. Serious, challenging, and well-written.”
“Taylor’s tone is neither whimsical nor utopian . . . He writes with urgency and conviction . . . Highly provocative and certain to stimulate.”
“His radical proposals notwithstanding, Taylor’s dedication to scholarship and his concern for students is profound.”
“Taylor argues passionately for more open ideas on what is valuable to learn, in what format and through what methods, for a generation raised on the Internet and iPods.”