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What's the Point of College?

Seeking Purpose in an Age of Reform

Johann N. Neem


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Before we can improve college education, we need to know what it's for.

In our current age of reform, there are countless ideas about how to fix higher education. But before we can reconceptualize the college experience, we need to remember why we have these institutions in the first place--and what we want from them.

In What's the Point of College?, historian Johann N. Neem offers a new way to think about the major questions facing higher education today, from online education to disruptive innovation to how students really learn. As commentators, reformers, and policymakers call for dramatic change and new educational models, this collection of lucid essays asks us to pause and take stock. What is a college education supposed to be? What kinds of institutions and practices will best help us get there? And which virtues must colleges and universities cultivate to sustain their desired ends?

During this time of drift, Neem argues, we need to moor our colleges once again to their core purposes. By evaluating reformers' goals in relation to the specific goods that a college should offer to students and society, What's the Point of College? connects public policy to deeper ethical questions. Exploring how we can ensure that America's colleges remain places for intellectual inquiry and reflection, Neem does not just provide answers to the big questions surrounding higher education--he offers readers a guide for how to think about them.

Johns Hopkins University Press, 9781421429885, 232pp.

Publication Date: August 13, 2019

About the Author

Johann N. Neem is a professor of history at Western Washington University. He is the author of Creating a Nation of Joiners: Democracy and Civil Society in Early National Massachusetts and Democracy's Schools: The Rise of Public Education in America.