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Democracy and Higher Education: Traditions and Stories of Civic Engagement

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Democracy and Higher Education
    Book Description:

    How are we to understand the nature and value of higher education's public purposes, mission, and work in a democratic society? How do-and how should-academic professionals contribute to and participate in civic life in their practices as scholars, scientists, and educators?Democracy and Higher Educationaddresses these questions by combining an examination of several normative traditions of civic engagement in American higher education with the presentation and interpretation of a dozen oral history profiles of contemporary practitioners. In his analysis of these profiles, Scott Peters reveals and interprets a democratic-minded civic professionalism that includes and interweaves expert, social critic, responsive service, and proactive leadership roles.Democracy and Higher Educationcontributes to a new line of research on the critically important task of strengthening and defending higher education's positive roles in and for a democratic society.

    eISBN: 978-1-60917-216-9
    Subjects: Education, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xx)
    Harry C. Boyte

    The report by President Harry Truman’s Commission on Higher Education with which Scott Peters frames this book defines democracy as the fundamental purpose of higher education. But the democratic dimensions of higher education have eroded sharply since World War II. Though there have been many civic engagement efforts in higher education in recent years, they have not made much of a dent in the forces that are turning higher education into a private good, a system with a few winners and many losers. The 2009US News and World Reportspecial issue on “Solving the College Crisis” defines our institutions...

  5. Introduction and Overview
    (pp. 1-16)

    We begin with a story.

    Molly Jahn was puzzled. A representative of a relatively new seed company had just told her that the company was going to drop its license to grow and sell seeds of a variety of winter squash she had developed. To Molly, a plant geneticist and tenured professor in the Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University, the company’s decision didn’t make sense. The variety had sold exceptionally well and was widely regarded as the best of its type. Because it was an open-pollinated variety instead of a hybrid, the seeds were inexpensive to...


    • CHAPTER 1 Answering the Public Purposes and Work Question
      (pp. 19-50)

      There are, of course, many different answers to the question of whether academic professionals should be engaged off their campuses in the public work of democracy, and if so, what public purposes they should pursue, what roles they should play, and what contributions they should seek to make. This question is effectively answered every day—even if it is never explicitly posed—as academic professionals make practical judgments in particular situations (either alone or with others) about what they should and should not do to address public issues and problems. The best answer to this question, therefore, is “It depends.”...

    • CHAPTER 2 Questioning the Answers
      (pp. 51-62)

      In chapter 1, we identified four general answers to the question of whether academic professionals should be engaged in the public work of democracy, and if so, what public purposes they should pursue, what roles they should play, and what contributions they should seek to make. We related each answer to a different normative tradition (or type) in American higher education: the service intellectual, the public intellectual, the action researcher / public scholar / educational organizer, and the “antitradition” of the detached and disengaged scholar. All of the general answers and their related normative traditions are appealing in some ways,...

    • CHAPTER 3 Developing and Using Practitioner Profiles
      (pp. 63-72)

      The four normative traditions we sketched and questioned in the previous two chapters represent general answers that have been provided in American higher education since the late nineteenth century to the question of whether academic professionals should be engaged in the public work of democracy, and if so, in what ways and for what purposes. Questioning these answers is one important step we must take in the task of improving our conversations about the nature and value of higher education’s public work, in and for a democratic society. But if we are to avoid becoming stuck in theoretical debates over...


    • CHAPTER 4 Reaching Outside the Compartmentalized Structure: A Profile of Molly Jahn
      (pp. 75-98)
      Neil Schwartzbach and Molly Jahn

      I arrived at Cornell in 1983 as a graduate student, so I’ve been here twenty-one years. I started in a tenure-track job in January of ’91 in the Department of Plant Breeding. I also have a joint appointment in the Department of Plant Biology, which came about two years ago. We have a big lab, with between twenty and thirty people that I support on soft money. We just brought in two or three million dollars worth of grants in the last couple of months.

      I have a twenty-year-long project exploring both fundamental, cutting-edge research and areas that have application....

    • CHAPTER 5 It Isn’t Rocket Science: A Profile of Ken Reardon
      (pp. 99-118)
      Tanya Mooza Zwahlen and Ken Reardon

      I’m an associate professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning. I have a joint appointment. Half of my time is in a research-teaching, tenure-track faculty position where I’m expected to teach two courses a year in the area of community development, do advising, and secure funding for external research related to collaborative planning. The other half of my appointment is to promote campus-wide public service activities. It’s jointly paid for by the College of Human Ecology, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning.

      I’ve been to Cornell several times. In...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Making Is the Learning: A Profile of Paula Horrigan
      (pp. 119-136)
      Leah Mayor and Paula Horrigan

      I come from art, and I’ve always been an artist. I come out of the conceptual era of art of the seventies, and thinking about challenging systems like the museum, which is very much a privileged place of engagement. I’m interested in earth art and art for social change, a lot of those motivations—that you can create things that are meaningful and expressive but you can also create them in ways that construct new dynamics between people and places. So that just translates right away into landscape architecture. A lot of the stuff that I try to teach is,...

    • CHAPTER 7 Every Interaction Is an Educational Opportunity: A Profile of Daniel J. Decker
      (pp. 137-150)
      Scott Peters and Daniel J. Decker

      Currently I’m serving as director of the Cornell University Agriculture Experiment Station, and associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). I’ve been in this administrative role for almost exactly one year. The emphasis of the role is on how to improve the relation of applied research and Extension across the college. I was associate director of the Experiment Station prior to this. At that time, it was combined with the Office of Research, so I was the associate director for Research for CALS as well. I’m also a professor in the Department of Natural Resources. I...

    • CHAPTER 8 To Be in There, in the Thick of It: A Profile of Marcia Eames-Sheavly
      (pp. 151-164)
      Lael Gerhart and Marcia Eames-Sheavly

      My title is senior extension associate in the Department of Horticulture. I’m half-time youth development, and then another almost quarter-time teaching in the department. So I’m not quite three-quarter time. I’ve been in this system since 1987. I started out in Cornell Cooperative Extension in Saratoga County, came here, and my position has evolved. I have had the title that I have now for about four or five years.

      The piece that I think is most relevant for what we’re going to be talking about today is that I am the 4-H garden-based learning program leader. All of my energies...

    • CHAPTER 9 I Never Set Myself Up as Somebody Special: A Profile of Antonio DiTommaso
      (pp. 165-180)
      Milt Kogan and Antonio DiTommaso

      I’m an associate professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at Cornell University. My official appointment is 55 percent research and 45 percent teaching. I’ve been at Cornell for eight years, since 1999.

      I was born on June 11, 1962, in a small village south of Salerno in southwestern Italy. The town was called Piaggine, and it had a population of about 3,000 folks, mostly agriculturists and farmers. I learned what subsistence agriculture was like there. This was in the late 1960s, and the southern part of Italy still wasn’t very industrialized, certainly relative to northern Italy. We...

    • CHAPTER 10 Is It Your Problem, or Is It a Social Problem? A Profile of Tom Lyson
      (pp. 181-194)
      Daniel O’Connell and Tom Lyson

      I’m a professor in the Department of Development Sociology. I came to Cornell in 1987 as an assistant professor. I was promoted to associate in 1988 and full professor in 1991. That’s the trajectory. I have a teaching-research appointment. which means that I teach two to three courses a year in the area of development, food systems, and research methods, in addition to having an active research program in the area of community development, agriculture, and food systems.

      I’ve always known that I wanted to be a sociologist from the time I went to college. I knew that this was...

    • CHAPTER 11 My Path Has Been Different from My Predecessors’: A Profile of Marvin Pritts
      (pp. 195-212)
      Scott Peters and Marvin Pritts

      I’m a professor in the Department of Horticulture at Cornell University. My official appointment is 55 percent Extension, 35 percent research, and 10 percent teaching in the area of berry crops. I’ve been here seventeen years as of last week. I remember the date because someone just asked me, “How long have you been here?” It happened to be my seventeenth anniversary, so I said, “Oh, seventeen years today!”

      The focus of my research, teaching, and Extension is not specifically defined. The subject matter area is berry crops: things like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, currants, gooseberries, which are minor crops that...

    • CHAPTER 12 The Expert in the Middle: A Profile of Frank Rossi
      (pp. 213-230)
      Neil Schwartzbach, Scott Peters and Frank Rossi

      I’m an associate professor of turfgrass science, and the New York State turfgrass extension specialist. My primary responsibility is to externalize or extend information from the universities (it used to be “the” university, now it’s universities) that I interact with to the citizens of New York State. I guess when you get good at that, you not only do it for New York, but for the entire Northeast. And now I do it for the world, because I’m a contributing editor to TurfNet.Com (formerlyGolf Weekmagazine). I used to write two columns a month that extend information to the...

    • CHAPTER 13 Leapfrogging Back and Forth: A Profile of John Sipple
      (pp. 231-262)
      Scott Peters and John Sipple

      I’m an assistant professor in the Department of Education. This is my sixth year. I’m in the learning, teaching, and social policy area of the department. I came into the social foundations program area, but it was shut down about two or three years into my time here. I originally had a 50/40/10 time split: 50 percent teaching, 40 percent research, 10 percent Extension. That was changed a year and half ago, when the decree came down from the college that we’re supposed to get rid of those three-way splits. So now I’m 50 percent teaching and 50 percent research....

    • CHAPTER 14 I Feel Like a Missionary: A Profile of Tom Maloney
      (pp. 263-290)
      Scott Peters and Tom Maloney

      I’m a senior extension associate in Agricultural Human Resource Management. I’ve been in the position I’m in now for eighteen years. I started as an extension associate, and I was in that position for probably seven or eight years. And then I went to the chair of my department and asked if it would be possible to continue in the department over the long term, what kind of a career path could I look forward to, and what would my professional progression be. It was through discussions with him that we created a career progression to senior extension associate.


    • CHAPTER 15 A Sense of Communion: A Profile of Anu Rangarajan
      (pp. 291-312)
      Anu Rangarajan

      I’m a faculty member in the Department of Horticulture with a 60 percent Extension, 40 percent research split. I work on fresh market vegetables. My official title is Statewide Specialist for Fresh Market Vegetable Production. I started here in 1996, with a focus on cultural practices and sustainability of vegetable systems in New York State. I focus on ways of establishing plants in the field, including fertility requirements, the selection of varieties, and the design of the fields for insect and pest management. I don’t focus on insects and pests directly, but on the quality and productivity of the crop....


    • CHAPTER 16 Lessons
      (pp. 315-348)

      The practitioner profiles published in part 2 of this book are highly complex texts. They include views and opinions about a wide range of issues. Much more importantly, they are richly and densely storied. They include life stories, practice stories, and larger institutional and cultural stories. Some of these stories are relatively long and detailed, while others are quite brief and sketchy.

      In reading these profiles, we’re faced with the dual challenge of figuring out not onlywhatbut alsohowwe might learn from them. How are we to interpret, analyze, and make sense of the views and stories...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 349-356)

    In the introduction, we pointed out that the issue of higher education’s public purposes and work is not a simple, settled, and empirically documented fact. Rather, it is a complex normative and political question about which there continues to be debate and disagreement. Most important for this book is the specific question of whether academic professionals should be engaged off their campuses in the public work of democracy, and if so, what public purposes they should pursue, what roles they should play, and what contributions they should make.

    As we demonstrated in chapter 1, there are four distinct normative traditions...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 357-372)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 373-382)
  12. Index
    (pp. 383-396)