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Higher Education and the American Dream

Higher Education and the American Dream: Success and Its Discontents

Marvin Lazerson
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Pages: 233
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  • Book Info
    Higher Education and the American Dream
    Book Description:

    A readable, cogent explanation of how the U.S. can have the best system of higher education in the world, but also a system that seems to be coming apart at the seams.

    eISBN: 978-615-5211-91-1
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Houses, Automobiles, and Higher Education
    (pp. 1-10)
    Marvin Lazerson

    This is a story of success, unbelievable success, and of the discontents that came with it. Higher education in the United States has been the victim of its own success. As it became the only route to an increasing number of professions and the primary path to economic success, it generated higher and higher expectations, an enormous expansion of enrollments, and money. With these, came discontent and disappointments.

    During the last half of the 20th century higher education in the United States triumphed. Few industries grew as fast, or gained such prestige, or affected the lives of so many people....

  5. Part I The Gospel of Getting Ahead

    • CHAPTER 1 Building the dream (and worrying about it)
      (pp. 13-40)

      Has higher education become too successful? That’s something of a rhetorical question, given that in the United States Americans like to say, “You can’t argue with success.” Are the expectations for higher education too grandiose? Absolutely, and therein lies one of the industry’s dilemmas.

      Higher education has indeed been one of the American wonders. Fueled by aspirations for an educated citizenry and upward mobility through expanded educational opportunities, with aspirations that put more young people into school for longer periods than had ever occurred, education became central to the American way of life. Colleges and universities became part of this...

    • CHAPTER 2 Higher education as vocational education
      (pp. 41-66)

      For students and their families, it is the most important question. It is also, within limits and with lots of caveats, an answerable question. In terms of should one stay in school, go to college, get a first diploma, and consider continuing on for a post-first degree program, the answer is yes. More definitive answers require all sorts of caveats. Good economic times help, as do cycles of enthusiasm for certain kinds of training and shortages in selected occupations. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree helps. Certain majors help more than others. For professions that require post-baccalaureate degrees, continuing on after...

  6. Part II Governance and Managerial Dilemmas

    • CHAPTER 3 Who governs higher education?
      (pp. 69-94)

      No one really governs higher education. There are, however, lots of stakeholders, and various constituencies with high expectations and desires, who often act as if they were higher education’s rightful governors or, at least, the governors of particular institutions. The constituencies vary in influence and power, according to the institution and the particular issue. But even the most powerful decision-makers at any given moment do not govern higher education. Still, if I had to choose, I would make the case that the most powerful decision-makers are boards of trustees and the institution’s professional managers. The reasons are relatively simple: as...

    • CHAPTER 4 Managerial imperatives
      (pp. 95-112)

      Before I became dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education in 1987, I gave little thought to managing educational institutions. University managers, it seemed to me, were people who could be more or less helpful and often annoying, especially when it involved students and my own research grants. Deans and departmental chairs could obviously be useful or not when it came to granting special favors, like extra time off to do research or providing small amounts of research funds and obviously in recommending one for promotion. Still the overwhelming sense I had was that both academic and...

  7. Part III The Teaching and Learning Conundrum

    • CHAPTER 5 Academic disciplines, research imperatives, and undergraduate learning
      (pp. 115-146)

      For America’s professors, the great triumph of the post-World War II era lay in the dominance of the academic disciplines. The disciplines gave faculty intellectual authority as they searched for new knowledge, trained graduate students, and shaped the undergraduate curriculum. Organizationally, the disciplines were centered in academic departments, which overwhelmingly controlled their own hiring, promotion, and the awarding of tenure, as well as becoming the most influential entities in the governance of individual colleges and universities. If all of this was insufficient, the academic disciplines lay at the heart of the research enterprise.

      After World War II, debates about the...

    • CHAPTER 6 A revolution in teaching and learning?
      (pp. 147-184)

      Has a lot of rhetoric been expended on a potential revolution in teaching and learning? Yes. Have public policies emerged to require or invite improved student learning? Yes. Are numerous teaching innovations being undertaken? Some. What initiated and sustains these activities? Probably external pressures and a few people in higher education devoted to the improvement of teaching. With all this activity, why should we be so agnostic about a teaching and learning revolution? Because there are few serious incentives to improve the quality of learning and because improving the quality of learning is exceedingly difficult. There are no silver bullets!...

  8. Part IV Making Things Better

    • CHAPTER 7 Why is higher education so hard to reform?
      (pp. 187-200)

      Americans’ faith in the power of education to cure everything is all-encompassing. This gospel of education asserts that social, economic, political, and ethical problems can be solved through schooling. Whatever the difficulties and the aspirations—economic development and individual economic success, social instability and social security, global competition and national identity, intolerance and tolerance, religious and secular values, economic productivity and satisfaction at work, the list could go on and on—the Education Gospel assumes that schooling can solve the problem and meet the goals.

      The essential message connected to such terms as ‘knowledge society’, ‘information society’, and high-tech revolution’...

  9. References
    (pp. 201-212)
  10. Name Index
    (pp. 213-214)
  11. Subject Index
    (pp. 215-221)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 222-222)