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Fixing College Education

Fixing College Education: A New Curriculum for the Twenty-first Century

Charles Muscatine
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Fixing College Education
    Book Description:

    Since his early days at the University of California, Berkeley, when he was fired for refusing to sign a loyalty oath during the Red Scare, Charles Muscatine has been a dedicated teacher and higher education reformer. Upon his reinstatement at Berkeley, he founded "Strawberry Creek College," a six-year experiment using full professors and small classes to teach lower-division students. Drawing on this belief in undergraduate teaching, Muscatine's new book now offers a radical new design for American college education.

    Muscatine begins with the observation that the mediocre undergraduate curriculum offered by most colleges and universities today is based on outdated ideas of what should be taught and what constitutes good teaching. Although Muscatine is himself a well-established research scholar, he contends that the publish-or-perish "research religion" of college and university faculties has seriously damaged undergraduate education. He offers a clear distinction between publishable research and the scholarship necessary for good teaching. Furthermore, he recommends major changes in the education of professors, including reconsidering both the requirement of the book-length dissertation and the current organization of graduate departments.

    Fixing College Educationpredicts new roles for students and faculty, redefines educational breadth and depth, and calls for deeper assessment of learning and teaching. Muscatine highlights the outstanding colleges and universities, including Harvard, Boston University's University Professor's Program, Evergreen State College, and Fairhaven College at Western Washington University, that have already remade their curricula successfully or adopted features like the ones he proposes. Muscatine argues that the new curriculum is better able than the old to produce good scholars and good citizens for the twenty-first century.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-2832-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Whatʹs Wrong with College
    (pp. 1-10)

    American colleges enjoy a remarkable reputation. In the public mind, compared with such institutions as Congress or corporate America, higher education is near the top. A 2003 poll by theChronicle of Higher Educationfound that private colleges were second only to the U.S. military in the trust of the people, and two-year public colleges were only slightly lower, just below local police forces. The public has some reservations about affirmative action, about academic tenure and big-time athletics, but 89 percent of parents of college students report being “satisfied” or “highly satisfied” with their children’s education, and the students themselves...

  5. 2 An Environment for Learning
    (pp. 11-35)

    Putting students into the center of the curriculum and enabling them as soon as possible to take responsibility for what happens in class means putting to the side a whole host of sentimental and well-loved conceptions of teaching. A curriculum centered on student learning rather than on imparting information changes the environment, changes the idea and the job of teaching, and ultimately changes the kind of people who teach in colleges. Teaching as entertainment or as a dramatic art, and even teaching as “inspiration,” may have some effectiveness in conventional classes, but they lose their validity in this environment. As...

  6. 3 Faculty Responsibility to Students
    (pp. 36-42)

    Nothing of value or consequence will happen in a democratically oriented educational system without the collaboration of the faculties. Manifestly, getting them to approve new curricular structures will be especially difficult. Of course there have been lots of faculty reports, but for the most part they have produced only minor tinkering with the undergraduate curriculum. In recent years it has been the education associations and some foundations—not the faculties—that have led in thinking about the curriculum. On the campuses there has been little general confronting of root problems, particularly of the faculty’s failure to take responsibility for educating...

  7. 4 A Curriculum Design for the Future
    (pp. 43-62)

    There is now remarkable agreement among educational thinkers about what best promotes student learning. Above all, students learn when they areengagedin the process. They respond well to high expectations, prompt feedback, and challenging problems related to their backgrounds, history, and goals. Students flourish in communities, with the support and collaboration of their peers. They develop best when the curriculum is coherent, progressive, and clear in its goals. Their learning is deepened and strengthened when it is active and related to concrete experience. Service-oriented classes and outside work/service programs contribute powerfully to learning how theory relates to practice, and...

    (pp. 63-74)

    Despite the formidable obstacles, the new curriculumisslowly making its way into American colleges. The logic of new thinking has become too powerful to be ignored wherever student learning is a primary concern. Confidently, if perhaps optimistically, the Association of American Colleges and Universities has announced the emergence of the “new academy.” Robert B. Barr and John Tagg have described lucidly and in detail “a new paradigm for undergraduate education,” and many colleges have experimented with or adopted one or another feature of it. Examining the whole range of innovative curricula, one expectably finds a miscellany, from a few...

  9. 6 The New Curriculum: SOME INNOVATIVE COLLEGES
    (pp. 75-96)

    Independent whole colleges having a new curriculum have appeared on a few large university campuses where the presence of a research faculty has not prevented granting to new collegiate structures enough autonomy to set up and prove themselves. Administered as an independent school, the University Professors Program (UNI) of Boston University begins freshman year with core-course seminars and a year-long weekly gathering to discuss research papers presented by the faculty. The student then takes course work leading to a substantial interdisciplinary senior thesis and oral defense. Similarly independent, New College, part of the University of South Florida, requires its highly...

  10. 7 Research, Scholarship, Teaching, and the Education of Professors
    (pp. 97-119)

    Reform of American college education will come about in line with some of the ideas and models presented in the previous chapters. Though the ideas have been out there for decades, and the existence of a few truly innovative colleges most hopeful, on a national scale our progress has been very slow. We will not by any means get substantial educational reform until we confront the faculties themselves.

    It is an amazing paradox that the faculties that have profited from advances in research in all other fields of learning have generally failed to do so in their own backyard. In...

  11. 8 Final Problems
    (pp. 120-136)

    Paying primary attention to the curriculum should not allow us to pass over the fact that there are lots of other things about the American college that need improvement. One of our most urgent problems is that of access and retention, of finding and keeping places in college for students from poor families and for those who are potentially capable but are underprepared or lack motivation. Currently, only 52.6 percent of full-time students entering four-year public colleges graduate in six years; Hispanic students have a 41.8 percent rate, and African American students a 38.1 percent rate. The push toward ever...

  12. APPENDIX: Evergreen State College Sample Course Descriptions
    (pp. 137-142)
    (pp. 143-160)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 161-165)