Education in Crisis:

Education in Crisis: Literature Review

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Compiled by Adam Wren and Jerry Pattengale
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The following are sources representative of both the history of our current educational climate, and those directly addressing educational issues. This review is intended as a helpful guide, an introduction to the discussion of The National Conversation on education. It is not meant as a thorough representation of all literature on education. A short list of helpful links is also provided at the end of this review.

Higher Education:
Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities
Mark C. Taylor

From abolishing tenure to combating the strictures of university governance, Mark C. Taylor, chair of the Department of Religion at Columbia University, leaves no sacred cow of higher education standing as he lays out a case for reform in Crisis on Campus (Knopf, 2010).

Read reviews of Crisis on Campus by Naomi Schaefer Riley in the Wall Street Journal and Jerry Pattengale in Books & Culture (in October). Or, read an adapted and abridged version from Forbes here.

Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities
William G. Bowen, Matthew M. Chingos & Michael S. McPherson 

At a time when only 60 percent of students entering four-year institutions are graduating, Crossing the Finish Line (Princeton Univ. Press, 2009) provides both an account of and antidotes to the nation’s college completion crisis.

Read a review of Crossing the Finish Line by InsideHigherEd’s Scott Jaschik here.

Debating Moral Education: Rethinking the Role of the Modern University
Edited by Elizabeth Kiss and J. Peter Euben

What is the role of the university in moral education? Even as more than 100 ethics centers and programs dot the nation’s campuses, the answer to this question is still hotly debated. In Debating Moral Education (Duke University Press, 2009), editors Elizabeth Kiss and J. Peter Euben provide their reader with a primer and frame a series of essays examining the role of the university in this realm.

Read a review of Debating Moral Education by Jerry Pattengale in Books & Culture.

Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life
Anthony T. Kronman

In Education’s End (Yale Univ. Press, 2007), Anthony T. Kronman argues that, by and large, the Academy has retreated from answering the questions that once animated it.

Read a review of Education’s End by Jerry Pattengale in Books & Culture.

Enemies of Promise: Publishing, Perishing and the Eclipse of Scholarship
Lindsay Waters

For years, the law of the land in academia has been a simple one: publish or perish. But in Enemies of Promise (Prickly Paradigm Press, 2004), Lindsay Waters links this dictum to the downfall of the nation’s institutions of higher learning.

For a review of Enemies of Promise, click here.

Generation iY
Tim Elmore

Students born after 1990 are fundamentally different than their peers of previous generations, argues Tim Elmore. In Generation iY, he examines the challenges and opportunities this new generation poses as they enter the nation’s classrooms, lecture halls and workforce.

Download a chapter of the book here. Read a brief review at The Chronicle of Higher Education here.

God in the Quad: How Religious Colleges and the Missionary Generation Are Changing America
Naomi Schaefer Riley

In God in the Quad (St. Martin’s, 2004), Naomi Schaefer Riley offers an in-depth examination of some of the nation’s most devoutly religious institutions of higher learning and surveys the students that they are producing – and how they could reshape the nation.

Read a review of God in the Quad in the Washington Post.

“Making the Implicit Explicit: Demonstrating the Value Added of Higher Education By a Qualifications Framework”
Holiday Hart McKiernan & Tim Birtwistle

In their paper “Making the Implicit Explicit,” (Journal of College and University Law, Vol. 36, 2010) Holiday Hart McKiernan & Tim Birtwistle examine the Bologna Process and how it could help American institutions work toward a common degree format.

Read the paper here. For more about the Bologna Process, see this InsideHigherEd piece.

Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes
Alfie Kohn

A number of the initiatives at the heart of the education reform movement rely on a system of rewards and punishments. But are incentive-based programs a part of the problem? In Punished by Rewards (Houghton Mifflin, 1993), Alfie Kohn dismantles conventional wisdom about incentives.

Read a conversation with Alfie Kohn published in Educational Leadership.

The American University in a Postsecular Age
Edited by Douglas and Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen

The American University in a Postsecular Age (Oxford Univ. Press, 2008) provides a primer on the national discussion of how religion should fit into the higher education landscape in 14 essays.

To read an abstract of the volume, click here.

The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students
Allan Bloom

In his seminal, scathing and timeless critique of the American Academy, the late University of Chicago philosopher Allan Bloom laments the rise of relativism in lecture halls across the country in The Closing of the American Mind (Simon and Schuster, 1987). Juxtaposing the modern University experience with the broad sweep of western intellectual history, Bloom was ahead of many of his peers in diagnosing “a crisis in the university, the home of reason.”

Read Senior Fellow of the Claremont Institute’s Thomas G. West’s review here.

The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University
Louis Menand

Against the backdrop of higher education’s history, Louis Menand, a New Yorker writer and Harvard University English professor, identifies key obstacles to revamping the academy as he sets forth answers to these pressing questions in The Marketplace of Ideas (W.W. Norton, 2010). Highlighting how the stagnating structure of institutions have led to their decline, Menand sparks a debate over what the future university should look like.  

To read a review of The Market Place of Ideas, click here.

Why School? Reclaiming Education for All of Us
Mike Rose

In Why School? (The New Press, 2009), Mike Rose reframes the national significance of education – beyond the “economic readiness and competiveness” treatment – and roots it more broadly in the tradition of self-actualization and democratic ideals.

Read a condensed version of Rose’s Why School in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

K-12 Education:

“School Work”
Nicholas Lemann

Is there really a widespread crisis, or are today’s criticisms of public education really just about the same issues we’ve dealt with for decades? In this New Yorker piece (September 22, 2010) Lemann notes that “The school-reform story draws its moral power from the heartbreakingly low quality of the education that many poor, urban, and minority children in public schools get.” From the Great Society forward, the fulcrum of reform efforts has been the education surrounding these students. He challenges the assumptions of equating higher learning with the abolition of tenure, or the merits of charter schools over their district-school counterparts. He chastises large-scale “heroic” fixes because “decentralized democratic societies are not very adept at generating neat, rational solutions to messy situations.”

To access this New Yorker article, click here.

Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools
Jonathan Kozol

In 1992, Jonathan Kozol raised awareness of the dire conditions for many of our children with his shocking Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools. His personal review of many urban schools gives credibility to his convincing assertions that poor children are being robbed of their futures due to understaffed, underfunded and underequipped schools. Yet two decades later, reports are not much more promising. Fortunately, effective programs like Teach For America and Excelencia in Education are addressing key aspects of these issues.

For a documentary movie (Children in America’s Schools) based on this book, click here.

Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms

Diane Ravitch

In Left Back (Simon and Schuster, 2000), Diane Ravitch, former assistant secretary of education under George H.W. Bush, offers an intellectual history and indictment of the progressive education movement in the nation’s schools.

Read Sara Mosle’s review of Left Back in the New York Times.

The Condition of Latinos in Education: 2008
Deborah A. Santiago

By sheer force of demographics, Latinos will play an important role in determining the future of the U.S. – from how its economy functions to its global competitiveness. The Condition of Latinos in Education provides a snapshot of where Latinos are at in the nation’s education pipeline.

Read a copy of the report here.

The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education
Diane Ravitch

If Martin Luther had recanted his beliefs at the Diet of Worms in 1521, it may have sounded a bit like Diane Ravitch’s policy reversals offered in her book The Death and Life of the Great American School System (Basic Books, 2010). Once a strong advocate for both choice and testing as antidotes for the nation’s education ills, Ravitch offers a much more measured view in this volume. From her unique perch as both education historian and policymaker (she served as an assistant secretary of education to George H.W. Bush), Ravitch supplies her reader with a candid analysis of what is working and what is not in education reform.

Read a review of The Death and Life of the Great American School System by Alan Wolfe in the New York Times.

The Global Achievement Gap
Tony Wagner

How do we equip a new generation of Americans to survive and thrive in a new,flat-world economy? Tony Wagner, adviser to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, sets out to answer that question of The Global Achievement Gap (Basic Books, 2008).

More about The Global Achievement Gap. 

The Latino Education Crisis: The Consequences of Failed Social Policies
Patricia Gándara and Frances Contreras

Hispanics, the largest and youngest minority across the nation, now account for one in five school children, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Yet for decades, Latino graduation rates in the U.S. have trailed those of other ethnicities.  In The Latino Education Crisis (Harvard Univ. Press, 2009), Patricia Gándara and Frances Contreras set forth an in-depth, quantitative analysis of how the nation’s educational system has contributed to the crisis and steps toward solutions.

Read InsideHigherEd’s interview with the authors of The Latino Education Crisis.

The Making of Americans: Democracy and Our Schools
E.D. Hirsch, Jr.

Starting from the founders’ vision for public education, E.D. Hirsch, Jr., delineates how America’s schools have been sidetracked by teaching-movement fads and argues for a return to a more stringent, substantive curriculum in The Making of Americans (Yale Univ. Press, 2009).

Read a review of The Making of Americans by Alan Wolfe in Books & Culture.

Troublemaker: A Personal History of School Reform Since Sputnik
Chester E. Finn, Jr.

Few movements have so shaped the nation’s schools in the last 20 years more than choice and accountability. Still, in Troublemaker (Princeton Univ. Press, 2008), Chester E. Finn, Jr., former assistant secretary of education to Ronald Reagan and aide to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, offers a staunch, forceful argument in favor of expanding even more the role of accountability and standardized tests in the nation’s schools.

Read a review of Troublemaker by Rebecca Ward Lindsay in Books & Culture.

Learning on Demand: Online Education in the United States, 2009
I. Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman

Part of what some term the “Sloan Report” series because the funding is from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. It is the seventh-annual report on online education, and this one represents responses from 2,500 colleges and universities.  Some of the key findings are that 25% of all college enrollment is now online, up 17% from the previous year. Also, faculty perceptions of online quality remain a key obstacle to colleges’ acceptance. Undergraduate education dominates, consuming 82% of all online education. And, the big providers still dominate, i.e., 50% of online enrollment is concentrated in 6% of schools with online offerings.

For a copy of the report, click here.

Further Reading & Resources:
A History of American Higher Education
John R. Thelin

For a review of A History of American Higher Education (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2004), click here.

College, Inc.

Featuring interview with LaGuardia Community College President Dr. Gail O. Mellow (May 2010). To view the documentary, click here.

Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education
Martha C. Nussbaum

For a review of Cultivating Humanity (Harvard Univ. Press, 1997), click here

Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns
Clayton Christensen, Michael B. Horn and Curtis W. Johnson

To read a conversation with the authors of Disrupting Class (McGraw-Hill, 2008) in Education Week, click here.

Christianity and Moral Identity in Higher Education
Perry L. Glanzer and Todd C. Ream. 

For an NPR (KWBU) interview with Perry Glanzer (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). 

How the University Works
Marc Bousquet

To read a review of How the University Works (NYU Press, 2008) in The Chronicle of Higher Education click here. Also from Bousquet, see “No Faculty Left Behind.”

My Freshman Year
Rebekah Nathan

For a review of My Freshman Year (Penguin, 2006), click here.

No University Is an Island
Cary Nelson

For more information, see No University Is an Island (NYU Press, 2010). For Scott Jaschik’s interview with Nelson in InsideHigherEd, click here.

“Quality question”
David Glenn

To read this article (The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 6, 2010), which appeared in the journal’s “Measuring Stick” series, click here.

Save the World on Your Own Time
Stanley Fish

See Lindsay Waters’ Enemies of Promise for a discussion of Fish, and for a review of Save the World (Oxford Univ. Press, 2008), click here.

“School reform’s meager results”
Robert J. Samuelson

Read the article (Washington Post, September 6, 2010) here.

Seeing the Light: Religious Colleges in Twenty-First Century America
Samuel Schuman

For a review of Seeing the Light (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2010), click here

Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America’s College Campuses
Donna Freitas

To read a review of Sex and the Soul (Oxford Univ. Press, 2008) in the Wall Street Journal, click here.

“Teach for America: Education reform in action”
Michael Gerson

Read the article (Washington Post, June 9, 2010) here.

“The Cost of Higher Education”
Miller Center for Public Affairs and MacNeil/Lehrer Productions

Featuring national debate among LaGuardia Community College President Dr. Gail O. Mellow, Richard C. Levin (President of Yale University), Daniel Hamburger (President and Chief Executive Officer of DeVry Inc), William E. Kirwan (Chancellor of University System of Maryland). To view the debate in its entirety, click here.

The Decline of the Secular University
C. John Sommerville

For a review of The Decline of the Secular University (Oxford Univ. Press, 2006), click here.

The Emergence of the American University 
Laurence R. Veysey

For more on The Emergency of the American University (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1965), click here.

The Faculty Lounges and Other Reasons You Won't Get the Higher Education You Pay For
Naomi Schaefer Riley  

For more from the author of the forthcoming The Faculty Lounges (Rowman and Littlefield, Spring 2011) Naomi Schaefer Riley, click here.

The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future
Linda Darling-Hammond

For a review of The Flat World and Education (Teacher’s College Press, 2010), click here.

The Making of the Modern University: Intellectual Transformation and the Marginalization of Morality
Julie Reuben

For a review of The Making of the Modern University (University of Chicago Press, 1996), click here.

The Sandbox Investment: The Preschool Movement and Kids-First Politics
David L. Kirp

Read a review of The Sandbox Investment (Harvard Univ. Press, 2009) in The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth here.

The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America
Jonathan Kozol

Read a review of The Shame of the Nation  (Three Rivers Press, 2005) in the New York Times here. Also by Kozol, see Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools (Harper Perennial, 1992) and Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation (Harper Perennial, 1996).

A Test of Leadership:  Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education
Spellings Commission

A report of the commission appointed by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, click here.

The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief
George M. Marsden

To read a review of The Soul of the American University (Oxford Univ. Press, 1994), click here.

True Influence: The Model for the 21st Century Leader
Jeremie Kubicek

For more on the forthcoming True Influence (Howard Books, 2011), click here.

“Under Economic Turmoil a Skills Gap Simmers”
Phil Gardner and Larry Hanneman

To read the CERI Research Brief (February 2010), click here.



Related Links:

American Association of University Professors (AAU&P)

Association of American Colleges & Universities (AACU)

Association for Institutional Research (AIR)

Books & Culture

Christianity Today

Collegiate Employee Research Institute (CERI)


Indiana Wesleyan University


GiANT Impact

Growing Leaders

Higher Education Research Institute (HERI)

Indiana Pathways to College Network: Library and Resources

Lumina Foundation

National Conversations

National Press Club

National Resource Center for the First Year Experience and Students in Transition

NCHEMS Information Center for Higher Education Policymaking and Analysis

The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education

Sagamore Institute

The Chronicle of Higher Education

U.S. Department of Education

U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor

U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions

WFYI Indianapolis