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Why Teach?: In Defense of a Real Education

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Mark Edmundson's essays reclaim college not as the province of high-priced tuition, career training, and interactive online courses, but as the place where serious people go to broaden their minds and learn to live the rest of their lives. A renowned professor of English at the University of Virginia, Edmundson has felt firsthand the pressure on colleges to churn out a prod Mark Edmundson's essays reclaim college not as the province of high-priced tuition, career training, and interactive online courses, but as the place where serious people go to broaden their minds and learn to live the rest of their lives. A renowned professor of English at the University of Virginia, Edmundson has felt firsthand the pressure on colleges to churn out a productive, high-caliber workforce for the future. Yet in these essays, many of which have run in places such as Harper's and The New York Times, he reminds us that there is more to education than greater productivity. With prose exacting yet expansive, tough-minded yet optimistic, Edmundson argues forcefully that the liberal arts are more important today than ever. Why Teach? offers Edmundson's collected writings on the subject, including several pieces that are new and previously unpublished. What they show, collectively, is that higher learning is not some staid, old notion but a necessary remedy for our troubled times. Why Teach? is brimming with the wisdom and inspiration that make learning possible.


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Mark Edmundson's essays reclaim college not as the province of high-priced tuition, career training, and interactive online courses, but as the place where serious people go to broaden their minds and learn to live the rest of their lives. A renowned professor of English at the University of Virginia, Edmundson has felt firsthand the pressure on colleges to churn out a prod Mark Edmundson's essays reclaim college not as the province of high-priced tuition, career training, and interactive online courses, but as the place where serious people go to broaden their minds and learn to live the rest of their lives. A renowned professor of English at the University of Virginia, Edmundson has felt firsthand the pressure on colleges to churn out a productive, high-caliber workforce for the future. Yet in these essays, many of which have run in places such as Harper's and The New York Times, he reminds us that there is more to education than greater productivity. With prose exacting yet expansive, tough-minded yet optimistic, Edmundson argues forcefully that the liberal arts are more important today than ever. Why Teach? offers Edmundson's collected writings on the subject, including several pieces that are new and previously unpublished. What they show, collectively, is that higher learning is not some staid, old notion but a necessary remedy for our troubled times. Why Teach? is brimming with the wisdom and inspiration that make learning possible.

30 review for Why Teach?: In Defense of a Real Education

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Some essays made me grateful all over again that I was an English major. They articulated what it was I found so valuable about it, and why I still hold it sacred, even in the face of so many iterations of "And what will you do with that?" Other essays made me doubt or question my own teaching, mostly in a productive way, and not a despairing one. Should I really care if my students enjoy the class? Or find it interesting? Am I pandering to that lowest common denominator and making biology into s Some essays made me grateful all over again that I was an English major. They articulated what it was I found so valuable about it, and why I still hold it sacred, even in the face of so many iterations of "And what will you do with that?" Other essays made me doubt or question my own teaching, mostly in a productive way, and not a despairing one. Should I really care if my students enjoy the class? Or find it interesting? Am I pandering to that lowest common denominator and making biology into some kind of lite edutainment? Awfully hard to know. I'm new at this game, and now I see I'll still be asking these questions if I'm doing this in thirty years. Not sure if that's a comfort, or a curse.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Why teach? Because young people need to learn how to be measurably productive members of our global economy! I'm joking, of course. No, he did not say that because Edmundson is sane. Edumndson breaks zero new ground here. None. Thank goodness. But he does remind us of what we once knew before we went bonkers. Thank goodness. We teach, first, because, let's face it, we are--or were once--thrilled by the questions that drive our field. Also because we want to introduce young people to a world not o Why teach? Because young people need to learn how to be measurably productive members of our global economy! I'm joking, of course. No, he did not say that because Edmundson is sane. Edumndson breaks zero new ground here. None. Thank goodness. But he does remind us of what we once knew before we went bonkers. Thank goodness. We teach, first, because, let's face it, we are--or were once--thrilled by the questions that drive our field. Also because we want to introduce young people to a world not of their making. But most importantly because what's at stake in our teaching is more or less everything--with "everything" here meaning, more or less, depth of soul.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Peter Mcloughlin

    I've been reading for so long that and find many books easy enough to digest that I sometimes can blow through 2 or 3 300 page books in a day. This rather small book however was different. The ideas some familiar some new required a slow digestion in other words it took time and thinking to read this one. Mark Edmundson is an English Professor at the University of Virginia and while he admits himself that at times he is in danger of sounding like an old curmudgeon he makes some very serious foun I've been reading for so long that and find many books easy enough to digest that I sometimes can blow through 2 or 3 300 page books in a day. This rather small book however was different. The ideas some familiar some new required a slow digestion in other words it took time and thinking to read this one. Mark Edmundson is an English Professor at the University of Virginia and while he admits himself that at times he is in danger of sounding like an old curmudgeon he makes some very serious foundational points about what education in our world is today (training for congenial organization men and women maybe on a hipper treadmill than of the 1950s complete with blackberry accoutrements)and what education should be which is a wrestling with the purpose ones life and how to best live in the world. Edmundson's critique of the ivory tower is not a conservative polemic about tenured radicals dissing the western canon (as much as he loves it) but instead the commercialization of education where the student (the customer) is always right and the job of an educator is to provide tools to the students so that they can become better tools of our society and fit into the global economy. People today parody the 1950s as an age of conformity remembered in stultifying sitcoms of the era of shows today like Madmen but todays colleges and universities under the hip wired veneer are producing a generation of organization men and women every bit slavish to being a team player as the man in the gray flannel suit. Edmundson book will not be popular with most readers but there are some who will concur with the uneasy feeling about the way things are working in our enlightened age.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Larry

    Edmundson's essays, most reprinted from the Chronicle of Higher Education or Harper's, strongly defend the liberal arts while chipping away at the vocational focus of much of higher education. The most famous piece is "Liberal Arts & Lite Entertainment," but others ("The Uncoolness of Good Teachers") are as good. One essay in particular, "A Word to the New Humanities Professor," offers a stunning critique of today's higher education by identifying the skills that it takes to survive as an as Edmundson's essays, most reprinted from the Chronicle of Higher Education or Harper's, strongly defend the liberal arts while chipping away at the vocational focus of much of higher education. The most famous piece is "Liberal Arts & Lite Entertainment," but others ("The Uncoolness of Good Teachers") are as good. One essay in particular, "A Word to the New Humanities Professor," offers a stunning critique of today's higher education by identifying the skills that it takes to survive as an assistant professor (i.e., to get promoted and tenured). Note: I taught for years in Teacher Education (social studies ed.), which is where the emphasis on jobs and workforce productivity seem to be the heaviest. My job, it seemed to me, faced two challenges: to provide a vocational path and a more efficient workforce, and to critique the educational process itself and to keep it rooted in an understanding of subject matter. Consequently, Edmundson probably appeals to me more than he would have to most of my colleagues, who were focused on the first function.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Hugo Santos

    Mark Edmundson is the kind of writer that is loved by those who agree with him and tolerated by the rest of the world. He is often right, just ask him and he'll tell you, but he assumes that every reader shares his opinion. This book's premise is interesting, but the author's paternalistic tone skews the message far too often.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    The higher education system in this country has devolved into a factory for degrees and accreditations—so postulates UVA lit professor Mark Edmundson in this collection of essays. And he does share some compelling evidence to support the claim. From the disenchanted youths of the ’90s to the overbooked, hyper-involved students of today, higher education no longer challenges the status quo. The essays range in topic from the benefits and pitfalls of sports to a dystopian peek into corporately stru The higher education system in this country has devolved into a factory for degrees and accreditations—so postulates UVA lit professor Mark Edmundson in this collection of essays. And he does share some compelling evidence to support the claim. From the disenchanted youths of the ’90s to the overbooked, hyper-involved students of today, higher education no longer challenges the status quo. The essays range in topic from the benefits and pitfalls of sports to a dystopian peek into corporately structured universities to Edmundson’s own experiences in high school, college, and beyond. It’s been nearly eight years since I was in a formal classroom, and these essays surely made me miss it. They also led me to reevaluate my own education: Although I loved learning and challenging certain tenets, I was also motivated by grade and performance when perhaps I should have been more concerned with shaking up my soul. Highly recommend for anyone who wants to think of the bigger questions behind learning. Be warned: It’s motivated me to try to read a book I merely skimmed in college ('Middlemarch') and it’s quite a task—but that’s probably exactly what I needed.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Laura Jordan

    Edmundson is a little full of himself -- and maybe even justifiably so -- and there were some parts of the book that seemed disconnected to the others (I didn't realize that many of these essays had been previously published elsewhere), but on the whole there was a lot of head-nodding as I read through it. I particularly loved "The Corporate City and the Scholarly Archive" that takes down shiny private schools (much like the one I work at) as simple "credential factories," where students learn h Edmundson is a little full of himself -- and maybe even justifiably so -- and there were some parts of the book that seemed disconnected to the others (I didn't realize that many of these essays had been previously published elsewhere), but on the whole there was a lot of head-nodding as I read through it. I particularly loved "The Corporate City and the Scholarly Archive" that takes down shiny private schools (much like the one I work at) as simple "credential factories," where students learn how to make themselves into a salable product in the hopes of being picked off the shelf by a discerning college admissions officer. And it also got me to watch Mario Savio's famous and astonishing 1964 Berkeley speech where he rails against being a "product" and urges his fellow students to lay their bodies on the gears of the machine. Where has that revolutionary student spirit gone? (Off to Yale Law or Goldman Sachs, I'd wager.)

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jen Bradley

    The best and worst book I've read on education! I believe this book is meant to inspire a return to a meaningful liberal arts education (as opposed to the job training college has become), but I found it to be infuriating and frustrating. Edmundson hits it on the nose in his discussions of problems in education and society as a whole. I was and still am one of a dying (or dead?) breed of students, and I have no desire to be an educator of the consumer/student of the present. Regardless, I think The best and worst book I've read on education! I believe this book is meant to inspire a return to a meaningful liberal arts education (as opposed to the job training college has become), but I found it to be infuriating and frustrating. Edmundson hits it on the nose in his discussions of problems in education and society as a whole. I was and still am one of a dying (or dead?) breed of students, and I have no desire to be an educator of the consumer/student of the present. Regardless, I think this should be required reading for all college bound students. And for all educators. American education is in a sad state and this book shows us where we've gone wrong and reminds us what it is supposed to be. In fact, Edmundson has a real sense of what is wrong with American culture and personally, I think it's a pretty scary reality.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Darrin Belousek

    I seldom recommend a book as a "must read." But if you are--or were or will be--a teacher or student in higher education (especially in the humanities), this book is essential. As a college professor of philosophy, I hear much these days about the technique of teaching and the skills to be taught with relatively little concern for the why and wherefore of a real education. Thus the college/university has evolved into a (rather expensive) form of what I'll call "entertrainment" (entertainment plu I seldom recommend a book as a "must read." But if you are--or were or will be--a teacher or student in higher education (especially in the humanities), this book is essential. As a college professor of philosophy, I hear much these days about the technique of teaching and the skills to be taught with relatively little concern for the why and wherefore of a real education. Thus the college/university has evolved into a (rather expensive) form of what I'll call "entertrainment" (entertainment plus training). Edmundson gets to the core of the craft: "It is the character forming--or (dare I say?) Soul-making--dimension of the pursuit that counts."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    This is the sort of book you pick up and read here and there. I found the essay on his favorite teacher interesting. His overall argument appears to be that we go to university to learn how to think about how to live rather than to gain a credential to make money. As a liberal-arts major, I certainly agree, but I'm guessing others have different objectives.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sally

    Well-written personal essays approaching from different angles the question of what education is and should be, especially considering the distortions of higher education by current university administration economics/politics and by student expectations. Some repetition, but I enjoyed reading this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kiersten

    I feel like Mark Edmundson just walloped me over the head with his book and then shook me until my teeth chattered together. Although this collection of essays is primarily about the purpose of a good liberal arts education and a good educator, I found it to be a high-stakes master lesson on how to be a life-long student and decent human being.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Huffstutler

    A lot of good food for thought. A main theme is Edmundson's critique of higher education for drifting from humane values to corporate values and pragmatism. My favorite essays were "Against Readings," "The English Major," "The Corporate City," and "Do Sports Build Character or Damage It?"

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mr. Brammer

    Edmundson's literary interests aren't as wide-ranging as you would think - he likes the Romantics, Freud, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Whitman, Emerson, etc. In the Romanticism class I took with him, all of these thinkers were touched on, with the occasional reference to Beck or the Notorious B.I.G. to appeal to the Gen Xers. I left the class with more to think about, which is a sign of good teaching. I got interested in John Keats especially, who is the least cosmic of the Romantic bunch, but proba Edmundson's literary interests aren't as wide-ranging as you would think - he likes the Romantics, Freud, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Whitman, Emerson, etc. In the Romanticism class I took with him, all of these thinkers were touched on, with the occasional reference to Beck or the Notorious B.I.G. to appeal to the Gen Xers. I left the class with more to think about, which is a sign of good teaching. I got interested in John Keats especially, who is the least cosmic of the Romantic bunch, but probably the most gifted with language This lucid defense of the humanities and critique of the corporate university feels weary. We have essentially lost this battle. There are no literary heroes held up by the mainstream to point the way forward. We are much more concerned with the fate of UVa's basketball team than about its soul as academic institution. I am guilty of having the collector's mindset about my own intellectual pursuits, as evidenced by the relentless cataloguing of everything I read on this website. I have very rarely been transformed by a book, although Dostoevsky gets me there, as does Austen and Dickens, along with a lot of poetry (Dickinson, Yeats, Lowell). The trap in modern society is for easy answers, a Manichean polarization, enmity towards those who disagree. The humanities should be our shared culture, our shared heritage. Unfortunately, the academy has turned the liberal arts into another political battlefield. By doing so, they have muddied the waters and turned education into a political position instead of the process not only of soulmaking but also of citizenship. Everyone in American should read Huckleberry Finn and Invisible Man before they can join the conversation on race. Let's save literature! Let's save our souls!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Selim Tlili

    Brilliant essays discussing the importance of a liberal arts education. Edmundson brings a craftsman’s ethos to the idea of a liberal arts education and the value it brings to people of a young age. I didn’t realize it as I was exploring my interests back in college; I thought I was just taking classes with professors who I liked, but in reality I was confronting and finding a path of self development through literature. It is unfortunate that fewer college students today will take that journey Brilliant essays discussing the importance of a liberal arts education. Edmundson brings a craftsman’s ethos to the idea of a liberal arts education and the value it brings to people of a young age. I didn’t realize it as I was exploring my interests back in college; I thought I was just taking classes with professors who I liked, but in reality I was confronting and finding a path of self development through literature. It is unfortunate that fewer college students today will take that journey because of the belief that college is only there to develop skill sets that will be of immediate value in the work place.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michael S

    This is not a researched book on teaching, but it is based on the author's many years of experience. It would be a good conversation starter. I believe that it intends to be provocative. The author plays the role of "crusty old man, set in his ways" in order to tease readers into defending their own attitudes and beliefs. He makes many points about reading, writing, and teaching that are worth considering.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Devon Black

    Pedantic. Edmundson reads like an old fuddy-duddy who scorns modernity and wishes for the good old days. He states his opinion and treats it like fact while making broad claims without any, except the briefest of anecdotes, pieces of evidence.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Haley Goodwin

    The ideas were not entirely new to me. Some ideas were, plus I always like to gain a new perspective. Worth the read! If you do not have a strong vocabulary you might want a dictionary close by while reading.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sierra

    Some condescension from an older generation to a younger generation, but good tips and reflections on teaching humanities.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    I could be wrong, but it seems to me that the chance of someone reading this who is NOT an educator is slim. Admittedly, that is my bias. I say this neither meaning to imply judgement nor complaint, only as an honest estimate. It's also of the kind of matter-of-fact admissions Mark Edmondson makes in this collection of essays addressing aspects of higher education. In particular—if you can call such a broad label "particular"—the Humanities. (Which as you may or may not know, is the tent under w I could be wrong, but it seems to me that the chance of someone reading this who is NOT an educator is slim. Admittedly, that is my bias. I say this neither meaning to imply judgement nor complaint, only as an honest estimate. It's also of the kind of matter-of-fact admissions Mark Edmondson makes in this collection of essays addressing aspects of higher education. In particular—if you can call such a broad label "particular"—the Humanities. (Which as you may or may not know, is the tent under which my particular field of study is shaded.) For the past 3 years I have welcomed freshmen and PreCollege students alike with a quote from Edmundson—which I happen to believe—about the purpose of education. This collection contains the essay that quote was derived from (really, it was a convocation address, but you know.) The Essay is "Who Are You and What Are you Doing Here." In it, he says: "Society has a cornucopia of resources 
to encourage you in doing what society needs done but that you don’t much 
like doing and are not cut out to do.... Education is about finding out 
what form of work for you is close 
to being play—work you do so easily 
that it restores you as you go." I still recommend that essay to every in-coming student and the parent of every incoming student. It's not the kind of thing institutes of higher learning are likely to tell you in the recruitment brochure, but if you want an education you're going to have to do some significant fighting for it. And not in the ways you might expect. I found other nuggets here, too. Familiar moments I've experienced but not described as clearly as Edmondson does in "Glorious Failure," and "The Uncoolness of Good Teaching" "Good teachers know that now, in what's called the civilized world, the great enemy of knowledge isn't ignorance, though ignorance will do in a pinch. The great enemy of knowledge is knowingness. It's the feeling encouraged by TV and movies and the Internet that you're on top of things and in charge... Good teachers are constantly fighting against knowingness by asking questions, creating difficulties, raising perplexities." There are several moments in these pages I found some of the statements uncomfortable. That's one of the many points in favor of reading it. "Real education" is frequently uncomfortable. There is a kind of psychic pain in having some of the truths you've come to believe —or would prefer to believe—confronted by questions that challenge them so stoutly that you must reconsider. Just when you thought you had 'em figured out. But I think it was more than that, for me. There was discomfort, but also encouragement and admiration, in reading statements that might make for uncomfortable conversations if the school president or the trustees or—heaven forbid—the parents should hear them with the faculty in the same room. "Teaching the Truths" is a provocative enough title for an essay about education. Inviting accusations —or more likely the presumed guilt—of "liberal brainwashing" to which colleges and universities are so prone. What exactly do you mean by "Truths" Mr. Educator? I guess you'd have to read it to find out, but as Edmondson himself says: "People become distressed when they imagine a world in which all of us, inspired by poets and other artists, create our own lives, with only community welfare and our privately perceived failures to rein us in. They fear chaos, they say. They fear disorder. But perhaps what they fear, most truly, is democracy." Maybe they do. I don't.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amalie

    There is a great deal to appreciate about this book. Prof. Mark Edmundson makes a passionate statement about what makes a teacher great and you will be reminded as to why you began your journey as a teacher in the first place.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rageofanath

    The point of view expressed in "Why Teach?" is very characteristic of the older generation of teachers, and as such can be critical of the student's generation at times. As a millennial reading what was often a critique of my generation, I found the outside perspective jarring at times, and accurate at others. Fortunately this is one of the older folks that understands that the culture the millennials find themselves in is not of their own construction, and having reached that realization, he ca The point of view expressed in "Why Teach?" is very characteristic of the older generation of teachers, and as such can be critical of the student's generation at times. As a millennial reading what was often a critique of my generation, I found the outside perspective jarring at times, and accurate at others. Fortunately this is one of the older folks that understands that the culture the millennials find themselves in is not of their own construction, and having reached that realization, he can move on to more important topics rather than spending 200 pages deriding the students for their overuse of facebook and "constant partying / casual sex". More than simply being critical of the sorts of students that wind up in his class, he's equally critical of the institutions that put them there and shape their expectations. What can you expect if an institution of higher learning is being advertised as an expensive retreat with athletic facilities and students lounging on the grass rather than AS an institution of higher learning? One thing that was a bit tough in the reading is that it is a collection of essays that isn't set up like a collection of essays, which means chapters can sometimes get repetitive and do not necessarily flow together. Only some of the essays are forwarded with the "originally published in" sort of heading that might lead the reader to expect the format, instead the book is set up into semi-narrative sections "for students" / "for teachers" / "for parents". This organization lead me to believe that the content would be formatted in a manner consistent with three cohesive sections, but instead it was a loose organization to group essays. The other difficult part of reading is that in several chapters I felt as though there was a heavy tone of satire and irony, but it was hard to figure out exactly where the irony began and ended. He'd make a statement that he blatantly disagreed with in a past chapter, that was just a little bit on the absurd side, and I suppose I was just supposed to figure out the tone? I believe I read it correctly with the irony, but the fact is that these chapters stuck out a bit in the overall flow of the book, and could easily be misread and confuse a reader not sensitive to irony and sarcasm. I'm not entirely convinced that these chapters were effective. Criticisms aside, Edmundson is frequently spot on with his analysis of the system he finds himself in. Higher education finds itself in a difficult position today, and more students, parents, and teachers need to be aware of the rot inside the system so it can be cleared away.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ilib4kids

    378.73 EDM My review: I picked up this book on the hope that give me some inspiration about how to teach. After several pages reading, I feel this book actually analysing failure in high-education college: lack passion in learning. So I am more intriguing to know the author solve this problem, after I reading "Excellent sheep" which address the mediocrity in elite schools. Fellow students Parts have 8 chapters are sincere, disturbing writing address the questions what student want in the college. 378.73 EDM My review: I picked up this book on the hope that give me some inspiration about how to teach. After several pages reading, I feel this book actually analysing failure in high-education college: lack passion in learning. So I am more intriguing to know the author solve this problem, after I reading "Excellent sheep" which address the mediocrity in elite schools. Fellow students Parts have 8 chapters are sincere, disturbing writing address the questions what student want in the college. pXI, Marshall McLuhan: We create our tools, and then our tools create us. Chap Liberal Arts and lite entertainment: my review: too pundit. Chap Dwelling in possibilities (2008): my review: very acute observation. Students are now virtual Hamlets of the virtual world, pondering possibility, to be or not to be. Chap Dwelling in Possibilities My review: urge students live in presents, slow down and think in the internet high connection, high speed, elsewhere era, and ridiculous double, triple majors. Chap Who are you and what are you doing here p53 To almost everyone, university education is a means to an end. For students, that end is a good job. Students want the credentials that will help them get ahead..... p64 No one will suggest that you might use Plato as bible fro a week or a year or longer. No one, in short, will ask you to use Plato to help you change your life. That will be up to you. You must put the question of Plato to yourself. You must ask whether reason should always be rule the passion... You may prod your professions to see if they will take text at hand --in this case the divine and disturbing Plato-- to be true ... You'll ask your history teacher about whether there is a design to our history...or just one fuckin thing after another..Challenges your biology teacher about intellectual conflict between evolutionist and creationist thinking. My review: odd against you to learn in college. If you want to learn, you completely are on your own quest, to think independently, to challenge authority. The Varieties of Religious Experience By James, William Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud (a best book to start) The Future of an Illusion (The Standard Edition) by Sigmund Freud

  24. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    This book by an English professor at the University of Virginia presents a group of essays in defense of the liberal arts (and of studying English literature in particular). This defense is on its own terms rather than oriented towards the acquisition of marketable skills or the entertainment of students. Studying the liberal arts is valuable because it what thinking mature adults should do to examine who they are and what they value. This argument is not new here but Professor Edmundson does an This book by an English professor at the University of Virginia presents a group of essays in defense of the liberal arts (and of studying English literature in particular). This defense is on its own terms rather than oriented towards the acquisition of marketable skills or the entertainment of students. Studying the liberal arts is valuable because it what thinking mature adults should do to examine who they are and what they value. This argument is not new here but Professor Edmundson does an excellent jobs at a time when fewer students than ever are studying the liberal arts and few faculty seek to defend them. The book is well written, engaging, and thoughtful, especially when the author attacks current careerist arguments head on. Edmundson is no far of consumerist education, although he seems to be very fond of his students. He is not above some harsh criticism of how universities are run these days, but his criticisms are clear and measured. What is clearest is how he loves classroom teaching and its place in his life. His substantive positions on issues of critical methods seems a bit conservative, but well considered. I probably will not sharply reorient my reading to English literature as a result of this book, but the thought did cross my mind. One limitation that struck me was an impression that faculty outside of the Liberal Arts had little to offer to the discussion of fundamental issues in the university. I suspect that some of his colleagues at Virginia might be tempted to disagree with him. ... but that is what academics do, anyway, so it is not a large flaw.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    This collection of previously published essays offers witty, scathing critiques of higher education. A recurring theme in Edmundson's critique is the commercialization of higher education where colleges and universities are more focused on marketing themselves than educating people. The student has become the customer who is always right and the job of the educator is to provide tools to the students so that they can become better tools of our society and fit into the global economy. Edmundson r This collection of previously published essays offers witty, scathing critiques of higher education. A recurring theme in Edmundson's critique is the commercialization of higher education where colleges and universities are more focused on marketing themselves than educating people. The student has become the customer who is always right and the job of the educator is to provide tools to the students so that they can become better tools of our society and fit into the global economy. Edmundson rightly fears for the future of the humanities as it is increasingly marginalized in favor of more utilitarian and profitable departments. These essays remind me of Richard Mitchell, a wonderful professor I had as an undergraduate at Glassboro State College, who wrote his own erudite, acerbic and wickedly funny critique of education, The Graves of Academe. That book, published over thirty years ago, seems more relevant than ever. Essential reading for anyone with a stake in the future of high education.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Zach

    Just let me quote: "Good teachers know that now, in what's called the civilized world, the great enemy of knowledge isn't ignorance, though ignorance will do in a pinch. The great enemy of knowledge is knowingness. It's the feeling encouraged by TV and movies and the Internet that you're on top of things and in charge. You're hip and always know what's up. Good teachers are constantly fighting against knowingness by asking questions, creating difficulties, raising perplexities. And they're consta Just let me quote: "Good teachers know that now, in what's called the civilized world, the great enemy of knowledge isn't ignorance, though ignorance will do in a pinch. The great enemy of knowledge is knowingness. It's the feeling encouraged by TV and movies and the Internet that you're on top of things and in charge. You're hip and always know what's up. Good teachers are constantly fighting against knowingness by asking questions, creating difficulties, raising perplexities. And they're constantly dramatizing their own aversion to knowingness in the way they walk and talk and dress--in their willingness to go the Lester Bangs route." (That route being the great coda from Almost Famous: "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we're uncool.")

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tonya

    This was an intriguing book for me. During the first half of the essays my heart was beating fast just reading some of the material. I am a passionate educator so the author's words struck a chord with me. I felt some of the views, especially during the second half of my reading were too pessimistic and hopeless for me. Many observations without solutions to accompany them. However, this book made me think and ponder. I always appreciate that! I also liked that there was a sense of humor to some This was an intriguing book for me. During the first half of the essays my heart was beating fast just reading some of the material. I am a passionate educator so the author's words struck a chord with me. I felt some of the views, especially during the second half of my reading were too pessimistic and hopeless for me. Many observations without solutions to accompany them. However, this book made me think and ponder. I always appreciate that! I also liked that there was a sense of humor to some of the essays that made me laugh out loud. I particularly enjoyed how he likened the end of class to a showdown at O.K. Corral when students reached for their cell phones (holsters). Ha!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    Because I teach English, and because I teach English in order to provide a forum for students to engage in answering the big questions, I loved this book because it validates how I've approached my job as a high school English teacher all these years. If education is not designed to cause students to think and to question, then what's the point? I've never seen myself as a career-trainer but always as a life-examiner, in the sense of helping students to ask pointed questions about who they are, Because I teach English, and because I teach English in order to provide a forum for students to engage in answering the big questions, I loved this book because it validates how I've approached my job as a high school English teacher all these years. If education is not designed to cause students to think and to question, then what's the point? I've never seen myself as a career-trainer but always as a life-examiner, in the sense of helping students to ask pointed questions about who they are, what they believe, what they value, and who they will be. The students and I engage literature as a nexus of ideas and values.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    Very thought-provoking. It made me consider the motivations that bring people to higher education and even the impulses that drive our culture itself. Although I did not agree with everything that was written in this book, I do agree with the underlying principle: you need to select your course of study with the goal of nourishing your soul, with finding the thing that makes you more "you" than anything else. Results and material success shouldn't matter and schools of all levels should stop foc Very thought-provoking. It made me consider the motivations that bring people to higher education and even the impulses that drive our culture itself. Although I did not agree with everything that was written in this book, I do agree with the underlying principle: you need to select your course of study with the goal of nourishing your soul, with finding the thing that makes you more "you" than anything else. Results and material success shouldn't matter and schools of all levels should stop focusing on statistics and business plans. It really made me appreciate the liberal arts education that I received and inspired me for a future in higher education (current MA student, hopeful PhD).

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Manning

    As expected (though quite surprised) I agree with his assessment of education. The liberal arts have been abandoned for job specialization and has created a people who want to be entertained and ruled without being participants. Though I think his source material (the Great Books) need to be read, it is the presuppositions or worldview in which we engage that material that will matter most. It is an honest assessment of current education as a whole, not just higher Ed, and includes some choice l As expected (though quite surprised) I agree with his assessment of education. The liberal arts have been abandoned for job specialization and has created a people who want to be entertained and ruled without being participants. Though I think his source material (the Great Books) need to be read, it is the presuppositions or worldview in which we engage that material that will matter most. It is an honest assessment of current education as a whole, not just higher Ed, and includes some choice language for the current situation. Edmundson is an idealist and I'd be interested in reading some of his related books on the formation of people using some of his educational principles.

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