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

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Overview

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the observation that the mediocre undergraduate curriculum offered by most colleges and universities today is based on outdated ideas of what should be taught and what constitutes good teaching.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 Education predicts 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.

University of Virginia Press

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Editorial Reviews

Jerry G. Gaff

Fixing College Education is full of cogent, frank, even refreshingly blunt criticism of undergraduate education. Muscatine’s passion pervades the volume, and he does not hesitate to criticize the sacred cows of academe in search for improved education of students.

R. Eugene Rice

Fixing College Education is a personal statement by a distinguished teacher and scholar who cares deeply about student learning and who tried gallantly to change a system that is seriously flawed. This is a manifesto that needs to be widely read.

Library Journal
Muscatine (English, emeritus, Univ. of California, Berkeley), an active participant in the movement for reform in American higher education, starts with a blunt accusation: "the teaching and learning that go on in our colleges are actually not very good at all." He has many ideas for improvements, focused on getting away from big classes, memorization of facts, and multiple-choice exams and replacing ineffective approaches and curriculum with small group discussions that put students at the center and enable them to take responsibility for their own learning. He knows, citing his own experience and other models, that this change will not take place without confronting college faculty, transforming graduate training, and moving away from measuring professorial quality by research instead of teaching. VERDICT Although Muscatine's optimism is not totally convincing, his idealistic hopes for change and his easy conversational style make this an appealing and valuable perspective.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813928159
  • Publisher: University of Virginia Press
  • Publication date: 8/6/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Muscatine is Professor of English Emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley, where he taught for forty-three years.

University of Virginia Press

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