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"Derek Bok's Our Underachieving Colleges is readable, balanced, often wry, and wise. This book should be required reading for every curriculum committee and academic dean. As someone who has lived his whole life in the academy, Bok knows how to bring institutional practice in line with research on how students learn best. In a period when many other countries are working hard at improving undergraduate education, this book should serve as a spur to overcome the complacency that attends most discussions of American undergraduate education, especially in our leading institutions."--Mary Patterson McPherson, President Emeritus of Bryn Mawr College and Vice President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
"A bookcase-worth of jeremiads, long on invective but short on evidence, decries the supposedly sorry state of undergraduate instruction. The Closing of the American Mind, Illiberal Education, The University in Ruins: the titles give the game away. In Our Underachieving Colleges, Derek Bok argues persuasively that, far from pinpointing a real crisis, these accounts are exercises in nostalgia, laments for an Edenic era that never existed. In jargon-free prose he makes accessible hitherto obscure studies on topics that range from students' satisfaction with their college experience to the efficacy of ethics courses. What's even more important, he draws on this research to advance useful and usable prescriptions for colleges that, while not doing badly, could do much better. For anyone with an open mind about the state of American higher education, Our Underachieving Colleges is indispensable reading."--David L. Kirp, Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley, author of Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education
"Radical and conservative critics of undergraduate education have met their match in Derek Bok's new book. After carefully spelling out what the core purposes of undergraduate education should be--learning to communicate, learning to think critically, building good character, preparing for citizenship, living with diversity, preparing for a global society, developing breadth of interests, and preparing for a career--Our Underachieving Colleges explains why undergraduate education in America is not as good as it could be and offers suggestions for improvement. Trustees, academic administrators, and faculty across the nation should all read Our Underachieving Colleges because Bok holds them all responsible for the deficiencies of our undergraduate programs and assigns each an important role in the quest for improvement. Perhaps his most important message is that undergraduate education is more than what goes on in the classroom; every aspect of life and decision making in academia is involved."--Ronald G. Ehrenberg, Irving M. Ives Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations and Economics and Director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute (CHERI)
"This book is a clarion call. Attention should be paid."--Peter Lamal, Journal of Higher Education
Posted May 9, 2006
When Bok refers to 'underachieving' he is putting more emphasis on his belief that colleges are not performing up to their potential as opposed to saying that colleges have suffered degradation over time. His analysis lacks any substantial quantitative analysis that might help assess the problems and their priorities. Bok likes to discuss 'critical thinking' and its importance as a goal of college instruction and yet demonstrates that he is confused about it himself. He derrogates 'formal logic' and 'advanced calculus' as not part of critical thinking. As a former scientist I can tell him and you that mathematics and logic are indispensable tools in the conduct of science. Surely science and its methods depend on these kinds of critical thinking. There is some data out there that he could have used to show the underachievement in more quantitative terms. For example, the U.S. Department of Education's 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy shows that college graduates don't know as much as their counterparts as recently as ten years ago and have slipped about a college year in this measure. There are a number of unneccessary digressions along familiar themes of post-modern political correctness including multiculturalism, diversity, racism, sexism and affirmative action. I guess his tenure in academia has expanded his interests in these pessimisms. I would not have finished the book except for the incentive that I could write this review if I did. I would not recommend this book to others.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.