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The Knowledge Factory


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After taking a disparaging look at the current state of American universities, Aronowitz, a professor at the City University of New York (From the Ashes of the Old, etc.) who has long been active in the labor movement and educational reform, proposes a radical reorganization of American higher education. He reports that there is scarce evidence of "higher learning"--as opposed to "training" or "education"--taking place in our post-secondary educational institutions. Even in today's best universities, he contends, students are rewarded for uncritically regurgitating knowledge, rather than for participating in or challenging "established intellectual authority." Aronowitz further castigates colleges and universities for selling out to corporate America by offering themselves as training sites for businesses and for turning their presidents into full-time fund-raisers who resemble CEOs more than academic leaders. As a remedy, Aronowitz proposes a renewed emphasis on pedagogy and a curriculum centered around a transdisciplinary introduction to science, philosophy and literature within a historical framework. Throughout the book, Aronowitz provides abundant examples of actual policies at American universities and profiles several critical issues, including the unionization of graduate teaching assistants. While his Marxist-influenced rhetoric may put off some readers, Aronowitz should be commended for the high seriousness of his endeavor, which sidesteps the comparatively petty canon wars to ask: What is the true purpose of higher education and how can we restructure our universities to achieve it? (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Addressing what he sees as an overall "intellectual decline" in higher education, Aronowitz (sociology, Graduate Ctr., CUNY) argues that the American academic system has failed to meet its lofty goals of providing students with a well-rounded education. Instead, most colleges and universities offer specialized fields of study without requiring students to take courses outside those fields. The fundamental mission of higher education, Aronowitz says, should be to play a leading role in the development of general culture--a mission that is undermined when academic institutions allow student-athletes to slide through the system. Other factors Aronowitz ponders include the G.I. Bill--which, he says, allowed a broad base of the populace to attend college and to consider a college education a right instead of a privilege--and corporate partnerships, which can dilute an institution's integrity. He also suggests that colleges emphasize pedagogy. Even his old, familiar complaints are put in a new perspective. For academic and larger public libraries.--Terry A. Christner, Hutchinson P.L., KS Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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