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Unformatted text preview: “Colleges and universities, for all the beneFts they bring, ac- complish far less for their students than they should,” the former president of Harvard University, Derek Bok, recently lamented. Many students graduate college today, according to Bok, “with- out being able to write well enough to satisfy their employers . . . reason clearly or perform competently in analyzing complex, non- technical problems.” 1 While concern over undergraduate learning in this country has longstanding roots, in recent years increased attention has been focused on this issue not only by former Ivy League presidents, but also by policy makers, practitioners, and the public. Stakeholders in the higher education system have in- creasingly come to raise questions about the state of collegiate learning for a diverse set of reasons. Legislators—and privately, middle- class parents as well—increasingly have expressed worry over the value and returns to their investments in higher educa- tion. Business leaders have begun to ask whether graduates have acquired the necessary skills to ensure economic competitiveness. And increasingly, educators within the system itself have begun to raise their voices questioning whether organizational changes to colleges and universities in recent decades have undermined the core educational functions of these institutions. These diverse concerns about the state of undergraduate edu- cation have served to draw attention to measuring whether stu- 1 College Cultures and Student Learning Book CHI Arum 12470.indb 1 7/7/10 4:02:09 PM U n c o r r e c te d p r o o fs fo r r e v ie w o n ly 2 Chapter One dents are actually developing the capacity for critical thinking and complex reasoning at college. In a rapidly changing economy and society, there is widespread agreement that these individual capacities are the foundation for e≠ective democratic citizenship and economic productivity. “With all the controversy over the college curriculum,” Derek Bok has commented, “it is impressive to Fnd faculty members agreeing almost unanimously that teaching students to think critically is the principal aim of undergraduate education.” 2 Institutional mission statements also echo this widespread commitment to developing students’ critical thinking. They typically in- clude a pledge, for example, that schools will work to challenge students to “think critically and intuitively,” and to ensure that graduates will become adept at “critical, analytical, and logical thinking.” These mission state- ments align with the idea that educational institutions serve to enhance students’ human capital—knowledge, skills, and capacities that will be rewarded in the labor market. Economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz, for example, have recently argued that increased investment in U.S....
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- Fall '10
- Sociology, Student Learning, Book CHI Arum, CHI Arum