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Reading list

October 2010

Carrol Capital
Dean Andy Boynton

Reading list

Books and articles that matter

By Dean Andy Boynton

Harvard University English professor and New York Times cultural critic Louis Menand’s The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University (W.W. Norton, 2010) has spurred conversation and provoked debate among academics and university administrators throughout the country, and here at the Carroll School. We are already tackling one of his critiques: that universities fail at educating undergraduate thinkers and doers.

In this slim volume, Menand asks why the institutional structure and educational philosophy of the American university has essentially remained the same for 100 years, while faculties and student bodies have changed entirely, and economics and technology drastically transformed the production and dissemination of knowledge.

In four essays, Menand tackles the questions: Why is it so hard to institute a general education curriculum? Why did the humanities disciplines undergo a crisis of confidence? Why has “interdisciplinarity” become a magic word? And why do professors all tend to hold the same political beliefs?

In discussing general education, Menand asks why professional education is left to professional schools. “The divorce between liberalism and professionalism as educational missions rests on a superstition: that the practical is the enemy of the true,” he writes.

I agree with Menand’s conclusion that this is “nonsense.”

As a professional school in a predominantly liberal arts institution, the Carroll School seizes opportunities to marry the practical and the “true.” We have tinkered with the idea of offering courses taught by teams of Arts & Sciences and Carroll School faculty, encouraged A&S students to sample management courses, and discussed ways of persuading management students to study beyond Fulton Hall. This year, we are undertaking the first review of our core curriculum since the late 1970s.

Like Menand, I favor reform when it attempts to improve a system. Stay tuned as our reforms and improvements move forward at the Carroll School.