June 2002 Book Reviews

Each fall and spring the AAHE Bulletin invites its readers to volunteer as book reviewers. Books are assigned based on reviewers’ interest and expertise. Books are selected based on their relevance to higher education or their potential to be of interest to educators.

The reviews in this article represent the opinions of the individual reviewers. AAHE and AAHE Bulletin do not necessarily endorse the books reviewed in this section.

You cannot order non-AAHE books from AAHE. The books reviewed in this section are available from your local or online bookstore or through the publisher.

Books reviewed in June 2002


The Student Body: Short Stories About College Students and Professors
Edited by John McNally (2001). University of Wisconsin Press, Madison; 280 pages; $16.95

Reviewed by Joseph J. Wydeven, dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Bellevue University; jjw@bellevue.edu

As McNally points out, the campus novel has never gotten much respect; he suggests that critics prefer writings about “blue-collar life.” But perhaps a better reason is that academic novels are often delivered through self-absorbed satire, their contents of limited interest to most readers. Happily, this charge cannot be brought against many of the stories gathered in The Student Body, suggesting that perhaps the sharply focused short story is an ideal form for academic fiction.

This is a superb collection — eight stories centered on students, nine on professors — covering a variety of topics. Although often humorous or touching, some of the stories view college life darkly, and the volume plumbs many academic sins: plagiarism (performed to please a professor), falsified credentials, the trading of grades for drugs, lies to spouses and lovers, objectification and seduction of students, willful self-deceptions — and even serial murder (in a Stephen King story that seems out of place here).

For my money, the finest stories are those that probe deeply into the complex human exchanges between students and professors. Richard Russo’s “The Whore’s Child,” for example, examines the guarded response by a creative writing professor to a 70-year-old nun’s late discovery about personal reality. In Rebecca Lee’s richly imagined “The Banks of the Vistula,” students question a Polish professor’s rationalizations about his possibly fascist past. In Ron Carlson’s “Hartwell,” the narrator helplessly, but empathetically, watches a colleague self-destruct in the throes of love with a seductive student. And one more example, from many exceptional possibilities: In the closing story, “The Fundamentals of Communication,” Thisbe Nissen ends by noting the primacy of student communication “in the caress of a finger, the press of a palm” — reminding readers of the physicality suggested by the book’s title.

These stories address some of the transactions and vulnerabilities endemic to the teaching and learning enterprise — topics we sometimes encounter more bluntly in real-life cases. This interesting and useful book reminds us of the fragility of lives on both sides of the desk.

 

Classrooms Without Fear: A Journey to Rediscover the Joy of Teaching
By Thomas A. Marino (2001). New Forums Press, Stillwater, OK; 142 pages; $17.95 (paper)

Reviewed by Nancy E. Frazier, reference librarian, Buffalo State College; fraziene@bscmail.buffalostate.edu

Educational theorist Loris Malaguzzi said that “learning and teaching should not stand on opposite banks and just watch the river flow by; instead, they should embark together on a journey down the water.” Classrooms Without Fear recounts the author and educator’s journey to self-discovery as a student and as a teacher.

A scientist, researcher, and educator with a strong interest in the role of technology in the classroom, Marino found himself frustrated with feeling more like a presenter than a teacher. The author defines the concept of a safe classroom — one where students are free to learn in new ways without fear of failure. The humanistic classroom Marino describes is a learning community that fosters growth, exploration, and creative thinking beyond the mere transfer of information.

Marino began reexamining his role as a teacher and his students’ expectations as learners. Throughout the text he grapples with the basic question: How do we help students learn? “We didn’t want our students to learn, though we said we did,” he writes. “We wanted to evaluate them and see if they could pass our tests. Our vision, if there was one, was that of gatekeeper. We would decide who would make it. Who could go on and who would be turned back? We had to ensure that they were ‘qualified’ to proceed along the academic pathway. I had to get away from this madness.”

Refreshing in its honesty and clarity, Classrooms Without Fear offers a glimpse into one teacher’s journey toward a classroom vision. Rich with autobiographical detail, Marino’s casual conversational style includes candid personal anecdotes and addresses with humility his success and failure in the classroom.  

 

Beleaguered Rulers: The Public Obligation of the Professional
By William F. May (2001). Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY; 286 pages; $24.95

Reviewed by Denise Y. Young, assistant provost and director of institutional research, University of Dallas, and an instructor at Dallas Baptist University and LeTourneau University; dyoung@udallas.edu

People engaged in medicine, law, engineering, business, politics, media, ministry, and higher education have substantial power to influence the world, and have traditionally been seen as public servants. However, the author argues, most professionals today view the role of contribution to the public good as remote and secondary to their individual career advancement.

The author believes there has been a loss of distinction between careerist and professional. He argues that thoughtful questions about professional identity and civic responsibility have been ignored; professionals have a complex and esoteric body of knowledge that should be used in the service of human good, not just for individual accomplishment and recognition; and a professional should exhibit the virtues of wisdom, fidelity, and public spiritedness. These virtues, he explains, are based on traditions in Western culture, and are best learned by students through exposure to a liberal education, even for those in the professions.

I found the book thought provoking, though perhaps too idealistic in some areas. I recommend it not as a textbook but as assigned supplemental reading in undergraduate and graduate ethics courses for students in professional programs. However, this book should be required reading for faculty in professional fields. The chapter on higher education, “Professors: Credentialed for What?” should be of interest to all faculty members, regardless of their field of study.  

 

Academic Tribes and Territories: Intellectual Enquiry and the Cultures of Discipline (2nd edition)
By Tony Becher and Paul R. Trowler (2001). Open University Press, Buckingham, England, and Philadelphia, PA; 238 pages; $30.95 (paperback)

Reviewed by Stephen Chambers, director of institutional research, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs; schamber@uccs.edu

A search for disciplinary boundaries and distinctive academic cultures within the larger academic community led Becher and Trowler to study ways in which cross-disciplinary collaboration and overlapping specialties serve as common ground for promoting the intellectual progress necessary for tying together what the authors refer to as the loosely tacked patchwork quilt of current knowledge.

Much of the monograph focuses on the qualities that typically describe a specific discipline (hard or soft; pure or applied) and how those qualities determine that discipline’s proclivities. How prospective members of a discipline are trained, the communication patterns they establish with colleagues, and the manner in which they respond to controversy are several telltale, discipline-specific traits discussed by the authors. For example, chemists are considered members of a hard discipline that has both pure and applied aspects. Their typical response to controversy is to draw “their wagons into a circle, and then start firing into the middle.” By contrast, historians are members of a soft discipline with broad boundaries but they employ relatively pure methods and share a “strong traditional intellectual kinship.”

The authors are concerned for the established professorate that lacks control over its own agendas because of governmental funding priorities and the managerial mindsets of institutions. At the same time they maintain that young academics are “frustrated by the lack of career prospects.”

Reviews of studies conducted in the 12 years between editions provide a valuable overview of academic cultures and greatly illuminates contemporary influences on academia.  

 

Creating Campus Community: In Search of Ernest Boyer’s Legacy
By William M. McDonald and Associates (2002). Jossey-Bass, San Francisco; 200 pages; $29.00

Reviewed by Marc Cutright, research associate, Policy Center on the First Year of College; cutrighm@brevard.edu

So closely associated with the idea of “community” was the late Ernest L. Boyer that we forget that his most influential work on the topic was issued with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching institutionally credited as author rather than he. But Boyer contributed much more to the 1990 work Campus Life: In Search of Community than the introduction. The work encapsulated much of his passion on postsecondary education, and the topic of community consumed much of his energy and heart before his 1995 death.

Boyer et al. articulated a compelling concept of community on the college campus, with the crucial goals of an environment that was purposeful, open, just, disciplined, caring, and celebrative. For the book at hand, chief author and editor McDonald, vice president for student affairs at Tennessee’s Carson-Newman College, has gathered contributors to tell us of five institutional case studies of the implementation of Boyer’s ideas. Parker J. Palmer (The Courage to Teach) and E. Grady Bogue (Leadership by Design) contribute strong contextual chapters and a sense of poetry.

The case studies include Penn State University, Carson-Newman College, Messiah College, Oregon State University, and State University of New York at Stony Brook. The chapter authors honor us by sharing both their disappointments and triumphs in attempting to facilitate community. They also come together in a late chapter to summarize their common experiences and advise on building campus community. Among the latter: create elevating goals, engage everyone, reduce anonymity, promote civility, seek feedback, work toward concrete action, and review and refocus as required.

Creating Campus Community isn’t a blueprint. Those who seek its goals will have to do the hard work of invention on their own campuses. But this is an inspiring book and offers a realistic vision of what can be accomplished.  

 

Stand and Prosper: Private Black Colleges and Their Students
By Henry N. Drewry and Humphrey Doermann in collaboration with Susan H. Anderson (2001). Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ; 335 pages; $29.95

Reviewed by Diana Brigham Beaudoin, senior associate, New England Resource Center for Higher Education, University of Massachusetts Boston; diana.beaudoin@umb.edu

This book is a meticulously researched, data-rich account of the historical development, current context, and future prospects of the 45 private black colleges in the Unites States. The 59,000 students enrolled in the institutions included in this study make up 1 percent of enrollment of all four-year colleges and 26 percent of all black Americans attending four-year private colleges in the Unites States. Authors Drewry and Doermann point out that “these institutions represent, in many ways, one of the most remarkable stories of ‘education against the odds’ of any set of schools in America.”

The book begins with a broad history of the origins and evolution of black higher education in the Unites States, and then moves into more specific discussions of individual private black college campuses. Before the Civil War period the education of slaves was illegal in the South. Understanding the rise of public schools in the South after the Civil War, and their exclusion of blacks, makes clear the extraordinary obstacles that had to be overcome as well as the extraordinary faith that black Americans placed in education as a way out of poverty and as a means to freedom.

The second half of the book offers a more recent perspective on private black colleges, the societal and legal influences that have shaped them, and a closer look at their role in developing black leaders and professionals, as well as those leaders’ contributions to a growing black middle class. Some of the greatest gains in the legal and legislative arenas — for example, the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Higher Education Act of 1965 — that created new opportunities for many black Americans at predominantly white colleges and universities also generated significant challenges for private black colleges.

The authors examine the importance of government funding, student aid, foundations, and other forms of external support to the financial stability of these institutions. They also point out the significance of strong, constant, and focused leadership, and on many occasions luck, in sustaining these institutions through difficult times.  

 

Deep Learning for a Digital Age: Technology’s Untapped Potential to Enrich Higher Education
By Van B. Weigel (2002). Jossey-Bass, San Francisco; 169 pages; $28.00

Reviewed by Philippe Baveye, associate professor of geoenvironmental science and engineering, and affiliated member of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute (CHERI), Cornell University; philippe.baveye@cornell.edu

In this timely and thought-provoking book, Weigel, a professor of ethics and economic development at Eastern College in Pennsylvania, derides higher education institutions for the shortsighted and uncreative uses they have made so far of e-learning and information technologies. He contends that the “post-a-lecture” and “host-a-discussion” formats of most current Internet-based courses encourage temporary, superficial acquisition of factual knowledge to the same extent as the traditional face-to-face lectures on campus, that they make very poor use of available technologies, and are inspired more by profit motives than by a real concern about learning.

Weigel argues that college and university teachers can effectively help students develop skills in research, problem solving, critical thinking, and knowledge management by using Web-based collaboration tools. He outlines a blended “bricks and clicks” approach to student learning that emphasizes cognitive apprenticeship and communities of inquiry. Weigel’s approach relies on the use of virtual spaces, which he calls “knowledge rooms,” where students working both on and off campus can gather to develop research projects, build critical skills and competencies, share, discuss and debate ideas, express themselves creatively, and assess their learning and performance.

Some readers will probably not share Weigel’s conviction that information technologies have much to offer to deepen students’ learning experiences. Certainly anyone who has attempted to read long documents online or to take part in an online debate with more than five to 10 participants knows that information technologies have severe limits.

Furthermore, one may disagree with Weigel’s emphasis on learning communities as an important preparation for real-life learning. Communities may have a role in information gathering, but evidence suggests that the learning that matters in the real world is predominantly self-directed and autonomous. Nevertheless, Weigel’s very interesting book raises numerous provocative questions about the kind of deep learning and critical thinking universities ought to foster, and about ways by which e-learning technologies might perhaps help universities place learning back at the center of their preoccupations.  

 

The Effective, Efficient Professor: Teaching, Scholarship, and Service
By Phillip C. Wankat (2002). Allyn & Bacon, Boston; 285 pages; $34.00

Reviewed by W. Jeffrey Marsh, associate professor, Brigham Young University; jm29@email.byu.edu

Noting that “the only function for which most professors have been trained is disciplinary scholarship,” Wankat’s book explores the realities of academe — too many tasks competing for a professor’s time — and offers helpful suggestions for becoming more effective and efficient.

Wankat notes that higher education is made up of competing expectations of professors: students want professors to teach and be accessible; administrators expect research that will enhance the institution’s reputation and bring in money; state legislators want research produced that will drive the economy or help address pressing social problems; representatives from news agencies or companies want to draw on faculty expertise; graduate students want to consult with faculty on research; the university wants time for committees; and interspersed between them all are a large number of interruptions, phone calls, non-stop email, a myriad of projects that demand hours of work, and student questions that need to be addressed.

Wankat believes that although these institutional situations may seem overwhelming, the skills and necessary knowledge to function effectively and efficiently in the academy can be taught and learned. New professors often lack skills in time management, writing, interpersonal relations, teamwork, and administration, but Wankat believes that “since professors can, to a large extent, choose how to spend their time, balance can be achieved.”

Based on extensive reading of leadership literature, Wankat’s book is written in 12 highly organized chapters with 72 subsections that enable professors to find and study what is most relevant to them. Each section addresses a unique issue that professors face, including workloads, schedules, coping with stress, increasing student learning, technology, advising, and change.

“What it boils down to,” Wankat declares, “is that most professors have never studied and some have never learned either the extrinsic or the intrinsic tasks necessary to function as a professor.” This book is a helpful tool for professors seeking higher satisfaction in their careers.  

 

From Strategy to Change: Implementing the Plan in Higher Education
By Daniel James Rowley and Herbert Sherman (2001). Jossey-Bass, San Francisco; 384 pages; $35.00

By Mark J. Drozdowski, director, corporate, foundation, and government relations, Franklin Pierce College; drozdowskim@fpc.edu

“The future of higher education is both an exciting and fearful place,” the authors state. “No one is completely insulated from its threats and uncertainties.” In this Information Age, colleges and universities no longer hold a monopoly on the transmission of knowledge.

To survive, most institutions must find a comparative advantage to stay viable in a competitive marketplace. Determining an appropriate niche requires strategic planning and careful implementation. The authors present a detailed process of how institutions can make such tactical choices, bring plans to fruition, and address potential resistance from various constituencies.

They begin by describing 16 types of educational institutions, from classical forms to “new breeds” that include for-profit ventures, distance education providers, and corporate universities. This classification combines with various business models to create an instrument for helping college administrators make strategic choices about their institution’s trajectory.

To help campus leaders implement plans, the authors outline 11 approaches to successful change, along the way identifying potential roadblocks such as the politics of participatory governance and budget reallocations. They also address how to work with those who might resist change — a process they call the “human side of implementation.”

The authors offer useful examples to illustrate their points. For example, they discuss Marist College’s strategic decision to move away from traditional arts and sciences in light of competition from nearby Vassar College (which they mistakenly call an Ivy League school).

Devising plans according to such a complex framework could, of course, pose challenges. Integrating the 16 models with four business strategies and 11 implementation options makes for some intricate three-dimensional presentations but can be confusing at times.

That said, From Strategy to Change presents a valuable road map for campus leaders concerned with planning and its subsequent outcomes.  

 

Leading in a Culture of Change
By Michael Fullan (2002). Jossey-Bass, San Francisco; 176 pages; $25.00

Reviewed by Lee Bash, dean, division of lifelong learning, Baldwin-Wallace College; lbash@bw.edu

The cover of this book displays a small figurine of a leader with his hands behind his back. It is unclear whether his hands are bound, but if you’ve ever tried to lead in a culture of change you know this image would, at times, seem fitting. Change is a ubiquitous characteristic of the 21st-century academy. The capacity to be dynamic or even effective in this charged environment may well be the greatest challenge a leader may encounter. While the book makes it clear there is no simple panacea to this challenge, Leading in a Culture of Change provides some useful insight and perspective.

The foundation for this book is introduced in the first chapter, when Fullan provides a diagram of “A Framework for Leadership” — what a leader needs to cultivate and sustain learning under conditions of complex, rapid change. The diagram includes: “Leaders” — a wheel comprising five equal components of effective leadership: Moral Purpose, Understanding Change, Relationship Building, Knowledge Creation and Sharing, and Coherence Making. Each of the next five chapters is devoted to a more in-depth explanation of how each component works and how it interacts with the others.

Surrounding the wheel are three personal characteristics that the author suggests all effective leaders possess: energy, enthusiasm, and hopefulness. Fullan emphasizes that a “dynamic, reciprocal relationship” exists between the two sets. A “Members” level is beneath the leaders wheel, emphasizing the need for both external and internal commitment from members. The “Results” level is at the bottom of the diagram in a box that states: “More good things happen; fewer bad things happen.” Since this diagram drives almost all the information contained in the remainder of the book, it is critical for the reader to accept the concept the diagram implies.

Fullan draws his case from his own extensive background in this area, further supported by an extensive bibliography and frequent citations of recent and notable studies in this area.  

 

Included in Communication: Learning Climates That Cultivate Racial and Ethnic Diversity
Edited by Judith S. Trent (2002). American Association for Higher Education (in cooperation with the National Communication Association), Washington, DC; 188 pages; $26.00 members/$32.00 nonmembers

Reviewed by James H. Cook, associate vice president for student services, Tarleton State University; jcook@tarleton.edu

The brainchild of the AAHE and the National Communication Association, this book, according to editor Trent’s introduction, sets out “To describe pedagogical strategies for increasing the participation and success of students of color in the communication major.”

 The book takes the reader through a series of 10 essays that focus on the causal relationships between various pedagogical, curricular, and administrative factors and the success of students of color in basic communication courses. It also offers eight examples of how diversity and teaching and learning can be effectively integrated into workshops, courses, and class activities.

Included in Communication abounds with real-world scenarios and examples of the practical application of diversity-minded, communication-focused pedagogical theory. This book is an excellent tool for the instructor who wishes to develop and teach communication courses that take the student beyond the confines of the typical Anglo-centric communication context to explore cultural differences and their inherent richness as both a means to and an end in the development of communicative competency.

What Included in Communication espouses, when taken as a whole, is an organic pedagogical architecture. Recall that with organic architecture, design elements and devices are used to create an environment in which the building and its interior space is viewed as a natural extension of its external surroundings — and vice versa. The distinction between “inside” and “outside” is blurred. Included proposes a culturally sensitive construct in which the communication curriculum naturally and seamlessly interweaves elements typically viewed as external to each other: communication and culture (beyond that of the Anglo), rote content and personal narrative, and intraclass and extraclass environments.  

 

Making Harvard Modern: The Rise of America’s University
By Morton Keller and Phyllis Keller (2001). Oxford University Press, New York; 640 pages; $35.00

Reviewed by Jon Enriquez, associate dean and registrar, Hanover College; enriquez@hanover.edu

This is a first-rate work of institutional history that avoids being recondite. It shows how Harvard grew during the 20th century from a venerable university to a premier one, and how neither the journey nor even the destination was foreordained. It also provides a valuable look at university leadership, especially the presidency.

The authors argue that Harvard has undergone two major transformations since 1933. First, led by presidents James Bryant Conant and then Nathan M. Pusey, Harvard became what the authors call a “meritocratic” university. It gradually deemphasized its core Boston Brahmin constituency and strove to build and maintain the best faculty, students, and facilities in the nation. Second, between 1971 and 2001, during the presidencies of Derek C. Bok and Neil Rudenstine, Harvard became a “worldly” university. The authors define this as fulfilling a perceived obligation to be of service to the nation and the world. In fact, nothing better describes this “worldly” era as a period in which Harvard itself became even larger, complex, wealthy, diverse, balkanized, and bureaucratized.

While the authors discuss major faculty appointments at some length, the main characters are the presidents. The authors make considerable use of the presidential papers of Conant and Pusey and other university archival material. Making Harvard Modern shows how the Harvard presidents have been able to lead change and also the limitations they have faced in doing so.

Although its narrative surpasses 600 pages, it is explicitly not a comprehensive history of the university. The focus is institutional, dealing with endowments, buildings, and appointments rather than teaching and learning or student life. Moreover, the authors forgo the opportunity to connect the Harvard story with broader trends in higher education and thus make direct comparisons between Harvard and other institutions.

Nevertheless, this volume is enormously valuable. Like Burton Clark’s classic The Distinctive College, it shows how an institution’s life story illuminates both the story of higher education and the processes of institutional change.  



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