Mark C. Taylor

 

On his book Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities

Cover Interview of October 11, 2010

A close-up

While radical reform is necessary at every level of higher education, it needs to start with a thorough restructuring of graduate education and, by extension, a redesign of the curriculum for undergraduate education.

Research universities play a vital role in the life or our nation and vitality of our economy.  But in far too many cases, the increasingly specialized research has led to a fragmentation of knowledge and the proliferation of courses that are of little or no use to undergraduates.

Even though the cost keeps rising, colleges and universities are not doing an adequate job of preparing students for life and work in the 21st century.

Institutions are divided into departments with subfields within subfields and faculty members who cannot or will not communicate with each other.  In some areas, specialization is necessary but it has gone too far.

We need to redesign the curriculum to create possibilities for research and teaching that cut across disciplinary and cultural boundaries.  We also need to do a better job of training our students in new forms of literacy that emerging technologies will require.

Graduate programs today haven’t changed much since the Middle Ages.  Students are required to write medieval dissertations that will never be published or read by anyone other than their professors.  This is hardly a prescription for success in today’s world.