The Creation of the Future: The Role of the American University

Rhodes, Frank H. T.
ISBN:
9780801439377

Is the university a dinosaur: huge, lumbering, endearing in its own way, yet unsuited to today's world? Is it a thing of the past, unnecessary in an age of the Internet and online learning? In a book likely to provoke people who are loyal to the ideal of the university as well as those who foresee its demise, Frank H. T. Rhodes acknowledges that the university is an imperfect institution, but argues that it plays an essential role in modern society. In the process, he articulates strong opinions on a range of difficult issues. The Creation of the Future is no defense or promotion of the status quo. Focusing on American research universities, Rhodes makes the case that they are an irreplaceable resource, quite literally a national and international treasure, whose value must be preserved through judicious renewal and reform, beginning with a rededication to teaching as a moral vocation. Rhodes discusses where the research university is today and how it got here, as well as where it must go in the future. In the process, he addresses a wide range of contemporary challenges facing the institution, including*why universities can no longer be "ivory towers"*why post-tenure review of professors is desirable*whether grading standards have become too lax*why unionization of graduate students is inappropriate*why affirmative action is necessary*how governance and leadership can be improved*how to maintain a sense of commitment to the university in the face of increasing disciplinary specialization*why faculty must affirm that university membership has not only its privileges, but also its price.*what should and should not be done to control the rapid rise in tuition.*whether curricula of professional schools should be more heavily weighted toward the liberal arts.*why service is a social obligation of all universities, not just land-grant institutions.*why research is vital to effective teaching.His eighteen-year tenure as president of Cornell University gives Rhodes a unique perspective on a system he finds both invaluable and in need of change. Although he is an enthusiastic advocate, he pulls no punches in recommending sweeping changes. The greatest catastrophe facing universities today, he writes, is loss of community: "Without community, knowledge becomes idiosyncratic. The lone learner, studying in isolation, is vulnerable to narrowness, dogmatism, and untested assumption; pursued in community, learning will be expansive and informed, contested by opposing interpretations, leavened by differing experience, and refined by alternative viewpoints."In championing a new relevance for the American research university, Rhodes argues for renewal through the application of old virtues to new realities. Campus culture, he says, must embrace the human experience in all its richness, breadth, and ambiguity if it is to survive and thrive. Editorial Reviews From the Publisher "The inadequacies of the academic advisory system are just one of the many university shortfalls that Rhodes chronicles. . . He picks a wide range of targets for his critique. . . For instance, he condemns the ever-increasing size of research universities for eroding a sense of community. . . Rhodes calls this a 'catastrophe.'. . . I feel I received a fine education at UConn. But like that of most research universities, where students often play second or third fiddle, it could have been better. . . Rhodes is a saint for pointing this out."--Jason Zalinger. The Washington Monthly, September 2001 "When it comes to universities, Frank Rhodes has pretty much seen it all. His vast experience covers the academic basis: professor, dean, academic vice president, long-time president of Cornell University. Rhodes knows the good, but he knows the bad and the different as well. . . . Rhodes provides a road map of the challenges that face universities now and for the foreseeable future. Significant change in the direction that he lays out (assuming such a course is possible) could risk the approval of universities' political and financial patrons. . . But such changes may be hastened by the contributions of more statesmen like Frank Rhodes, who can remind us of the better angels of our natures."--Robert M. Rosenzweig. Science, Vol. 294, October 2001 "Rhodes. . . draws on his experiences. . . to review the essential role universities play in modern society and to make recommendations for changes he believes are essential if they are to maintain public understanding and support."--Linda Grace-Kobas, Cornell Chronicle, October 18, 2001 "Ithaca is a company town and those who want a learned take on the future of higher education should read the Frank H.T. Rhodes book, The Creation of the Future: The Role of the American University. Its compelling recommendations shine even brighter in the wake of September 11 and a previously changing economy."--Ithaca (NY) Journal, November 2001 "The increasingly important role of knowledge in twenty-first-century society could create profound changes on university campuses, according to Frank H.T. Rhodes, president emeritus of Cornell University."--The Futurist, May-June 2002 "There is much to learn from this book, which will be a valuable read for all those involved in the enterprise of higher education, from presidents to students. . . . The book is a look into the soul of the modern American University, and as such, will leave the reader challenged and thoughtful."--Virginia Quarterly Review, Vol. 78, No. 3 "An engaging blend of history, anecdote, analysis, and recommendations, this book is noteworthy for being at once comprehensive and detailed in its consideration of problems, solutions, and opportunities. The chapter on the cost of higher education is itself worth the cost of the book, and more."--Dean Stanley Fish, University of Illinois at Chicago "One of the most authoritative and inspiring voices among contemporary educational leaders, Frank H.T. Rhodes is like E.O. Wilson whom he invoked in this book, an intellectual with an unwavering sense of calling and a 'storyteller'. In this book he provides us with fascinating --and eminently practical --insider's view of the modern university."--Diana Chapman Walsh, President Wellesley College "This splendid book represents for me the application of 'distilled wisdom' to our understanding of the nature of the modern research university and the issues that confront it. President Rhodes is unfailingly thoughtful and eloquent; those qualities are everywhere evident in this deceptively simple - and always readable - analysis of deep topics such as the meaning of 'community' in higher education today."--William G. Bowen, President, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation "Frank Rhodes tells the story of the modern American university, with an understanding drawn from deep personal experience. His treatment is thoughtfully upbeat, but doesn't flinch at diagnosing flaws and proposing remedies. It's a gem"--Donald Kennedy, President Emeritus, Stanford University Kirkus Reviews The research university the way it ought to be. Cornell president emeritus Rhodes offers a sanguine yet tough-minded analysis of the complex problems facing today's major research universities. Their current state has inspired a torrent of jeremiads: students are failing to learn, professors are failing to teach, administrators are failing to lead, etc. Taking aim at this onslaught of academic nay-saying, Rhodes muses over an impressive array of academe's problems with a critical eye and an optimistic outlook. He begins with a slapdash summary of the creation of five major institutions that profoundly influenced the development of the American research university, aiming to give the reader a historical perspective before proceeding to his considerations of the ills currently bedeviling the system. The heart of Rhodes's message is that the university, warts and all, plays an essential role in the creation and maintenance of today's society; it provides an invaluable resource to the American people, he argues, even when those benefits are not readily apparent. After a lifetime in the academy, Rhodes's perspective is unflinchingly bias

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