You don’t have to look too hard to find someone writing about the future of American higher education.  Everyone recognizes that “change” is in the air, but many don’t have much “hope.”

For another site, I wrote about a couple of proposals, which (taken together) amount to a call for the higher ed equivalent of Obamacare.  If you want to reflect some more on the politics of this, you could do worse than going here and here .  To those students and colleagues who would welcome an even larger federal role in higher education, I say: be careful what you wish for.  Someday (perhaps soon), the Republicans will be in charge.

Contributing in predictable ways to this political moment are those who look for ways to make what goes on inside those ivy-covered walls more appealing to an increasingly skeptical public.  The best example of the conventional wisdom I’ve seen was recommended to me (on Facebook) by my own institution’s public relations office.  This President of a small liberal arts college seems to want to turn his institution into a miniature urban service university:

What must such a re-imagining entail? Among the things we must pursue:

We must continue to champion “high impact practices” such as internships, independent study, community service, off-campus employment and study abroad experiences designed to deepen civic engagement.

We must connect with the communities in which we live and be a resource to solving community challenges. We must lead the way in creating sustainable communities, respectful of the environment and connected to local tradesmen and businesses.

We must recommit to “citizenship” as a foundation of the academy and model citizenship by addressing the real problems of our state, national and global communities.

We must bring the world to our campuses and ensure that our students have opportunities to learn through their engagement with the world.


There’s nothing in his little essay about inducting students into the Great Conversation, about leisure, or about quiet contemplation.  It’s all busyness .  Oh, for an Irish monastery !

Articles by Joseph Knippenberg

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