The New Education | Cathy N. Davidson

Summary of: The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World In Flux
By: Cathy N. Davidson


In ‘The New Education,’ Cathy N. Davidson delves into the history and evolution of the American higher education system and questions its effectiveness in today’s rapidly changing world. This summary explores the formation of universities by Charles Eliot, the integration of technology in the classroom, and the pitfalls of standardized testing. Key themes include the importance of teaching students to be adaptable and self-sufficient learners, the dangers of overemphasis on technology, and innovative approaches from community colleges and other higher learning facilities.

The Evolution of American College Education

Charles Eliot was instrumental in shaping the structure of American college education. He visited European universities and integrated their concepts of academic freedom and standardized curriculum into American colleges. He also established majors, minors, degree requirements, grades, general education, electives, graduate schools, financial aid, scholarships, entrance exams, tenure, sabbaticals, school rankings, optional prayer, and much more. Eliot led a movement that brought business and management theories into the design of the educational experience. However, the skills students require today differ from those needed in the 19th century. The higher education process needs to evolve to cater to our modern lives and prepare students to become independent and demanding researchers who can use an array of creative, critical, and computational methods to solve problems.

Technology & Education

Using technology in classrooms without updating teaching methods is limiting the full potential of education. Despite resistance to newer approaches throughout history, integrating technology can enhance learning experiences by shifting away from traditional lecture hall lessons. While some see technology as a distraction, it can be beneficial when used properly. Teaching students to utilize technology for research and learning prepares them to become better users of future technologies. In a digital age where information is readily available, classrooms can cater to other aspects of learning such as analyzing and critically evaluating material. The modern university’s focus on specialized knowledge production enables hierarchical structures, but social media’s rise has allowed students to contribute to the world in ways that matter. Now, more than ever, students can develop meaningful research and knowledge for a wider audience.

The Overhyped Promise of Online Education

The promise of revolutionizing education with technology hasn’t lived up to expectations. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) were launched with the hopes of providing accessible education to lift people out of poverty. However, fewer than 4% of students complete the courses. Colleges are spending billions on technology, often at the expense of faculty and course offerings. Technology is important, but institutions should prioritize deep, integrated learning and analysis across disciplines. We can’t forget that teachers still teach.

Innovative Leadership in Community Colleges

Gail Mellow, President of City University of New York’s LaGuardia Community College has established “Bossy Moms” program to support the students who have a 2.5 GPA to transition into professional life smoothly. The program provides a stipend for professional attire, admittance to cultural events, and transportation fare cards. The President’s Fellows also have access to separate professional training programs. Community colleges accept any high school graduate and provide remedial education to support those with inadequate secondary public education. Over half of the college-going students enroll in community colleges, and earning an associate’s degree can increase annual income by $5,400. Community colleges also accept students with criminal histories and provide educational programs inside prisons. Middle-class cultural literacy is essential to move students out of poverty by enabling them to fit into the careers they seek. Community colleges need to adapt their approach to the ever-changing educational needs of today’s students, making leadership and problem-solving critical aspects of their approach.

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