PUP books on College

Students at the college that I attend know that it’s truly spring when high school seniors visit campus in flocks- no, in army sized battalions- for Accepted Students Day. Yesterday my college’s campus was filled to the rim with high schoolers and their parents, and for those students choosing to go to college, soon they will have to decide which colleges they will be attending in fall 2013.

College is undoubtedly the best time of your life. There will never be another time when you have limited responsibilities and, for the most part, total freedom. PUP has some great reads on what college is like now and what it could be like in the future. Here’s a list of some college related reading from PUP!

1. College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be by Andrew Delbanco- For so many, the point of college is to get a degree so that you can get a job. While this is the attitude held by many today, this is not what college was initially designed to achieve.

As the commercialization of American higher education accelerates, more and more students are coming to college with the narrow aim of obtaining a preprofessional credential. The traditional four-year college experience–an exploratory time for students to discover their passions and test ideas and values with the help of teachers and peers–is in danger of becoming a thing of the past.

In College, prominent cultural critic Andrew Delbanco offers a trenchant defense of such an education, and warns that it is becoming a privilege reserved for the relatively rich. In arguing for what a true college education should be, he demonstrates why making it available to as many young people as possible remains central to America’s democratic promise.

In a brisk and vivid historical narrative, Delbanco explains how the idea of college arose in the colonial period from the Puritan idea of the gathered church, how it struggled to survive in the nineteenth century in the shadow of the new research universities, and how, in the twentieth century, it slowly opened its doors to women, minorities, and students from low-income families. He describes the unique strengths of America’s colleges in our era of globalization and, while recognizing the growing centrality of science, technology, and vocational subjects in the curriculum, he mounts a vigorous defense of a broadly humanistic education for all. Acknowledging the serious financial, intellectual, and ethical challenges that all colleges face today, Delbanco considers what is at stake in the urgent effort to protect these venerable institutions for future generations.

2. Higher Education in the Digital Age by William G. Bowen- While Delbanco looks at what college used to be like in the past, William Bowen discusses what higher education looks like today in the digital age and where technology may lead us for the future.

Two of the most visible and important trends in higher education today are its exploding costs and the rapid expansion of online learning. Could the growth in online courses slow the rising cost of college and help solve the crisis of affordability? In this short and incisive book, William G. Bowen, one of the foremost experts on the intersection of education and economics, explains why, despite his earlier skepticism, he now believes technology has the potential to help rein in costs without negatively affecting student learning. As a former president of Princeton University, an economist, and author of many books on education, including the acclaimed bestseller The Shape of the River, Bowen speaks with unique expertise on the subject.

Surveying the dizzying array of new technology-based teaching and learning initiatives, including the highly publicized emergence of “massive open online courses” (MOOCs), Bowen argues that such technologies could transform traditional higher education–allowing it at last to curb rising costs by increasing productivity, while preserving quality and protecting core values. But the challenges, which are organizational and philosophical as much as technological, are daunting. They include providing hard evidence of whether online education is cost-effective in various settings, rethinking the governance and decision-making structures of higher education, and developing customizable technological platforms. Yet, Bowen remains optimistic that the potential payoff is great.

3. Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More by Derek Bok- Are we actually learning what we should be learning in college? Bok explores the challenges that academic institutions face in trying to help students accomplish more.

Drawing on a large body of empirical evidence, former Harvard President Derek Bok examines how much progress college students actually make toward widely accepted goals of undergraduate education. His conclusions are sobering. Although most students make gains in many important respects, they improve much less than they should in such important areas as writing, critical thinking, quantitative skills, and moral reasoning. Large majorities of college seniors do not feel that they have made substantial progress in speaking a foreign language, acquiring cultural and aesthetic interests, or learning what they need to know to become active and informed citizens. Overall, despite their vastly increased resources, more powerful technology, and hundreds of new courses, colleges cannot be confident that students are learning more than they did fifty years ago.

Looking further, Bok finds that many important college courses are left to the least experienced teachers and that most professors continue to teach in ways that have proven to be less effective than other available methods. In reviewing their educational programs, however, faculties typically ignore this evidence. Instead, they spend most of their time discussing what courses to require, although the lasting impact of college will almost certainly depend much more on how the courses are taught.

In his final chapter, Bok describes the changes that faculties and academic leaders can make to help students accomplish more. Without ignoring the contributions that America’s colleges have made, Bok delivers a powerful critique–one that educators will ignore at their peril.

4. Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities by William G. Bowen, Matthew M. Chingos & Michael S. McPherson- I think everyone has had that one professor who told you to look to your left and to your right, and that only one of you would make it out alive from that class. Today less than 60% of students in American universities graduate. Why does this happen?

The United States has long been a model for accessible, affordable education, as exemplified by the country’s public universities. And yet less than 60 percent of the students entering American universities today are graduating. Why is this happening, and what can be done? Crossing the Finish Line provides the most detailed exploration ever of college completion at America’s public universities. This groundbreaking book sheds light on such serious issues as dropout rates linked to race, gender, and socioeconomic status.

Probing graduation rates at twenty-one flagship public universities and four statewide systems of public higher education, the authors focus on the progress of students in the entering class of 1999–from entry to graduation, transfer, or withdrawal. They examine the effects of parental education, family income, race and gender, high school grades, test scores, financial aid, and characteristics of universities attended (especially their selectivity). The conclusions are compelling: minority students and students from poor families have markedly lower graduation rates–and take longer to earn degrees–even when other variables are taken into account. Noting the strong performance of transfer students and the effects of financial constraints on student retention, the authors call for improved transfer and financial aid policies, and suggest ways of improving the sorting processes that match students to institutions.

Stanford announces partnership with edX making progress for Higher Education in the Digital Age

I can do everything I need to do from the comfort of my couch. I can order groceries to be delivered to my house, talk to my friends, and write a collaborative paper all online. Today we can do all sorts of things on-line- including getting an education. William G. Bowen, president emeritus of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Princeton University, explains what he believes are the benefits of technology in higher education in his new book Higher Education in the Digital Age.

Stanford University announced today that they will be teaming up with edX- a massive open online course (MOOC) platform that offers university-level courses online. The Washington Post reports that Anant Argarwal, president of edX “envisions that any school or company could use it to mount a course, part of what he calls a ‘true, planet-scale democratization of education.’”

Bowen believes that this type of technology can transform higher education by making it more accessible and cost-efficient while still being able to provide quality education. He recognizes the potential downsides of the future of online learning and notes in an article for Inside Higher Ed, “One of the issues is really an equity issue, at the end of the day, will the gap between haves and have-nots be narrowed or widened by this development.”

Plenty of people I know take classes online as their primary route to education and others take classes online in addition to going to physical classes. As online courses and MOOC platforms become more and more prevalent, maybe more of us will be taking classes from the comfort of our couches.

College by Andrew Delbanco wins the 2013 Philip E. Frandson Award for Literature in the Field of Continuing Education

Delbanco_CollegePlease join us in congratulating Andrew Delbanco, author of College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be.

The book has just been named winner of the 2013 Philip E. Frandson Award for Literature in the Field of Continuing Education, University Professional and Continuing Education Association.  The award “recognizes the author and publisher of an outstanding work of continuing higher education literature.”


This is the THIRD consecutive year that PUP has won the Frandson Award. Previous winners include Taylor Walsh, Unlocking the Gates (2012) and Ben Wildavsky, The Great Brain Race (2011).

Amy Binder on MSNBC’s “The Cycle”

Amy Binder, co-author with Kate Wood of Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young Conservatives, was on the guest spot of MSNBC’s “The Cycle” to debunk myths about conservative undergraduates:

Inspiring Effective Thinking – a new ignite session

A fan of The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking created this ignite session based around the ideas of the book:

Watch the video and then make sure you pick up the book for loads of additional information and activities.




The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking
Edward B. Burger & Michael Starbird

Ed Burger describes The 5 Elements of Thinking on WNYT-TV over the weekend


You can also read Ed’s new article at The Huffington Post here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/edward-burger/effective-thinking_b_1951028.html



The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking
Edward B. Burger & Michael Starbird





In the News: The Messy Matter of “Screened” High Schools in New York City

bookjacketWith news out today that the NAACP intends to ” file a complaint on Thursday over the admissions test at New York City’s specialized high schools, among the nation’s most elite public schools, citing effective discrimination against black and Latino students,” education experts Checker Finn and Jessica Hockett are poised to offer key insight into the “messy matter” of  exam-based admissions at selective schools in New York City.


Finn and Hockett conducted the first-ever study of selective public high schools, the so-called “exam schools” and their findings are essential background for anyone interested in learning more about the NAACP complaint.


Here we present several key excerpts from their book Exam Schools: Inside America’s Most Selective Public High Schools as well as some info graphics comparing the demographics at public high schools and selective public high schools across the nation and for New York City.


Graphic: The Demographics of Public and Selective Public High Schools


Excerpt 1: The Messy Matter of “Screened” High Schools in New York City


New York’s high school landscape presented a unique challenge for our list. The city uses a complex application-and-placement system for all of its 600+ high school programs, and hundreds of those programs (and entire schools) are “screened,” meaning that those running them set various criteria or preconditions for admission to them. Sometimes those criteria involve prior academic accomplishment, but such prerequisites are set at various levels. About 75 such programs technically meet all six of our criteria, but in many cases their academic bar is set low. To make sure that our list was not overwhelmed by the largest city in the country—and to make sure that we identified within that city the schools that are its most academically selective—we included only those screened schools that require applicants to have minimum scores of 85 percent on the state assessments. This yielded fifteen “screened” high schools, in addition to the city’s eight specialized high schools that base their admission entirely on scores on their own separate test.


Excerpt 2: The Admissions Maze

Despite tight quarters in a city where space is always hard to come by, Townsend Harris High School [in Queens, for example], is flooded with eager applicants (about 5,000 for 270 9th-grade openings), of whom many (around 1,200) meet it’s very demanding threshold requirements for admission. THHS does not, however, control its own admissions—though it wields considerable influence over who ends up enrolling.

Since 2004, New York City’s method for matching 8th graders with places in the system’s 650-odd high school programs in almost 400 buildings has been, in its way, rational and generally fair, but it’s also seriously complicated. It’s intended to foster school choice on a citywide basis and to minimize “gaming” and influence peddling en route into Gotham’s competitive-admission schools and programs.

Unless they want to attend one of the city’s twenty-some charter high schools or its myriad private and parochial schools, every 8th grader in New York must pass through a centralized placement system before landing somewhere for 9th grade. There’s no longer an automatic de- fault into a “zoned” or neighborhood high school.

Modeled on the medical field’s “match” procedure for placing newly minted doctors in residency programs in specialties of their choice, the New York system asks every 8th grader to list twelve high school pro- grams in order of preference. Many of these are open to all comers and listing one of them as top choice pretty much guarantees entry into it. But hundreds of programs and schools (including Townsend Harris) are “screened,” meaning that those running such a school or program establish its admission prerequisites and then rank their (eligible) applicants in order of the school’s preference, based on its own distinctive criteria.  The school doesn’t know where the applicant ranked it, and the applicant doesn’t know where the “screened” school to which he/ she applied ranked him/her. Then the “big computer in the sky” seeks to match students with programs in order of each’s preference for the other. After all this, the student receives a single placement.

This works pretty well for most kids. City data indicate that some 83 percent of applicants (for 2011–12 high school entry) got one of their top five choices and another 9 percent got one of their other choices. But, for  a host  of reasons,  almost  one-tenth of 8th  graders  fail to “match”  anywhere during  the main  selection  cycle and must  present themselves in person to arrange individual placements—rarely into desirable screened programs—by  the Education Department’s Office of Student Enrollment.

High-demand academic schools face a different  problem—and  complicating wrinkle—namely,  that  the city also operates what  amounts to a parallel  admissions process  for nine  of its most competitive  high schools, including  the illustrious  original big three: Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech. These plus five newer academic high schools have their admissions determined strictly by student scores on the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT), which some 28,000 youngsters take each year and for which many eager families spend serious money to “prep” their children, as if for the SAT. These Specialized High Schools have statutory protection—indeed, a legislative mandate— to admit pupils solely on the basis of [this] special test (though LaGuardia also requires auditions). The relevant amendment to the New York State Education Code dates to 1971, when there were demands to do away with these “elitist” institutions and their “culturally biased” entrance exam. Two Bronx legislators managed to get enacted a bill that says “Admission to [these schools] shall be solely and exclusively by taking a competitive, objective and scholastic achievement examination…. No candidate may be admitted to a special high school unless he [sic] has successfully achieved a score above the cut- off score for the openings in the school for which he has taken the examination.” The political trade- off was creation of a “Discovery Program” to assist disadvantaged and minority youngsters to prepare for the competitive exam, although that program seems to have fallen by the wayside. [Still] this separate admissions system enables students to apply to both the test-based  schools and the regular 600+ high school programs, and it’s possible to end up being matched with one of each.

That’s what happens to many THHS applicants, which is why this school’s “yield”—those who actually enroll there—is about half of the 600 or so kids who are matched to it. The other half wind up attending one of the “exam” schools or a private school. The reason, of course, is that Townsend Harris’s applicant pool contains many of the same kids who are applying, and often getting admitted, to Stuyvesant and the other “exam” schools.


© 2012 by Princeton University Press. All rights reserved.



Exam Schools
Inside America’s Most Selective Public High Schools

Chester E. Finn, Jr. & Jessica A. Hockett

“Could, and should . . . academically selective public high schools play a more expansive role in educating the nation’s high-potential, high-achieving students[?] These are some of the questions that longtime education pundit Checker Finn, joined by educational consultant Jessica Hockett, set out to answer in their book.”–Erik Robelen, Education Week

“[E]ye-opening . . .”–Jay Mathews, Washington Post

Official #ExamSchools trailer–Checker Finn on three myths about selective public high schools




Exam Schools:
Inside America’s Most Selective Public High Schools
Chester E. Finn, Jr. & Jessica A. Hockett

#ExamSchools featured in op-ed in New York Times

Are Exam Schools an under-appreciated resource that could serve thousands more high achieving youngsters? Checker Finn argues that current education policies like NCLB virtually ignore high-potential students and this “doesn’t just deny individuals opportunities they deserve. It also imperils the country’s future supply of scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs.”

BARACK OBAMA and Mitt Romney both attended elite private high schools. Both are undeniably smart and well educated and owe much of their success to the strong foundation laid by excellent schools.

Every motivated, high-potential young American deserves a similar opportunity. But the majority of very smart kids lack the wherewithal to enroll in rigorous private schools. They depend on public education to prepare them for life. Yet that system is failing to create enough opportunities for hundreds of thousands of these high-potential girls and boys.

Mostly, the system ignores them, with policies and budget priorities that concentrate on raising the floor under low-achieving students. A good and necessary thing to do, yes, but we’ve failed to raise the ceiling for those already well above the floor.

Read more over at the NY Times op-ed pages.


Exam Schools:
Inside America’s Most Selective Public High Schools
Chester E. Finn, Jr. & Jessica A. Hockett

Dana Mackenzie gets the school year started…


It’s back to school time, and today is triple maths. Dana Mackenzie, author of The Universe in Zero Words: The Story of Mathematics as Told through Equations shares his knowledge of maths and the history of maths in three little podcasts by RTE Lyric FM Culture File.



FACT: “China has pushed to increase both the quantity of students and the quality of its universities. The total number of undergraduate and graduate degrees quadrupled from 1999 to 2005, while the government spent more than 30 billion yuan
($4.4 billion at 2009 conversion rates) on a group of forty leading universities in an effort to vault them into the top tier worldwide.”

The Great Brain Race:
How Global Universities Are Reshaping the World

by Ben Wildavsky
With a new preface by the author

In The Great Brain Race, former U.S. News & World Report education editor Ben Wildavsky presents the first popular account of how international competition for the brightest minds is transforming the world of higher education—and why this revolution should be welcomed, not feared. Every year, nearly three million international students study outside of their home countries, a 40 percent increase since 1999. Newly created or expanded universities in China, India, and Saudi Arabia are competing with the likes of Harvard and Oxford for faculty, students, and research preeminence. Satellite campuses of Western universities are springing up from Abu Dhabi and Singapore to South Africa. Wildavsky shows that as international universities strive to become world-class, the new global education marketplace is providing more opportunities to more people than ever before.

Drawing on extensive reporting in China, India, the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, Wildavsky chronicles the unprecedented international mobility of students and faculty, the rapid spread of branch campuses, the growth of for-profit universities, and the remarkable international expansion of college rankings. Some university and government officials see the rise of worldwide academic competition as a threat, going so far as to limit student mobility or thwart cross-border university expansion. But Wildavsky argues that this scholarly marketplace is creating a new global meritocracy, one in which the spread of knowledge benefits everyone—both educationally and economically. In a new preface, Wildavsky discusses some of the notable developments in global higher education since the book was first published.

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9694.pdf

The Five Elements of Effective Electing–a guide from Edward Burger

If you’ve ever wondered if the way you’re thinking about things is holding you back, The Five Elements of Effective Thinking  is a must-read. Written by the acclaimed teacher and mathematician Edward Burger—a man whose electrifying teaching style has won him countless awards—the book teaches strategic goals for using our minds to realize goals effectively, creatively, and more successfully. Today Burger takes a specific look at how we’re thinking about voting, offering an alternative to heading to the polls armed with sound bites, our preconceptions, and little else (or, as Jason Brennan would call it, being a bad voter.) Check out Burger’s post here:


The Five Elements of Effective Electing

Edward Burger


This fall, the US will once again decide its fate by selecting its next batch of national, state, and local government leaders.  In 2008, the previous presidential election year, voter turnout was a whopping 57% of the voting-age population. Using modern political math, that works out to nearly 8 out of every 10 man, woman, and child. If you happen to be one of those patriotic citizens who plans on doing his or her civic duty on November 6 by pulling a lever, “X”-ing a box, or punching a chad, then the 64,000-dollar question (or with the help of today’s Super PACs, the 3.2 billion-dollar question) is: For whom will you vote?

Very recently I co-authored, with Michael Starbird, a tiny but practical guide to better thinking entitled, The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking. It offers everyone—students, teachers, parents, professionals, and life-long learners—the opportunity to “make up” their own minds and better tap their creativity and imagination through stories and examples as well as concrete action-items that can be directly applied to any circumstance and that can become useful habits to provoke thought. Here I briefly apply some of the lessons we developed to offer a straightforward way of determining your ideal candidate.

Identify and understand the issues that matter. The cost of a candidate’s haircut or a particularly fetching outfit’s designer might not be on the top of your list of issues that truly matter. Despite the topics on which the media or even the candidates themselves decide to focus, you need to determine which issues are important to you—whether they be social, national security, or financial issues, or issues that directly impact your community or family. Don’t let the media dictate what’s important to you. Work hard to deeply understand those issues you identified as well as why you’ve embraced the views you have. Invest the time to prioritize those issues so you know what matters most to you. Focus on the essentials.

Observe how well the candidates fail. Anyone who strives to be imaginative, creative, or bold will eventually make a misstep.  If your candidate has never failed, ask yourself, what—if anything—has that person been doing? If your candidate has failed, determine what lessons that person has learned from that experience. Study how the candidates evolved and moved, and decide if you agree with those corrected paths. Failing—unintentionally or deliberately—presents one with a great gift: the opportunity to learn, grow, and innovate. Discover exactly what the candidates have done in the past when they’ve stumbled upon or purposely solicited such a “gift.” If failing did not provoke a new insight or change in thinking, then you might want to keep shopping for candidates. Failure is a fantastic tool for moving forward.

Ask the right questions. Many questions will be hurled at the candidates and it’s often entertaining to watch politicians uncomfortably squirm or use the Teflon-approach and dodge those speeding queries faster than the man of steal. But by watching that drama unfold on-line or on TV, you are merely a passive listener. Instead, become an active listener: Create your own questions as you listen to the candidates or as you read their platforms and proposals. Even if you’re not one of the lucky few who actually get to directly question those politicians, you should still deliberately raise those questions in your mind.  Then discover who addresses those issues and assess their stands. By doing so, you are custom-tailoring the campaigns to your interests, concerns, and values. Become an active listener: Hear what is said, and often more importantly, take note of what is missing.

Determine where we’ve been and where you think we should go. One of the quotes that inevitably surfaces during a presidential campaign is: “This is the most important election in this country’s history.” Unless our voting district is Lake Woebegone, every presidential election cannot be the most important ever.  A more accurate and less melodramatic statement might be, “This is an extremely important election in this country’s future.” It is not wise to view an event or issue as sitting alone in a vacuum of a single moment in history (even if it’s touted as, “the most important”). You need to examine everything within context: From where we are emerging, to where we are today and where we need to go.  With presidential politics, it’s essential to look back (both long-term and short-term) and articulate the gains we’ve made as well as the losses we’ve incurred. Then you can thoughtfully assess our current state, define local and global directions in which to move forward, and find the candidate that shares that similar vision. Always focus on the flow—what’s past, what’s the here and now, and what’s next.

Decide how you want to change. By following the four previous modes of thinking, you will be transformed—you will realize new insights, identify other points of view, uncover unintended consequences, and even generate original thoughts. Through this process, you will not only quietly and clearly discover to your ideal candidate, but you will also discover your ideal self.

Focusing solely on sound bites, political pundits, and commercials is tantamount to flipping a coin in the voting booth or even worse, mindlessly handing your vote over to the loudest voice. Instead, cast your vote effectively and intelligently. As Mike Starbird and I wrote in the last chapter of our book:

When the American Founding Fathers imagined a democracy that would reflect the will of the people, the people they envisioned were thoughtful, independent-thinking citizens who would understand the issues of their day and would turn their own clear wisdom to making sound decisions for the benefit of society. Surely more than ever, the world needs thoughtful voices—voices that can ignore the bombast and heat of shallow excitement and focus instead on thinking calmly and sensibly about long-term goals and consequences. These elements of effective thinking will help you to become a quintessential citizen of the world—contributing personally and professionally, locally and globally.

Edward Burger can be reached at  eburger@williams.edu and followed (on Twitter) @ebb663. For more information about The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking, visit www.elementsofthinking.com or follow @5thinking. Burger is the Francis Christopher Oakley Third Century Professor of Mathematics at Williams College, an educational and business consultant, and most recently served as Vice Provost for Strategic Educational Initiatives at Baylor University. He is the author of over 60 research articles, books, and video series (starring in over 3,000 on-line videos). Among his many awards and honors, the Huffington Post named him one of their 2010 Game Changers; “HuffPost’s Game Changers salutes 100 innovators, visionaries, mavericks, and leaders who are reshaping their fields and changing the world.” In 2012, Microsoft Worldwide Education selected him as one of their “Heroes in Education”.