Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Arum and Roksa on life after college

The Chronicle of Higher Education has two articles — one, two — on Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s new book Aspiring Adults Adrift: Tentative Transitions of College Graduates, the sequel to Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (2011). The news is not good.

And here, also from this week’s Chronicle, are Arum and Roksa themselves:

We find it implausible that in a globalized knowledge economy, the current state of affairs will continue indefinitely. Not just because the growth in college costs is unsustainable, but also because legislators, families, and students will have difficulties justifying why resources are increasingly allocated not to improving instruction but to building new dormitories, student centers, and athletic facilities. While this might be an effective institutional strategy for attracting 17-year-olds as consumers and keeping them satisfied with “bread and circuses” once enrolled, it has produced a competition to provide the best amenities and student services money can buy and the least challenging academic demands and expectations.
I think of the reading list I created when I first taught a garden-variety freshman-lit class: Barthes’s Mythologies, The Turn of the Screw, Dubliners, A Confederacy of Dunces, The Blue and Brown Books — oh, and Don Quixote, all of it. Today that list would look like the dark dream of some horrible outlier.

A related post
A review of Academically Adrift

[Did the students read and get something from those works? They sure did. And Cervantes and Toole went together well.]

comments: 8

Fresca said...

A more tangential than relevant comment, maybe---but I was just recalling for a young friend some of the books I read as a 17 year old in a freshman comp-lit class:
A Sentimental Education (Flaubert),
Sorrows of Young Werther,
Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter (de Beauvoir)
Songs of Innocence and Experience

Only as I was telling her about them did I realize what a great round-up of books about growing up this was--and how well I remember them all 37 years later.

Though I expect I would have enjoyed and remember fondly a zip-line ride across campus too. :)

Michael Leddy said...

What a wonderful list. I get sad when freshman lit becomes nothing but short stories.

Frex said...

Short stories? Is that what freshman lit is these days? Good stories, anyway, I hope?

What do your students read?

As I was looking at my list again, it occurred to me that contemporary Y/A literature is often (not always) just a watery version of chewy stuff like Werther & Hamlet...
--Fresca (Frex)

Michael Leddy said...

It depends, really, but when the teaching involves one anthology in multiple sections, short stories can win out. When I teach freshman lit, which is rarely, I do a lot of poetry. I’ve sometimes done the course as the space of a lifetime, starting with Blake’s infant poems and ending with Margaret Edson’s Wit. It — the semester, the lifetime — goes by very quickly.

Frex said...

Ooh, that sounds fun---works from different times that span a lifetime! I loved reading Wit---even more than seeing it performed (not to mention the movie version).

May I ask, what work(s) do you choose to represent midlife?

Michael Leddy said...

Ones I remember:

W. B. Yeats, “The Wild Swans at Coole”
Frank O’Hara, “The Day Lady Died”
Lorine Niedecker, [Old Mother turns blue and from us,]
Marcel Proust, the passage about bal masqué
Robert Pete Williams, “Ugly” (blues song about aging)

Mostly about time and mortality.

Frex said...

Thank you!
I will look these up.

Between asking you the question and now, the only lit I could think of along these lines is Lewis Carroll's "You Are Old, Father William," which I think is one of the funniest things ever.

My favorite line, which sadly applies to me:
"You are old," said the youth, "As I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;"

Michael Leddy said...

I may have to use that. Oh, and to go with that poem, Thomas Hardy, “I Look into My Glass.”