10 Books We’d Like to Find Under the Christmas Tree in 2021 | Beaufort County Now | One of my favorite projects at the Martin Center is the cultivation of our higher education library. So far, we’ve collected nearly 750 books about higher education and educational philosophy.

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    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of The James G. Martin Center. The author of this post is Jenna A. Robinson.

    One of my favorite projects at the Martin Center is the cultivation of our higher education library. So far, we've collected nearly 750 books about higher education and educational philosophy. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I vastly prefer to read books printed on paper instead of words on a screen; the Martin Center's growing library gives me great joy.

    This year, we added 50 new titles to our collection-many of which we reviewed on the Martin Center website. (You can view our catalog here).

    But our library is still far from complete. There are many classic and new books that we need to add to our shelves-and that I look forward to reading in the future. My goal is to have 850 books in the Martin Center library by the end of 2022.

    Here are ten that I'd love to find under the Christmas tree to help us reach that goal:

    The Battle of the Classics: How a Nineteenth-Century Debate Can Save the Humanities Today by Eric Adler (2020)

    From the editor:

    These are troubling days for the humanities. In response, a recent proliferation of works defending the humanities has emerged. But, taken together, what are these works really saying, and how persuasive do they prove? The Battle of the Classics demonstrates the crucial downsides of contemporary apologetics for the humanities and presents in its place a historically informed case for a different approach to rescuing the humanistic disciplines in higher education. It reopens the passionate debates about the classics that took place in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America as a springboard for crafting a novel foundation for the humanistic tradition.

    Making College Pay: An Economist Explains How to Make a Smart Bet on Higher Education by Beth Akers (2021)

    From the editor:

    The cost of college makes for frightening headlines. The outstanding balance of student loans is more than $1.5 trillion nationally, while tuitions continue to rise. And on the heels of a pandemic that nearly dismantled the traditional college experience, we have to wonder: Is college really worth it?

    From a financial perspective, says economist Beth Akers, the answer is yes...Yet these outcomes are not guaranteed. Rather, they hinge upon where and how you opt to invest your tuition dollars. Simply put, the real problem with college isn't the cost-it's the risk that your investment might not pay off.

    In Making College Pay, Akers shows how to improve your odds by making smart choices about where to enroll, what to study, and how to pay for it.


    Speaking of Universities by Stefan Collini (2018)

    From the editor:

    In recent decades there has been an immense global surge in the numbers both of universities and of students....New technology offers new ways of learning and teaching. Globalization forces institutions to consider a new economic horizon. At the same time, governments have systematically imposed new procedures regulating funding, governance, and assessment. Universities are being forced to behave more like business enterprises in a commercial marketplace than centers of learning.

    In Speaking of Universities, historian and critic Stefan Collini analyses these changes and challenges the assumptions of policy-makers and commentators. He asks: does "marketization" threaten to destroy what we most value about education; does this new era of "accountability" distort what it purports to measure; and who does the modern university belong to?


    What Universities Owe Democracy by Ronald J. Daniels (2021)

    From the editor:

    Universities play an indispensable role within modern democracies. But this role is often overlooked or too narrowly conceived, even by universities themselves. In What Universities Owe Democracy, Ronald J. Daniels, the president of Johns Hopkins University, argues that―at a moment when liberal democracy is endangered and more countries are heading toward autocracy than at any time in generations―it is critical for today's colleges and universities to reestablish their place in democracy.

    The Educated Imagination by Northrup Frye (1964)

    From the editor:

    Addressed to educators and general readers―the "consumers of literature" from all walks of life―this important new book explores the value and uses of literature in our time. Dr. Frye offers, in addition, challenging and stimulating ideas for the teaching of literature at lower school levels, designed both to promote an early interest and to lead the student to the knowledge and kaleidoscopic experience found in the study of literature.

    Dr. Frye's proposals for the teaching of literature include an early emphasis on poetry, the "central and original literary form," intensive study of the Bible, as literature, and the Greek and Latin classics, as these embody all the great enduring themes of western man, and study of the great literary forms: tragedy and comedy, romance and irony.


    The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization by Arthur Herman (2014)

    The definitive sequel to New York Times bestseller How the Scots Invented the Modern World is a magisterial account of how the two greatest thinkers of the ancient world, Plato and Aristotle, laid the foundations of Western culture-and how their rivalry shaped the essential features of our culture down to the present day...Accessible, riveting, and eloquently written, The Cave and the Light provides a stunning new perspective on the Western world, certain to open eyes and stir debate.

    The Attack on Higher Education: The Dissolution of the American University by Ronald G. Musto (2022)

    American higher education is under attack today as never before. A growing right-wing narrative portrays academia as corrupt, irrelevant, costly, and dangerous to both students and the nation. Budget cuts, attacks on liberal arts and humanities disciplines, faculty layoffs and retrenchments, technology displacements, corporatization, and campus closings have accelerated over the past decade. In this timely volume, Ronald Musto draws on historical precedent - Henry VIII's dissolution of British monasteries in the 1530s - for his study of the current threats to American higher education. He shows how a triad of forces - authority, separateness, and innovation - enabled monasteries to succeed, and then suddenly and unexpectedly to fail. Musto applies this analogy to contemporary academia. Despite higher education's vital centrality to American culture and economy, a powerful, anti-liberal narrative is severely damaging its reputation among parents, voters, and politicians. Musto offers a comprehensive account of this narrative from the mid-twentieth century to the present, as well as a new set of arguments to counter criticisms and rebuild the image of higher education.

    Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper (1952)

    From the editor:

    One of the most important philosophy titles published in the twentieth century, Josef Pieper's Leisure, the Basis of Culture is more significant, even more crucial, today than it was when it first appeared more than fifty years ago. This edition also includes his work The Philosophical Act. Leisure is an attitude of the mind and a condition of the soul that fosters a capacity to perceive the reality of the world. Pieper shows that the Greeks and medieval Europeans, understood the great value and importance of leisure. He also points out that religion can be born only in leisure - a leisure that allows time for the contemplation of the nature of God. Leisure has been, and always will be, the first foundation of any culture. Pieper maintains that our bourgeois world of total labor has vanquished leisure, and issues a startling warning: Unless we regain the art of silence and insight, the ability for non-activity, unless we substitute true leisure for our hectic amusements, we will destroy our culture - and ourselves.

    Indentured Students: How Government-Guaranteed Loans Left Generations Drowning in College Debt by Elizabeth Tandy Shermer (2021)

    From the editor:

    It didn't always take thirty years to pay off the cost of a bachelor's degree. Elizabeth Tandy Shermer untangles the history that brought us here and discovers that the story of skyrocketing college debt is not merely one of good intentions gone wrong. In fact, the federal student loan program was never supposed to make college affordable.

    Today 45 million Americans owe more than $1.5 trillion in college debt, with the burdens falling disproportionately on borrowers of color, particularly women. Reformers, meanwhile, have been frustrated by colleges and lenders too rich and powerful to contain. Indentured Students makes clear that these are not unforeseen consequences. The federal student loan system is working as designed.


    When Can You Trust the Experts?: How to Tell Good Science from Bad in Education by Daniel T. Willingham (1994)

    From the editor:

    Clear, easy principles to spot what's nonsense and what's reliable: Each year, teachers, administrators, and parents face a barrage of new education software, games, workbooks, and professional development programs purporting to be "based on the latest research." While some of these products are rooted in solid science, the research behind many others is grossly exaggerated. This new book, written by a top thought leader, helps everyday teachers, administrators, and family members-who don't have years of statistics courses under their belts-separate the wheat from the chaff and determine which new educational approaches are scientifically supported and worth adopting.

    It may be too late for Santa to wrap these books in time for Christmas morning. But it's not too late to donate one of them before the end of the year. If you would like to make an end-of-year book donation to the Martin Center, you can buy any of the ones listed above (or another of your choice) from the Martin Center's Amazon Wishlist.


    Thank you for reading our work and supporting us throughout the year.

    Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night-from all of us at the Martin Center.

    Jenna A. Robinson is president of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.
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