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Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 31, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Taylor expands on his controversial 2009 op-ed essay in the New York Times that questioned long-standing traditions and practices of American universities, from tenure to strict delineation of academic departments. Worries about outdated practices in higher education are exacerbated by shrinking endowments of universities hurt by the financial crisis, a crisis threatening the very existence of some institutions. Taylor begins with a historical perspective, including Immanuel Kant’s enduring vision of the university and the evolution to overspecialization that drives academic disciplines, tenure, and the valuing of research over teaching. Drawing on his experiences at Williams College and Columbia University, Taylor also offers examples of creative solutions from multidisciplinary courses taught by shared faculty to teleconferencing technology. Universities might also consider partnering with other universities, museums, and think tanks and even franchising universities globally. Taylor argues passionately for more open ideas on what is valuable to learn, in what format and through what methods, for a generation raised on the Internet and iPods. --Vanessa Bush


“Mark Taylor—a deeply original scholar and nationally celebrated teacher—sees American higher education as a bubble about to burst. For your students’ sake, your teachers’ sake, your childrens’ sake, and your country’s sake, read this book while there is still time.”
            -Jack Miles
“Sure to provoke heated debate, this book convincingly tells us what we don’t want to hear: our colleges and universities are no longer sustainable—either financially or programmatically. Mark Taylor provocatively calls for big changes, both in how we use technology to help deliver educational services and in the role of professors. We should pay attention, or we will pay an enormous price.”
            -Joel Klein, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education
“One of the jobs of a public intellectual is to warn us when he sees a fast-approaching freight train bearing down on us. In Crisis on Campus, Mark Taylor does that and much more. He offers specific and often radical suggestions about how to make higher education more fulfilling for students and more relevant to the networked world of the 21st century.”
            -Bill Bradley
“This is a book that needed to be written and one that must be read. Mark Taylor not only reveals an unclothed emperor; he also provides guidance to those of us who would properly serve as weavers. The only thing better than reading this book would be to have written it.”
            -E. Gordon Gee, President of the Ohio State University
“Feisty . . . Measured in tone but devastating.”
            -Christopher Shea, The New York Times Book Review
“Provocative . . . Cogent . . . Taylor has written a manifesto informed by his experience and dedication to innovative higher education, and he has pointed us to fundamental problems that must be addressed.  We should be grateful.”
            -Michael S. Roth, The Los Angeles Times
“At heart, Taylor has an old-fashioned sense of what it takes for students to become good writers and good thinkers: for starters, a lot of practice at writing and thinking . . . Technology can’t make a better curriculum: that will have to come from reformers who, like Taylor, have not forgotten the value of good thinking, good writing and a well-argued essay.”
            -Naomi Schaefer Riley, The Wall Street Journal
“Taylor demonstrates an exuberant willingness to take on academic conventions . . . His innovative proposals will generate thoughtful, occasionally angry responses from academic leaders and interested laypeople alike. Serious, challenging, and well-written.”
            -Library Journal
“Taylor’s tone is neither whimsical nor utopian . . . He writes with urgency and conviction . . . Highly provocative and certain to stimulate.”
“His radical proposals notwithstanding, Taylor’s dedication to scholarship and his concern for students is profound.”
            -Publishers Weekly
“Taylor argues passionately for more open ideas on what is valuable to learn, in what format and through what methods, for a generation raised on the Internet and iPods.”


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (August 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307593290
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307593290
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #464,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Kim on March 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover

Concise: 221 small pages with big font.

Provocative: Big ideas and insightful critiques of the higher ed labor market, curriculum, organizational structure etc.

Passionate: Taylor is passionate about teaching and learning, and believes that institutions of higher learning must evolve and reform to continue to thrive.


Solutions: Proposed solutions, beyond dismantling tenure (for the non-tenured) do not address fundamental issues of cost and access.

Ahistorical: The current state of higher ed is not placed within an historical context, making analysis of issues and problems less informative.

Economics: The economic aspects of higher ed are not analyzed. Chapter on tuition focusses on "sticker" price, not accounting for true costs of tuition.


Book Club: Great book to a campus book club - will get lots of discussion.

Speaker: I bet Taylor would make a great speaker on campus.

Readable: Book is short and an easy read - good chance that people will read for a discussion.


Elite Bias: Taylor seems to be writing primarily for institutions similar to where he has taught (Williams, Columbia) - failing to address the state of community colleges and other Institutions

For-Profits Excluded: Limited discussion of the role of for-profits in the educational landscape.

Limited Examples: 'Crisis on Campus' would have benefited from more examples of innovative institutions, programs, and leaders in higher education.

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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Brian H. Fiedler on September 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In several places, the author drops in cliches, such as the need for students to study foreign cultures, for the purpose of enhancing their chances for success in the global economy. (I suppose to merely advocate the benefits of understanding various sorts of people, independent of which foreign culture they are embedded in, wouldn't generate as much justification for higher education). Then at the end of the book we get a forecast for the year 2020, with a somewhat cloying vignette of a young American, Luke, who has become fascinated with Islam because of an online course that he took in high school. Luke aspires to attend the NYU campus in Abu Dhabi, bypassing traditional aspirations for such institutions as Columbia or Williams. In his online learning experience with Islamic students "He is surprised not only by their differences but also by how much they share. His new friends like many of the same films and much of the same music, and have many of the same fears and hopes that he does." Well, the author is a Professor of Religious Studies, so by habit he probably cannot resist poking at any understanding we have formed about diversity. And to think that other university professors, who had researched cultural diversity, teach us that that Islamic people generally don't admire American films or pop culture. If diversity education is so complicated and ever changing, maybe students should spend their tuition money on other courses, until the diversity principles are more thoroughly established.

By coincidence, at the time I was finishing the book, the 09/20/2010 edition of Newsweek arrived with an article titled "The trouble with going global". The NYU venture in Abu Dhabi campus does not get favorable reviews. Harassment of human-rights activists is mentioned.
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27 of 38 people found the following review helpful By George Bush HALL OF FAME on September 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Taylor picked a topic with plenty of material to write about; unfortunately, "Crisis on Campus" covers little, and does so superficially and with little or no data. He asserts that it is no longer preparing students for life after graduation, but provides only generalities and trivial points to back that up. Taylor also references the large amount of resources taken up conducting research with little or no value, but again fails to detail this with examples of arcane research or the costs involved. Taylor also fails to detail the problems of faked and distorted research, especially in the health care area. Rising student costs are clearly detailed, but not coupled with typical graduate starting salaries, nor does he address the frequent canard that claims the investment provides high returns. "Too many PhD graduates are being produced," purportedly evidenced by the growth of applications over four years for 3-4 postdoctoral fellowships at Columbia from 300 to 1,000. Taylor continues to propose ending tenure, yet bemoans the fact that only 35% of college/university positions are 'tenure-track;'(perhaps he meant 'permanent positions.'

The financial condition of 114 privates failed to meet DOE guidelines in 2009, but readers are left guessing what those guidelines emphasize or require. Harvard's debt was $6 billion that same year - so what, its endowment is much, much larger. Public university tax support is now less than 10% for many - how many, and what was the average prior level of support? Twelve percent of mail carriers have college degrees - ridiculous, but he doesn't cite other courses reporting that only 51% of graduates take jobs requiring a degree, down from 59% in 2000.
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