- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (August 20, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 162040107X
- ISBN-13: 978-1620401071
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 23.2 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #599,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Why Teach?: In Defense of a Real Education 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
As he headed to college, Edmundson (Why Read?) told his father that he might pursue a prelaw track. Though he wasn't sure he wanted to be a lawyer, he figured that lawyers made decent money. His father, he says, detonated: He told me that I was going to college only once, and that while I was there I had better study what I wanted, which was literature. In this collection of 16 essays, some of which have appeared in Harper's and the New York Times, University of Virginia English professor Edmundson explores how higher education has devolved into a place where preprofessionalism is the order of the day; where the study of literature has become arid and abstract; and where universities behave like corporations, teachers like service providers, and students like customers. He offers, at turns, a meditation, a jeremiad, some musings, and some possible solutions. The questions (what to teach? what to study?) find answers in the values Edmundson discovers in becoming an English major: Love for language, hunger for life, openness and a quest for truth or truths. Addressing teachers, students, and parents, Edmundson defends the intellectual and spiritual value, even the usefulness, of the scholarly enclave and seeking knowledge so as to make the lives of other human beings better. (Aug.)
*Starred Review* Edmundson, professor of English at the University of Virginia, laments the erosion of a college education from a search for learning and meaning in life to a search for career training, online courses, and inflated grades. Exploring education’s changes in recent decades from a purely intellectual pursuit to one that is commercially driven, Edmundson points to demographic and market forces, including the decline in birthrates since the baby boom and the incredible competition for students that has resulted in treating students as consumers. As professors and colleges feel compelled to keep their customers happy, there is a decidedly adverse impact on the quality of education, with less emphasis on the philosophical and more on the practical or even the entertaining. The consumer ethos is overtaking even the left-leaning politics and political correctness that have so worried academia’s critics. He ends each essay with a declaration to fight against the trend (e.g., “No more laptops in class”). With literary references spanning from Homer to Joyce Carol Oates, Edmundson’s essays are filled with ideals, recollections, and poetry. To read this book is to experience just the kind of course Edmundson admires, one that provokes thought and self-examination. A heartfelt, beautifully written, profound, and often hilarious appeal to rage against the machinery of modern education. --Vanessa Bush
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Top customer reviews
Why learn? Mark Edmundson will spark or renew your thinking on education with this book.
In my opinion, the most compelling chapter was his satire on the typical student in contemporary education, "A Word to the New Humanities Professor." You don't need to be new to the game to appreciate the relevance for your own classroom. I particularly like his criticism of group work. It is deeply problematic that we are relinquishing our role as educator, or those meant to inspire change among our students, to the students themselves. There is a great deal to appreciate about this book. I was both encouraged and depressed when I finished it. It's a very casual read, but if you find yourself in a despairing moment, give it a go. You will be reminded of why you began your journey as an educator in the first place.
On a side note, for many years I have lived in Medford, Massachusetts, where Edmundson grew up and which he writes about wonderfully. He has indeed come a long way and he has his father, a handful of teachers and coaches, and Medford itself to thank for steering him in the right direction.