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ERIC Number: ED540342
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Sep
Pages: 92
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
Beach Books: 2011-2012. What Do Colleges and Universities Want Students to Read outside Class?
Thorne, Ashley
National Association of Scholars
What books do colleges and universities assign as common reading? What themes do the books contain? Are they old books or recent ones? What kinds of colleges and universities have common reading programs? What does a typical common reading program look like? What does all this tell us about the state of American higher education today? To find out, the author and her colleagues examined books assigned by 245 colleges and universities for the academic year 2011-2012. They found that they are, on the whole, recent, personal, race-focused, and unchallenging. Their main findings are: (1) Recent books trump the classics. Almost 90 percent of colleges chose books published since January 2000, and all but two selected books published since January 1972; (2) Only two books--one by Mark Twain and one by Aldous Huxley--are "classics" even in a broad sense; (3) "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" (2010) by Rebecca Skloot is by far the most popular book; and (4) Of the 100 colleges that selected books with a racial or ethnic theme, 60 chose books that focused on African Americans. Among the ways this year differs from last: more colleges assigned books with a Native American theme, fewer colleges assigned books about the Islamic World, and fewer colleges assigned classics. Colleges continue to ignore the best books when they make their selections for common reading. One likely reason for this is that Americans have eroded the distinction between high and low culture. Author Joseph Epstein writes in a recent "Wall Street Journal" book review that this distinction "started to break down once the works of contemporary authors began to be taught in universities." Its breakdown progressed with the rise of multiculturalism and the study of popular culture. The author encourages colleges to continue and to improve their common reading programs. She offers 11 recommendations to colleges for choosing better books and making the most of the common reading experience. She also offer a list of books she recommends for common reading. Appended are: (1) Key and Totals; (2) By Author; (3) By Institution Name; (4) By Institution Type; (5) Nationally Ranked Institutions (Listed by U.S. News & World Report); (6) Books Assigned at Multiple Institutions; and (7) Recommended Books for College Common Reading. (Contains 10 footnotes.)
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Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: National Association of Scholars (NAS)