Course Syllabus for Winter 2006 (pdf)
 

The Academic Paradox
University of Michigan
University Course 200
Winter Semester 2006 Tu Th 2:30-4:00 1528 CCL
Instructor: Prof. W. R. Neuman
Office 2050C Frieze rneuman@umich.edu

Have you given a lot of thought to why you are spending four years of your life and approximately $200,000 (of somebody’s money) to get a piece of paper certifying a degree from the University of Michigan? Maybe you’ve given it some thought, but probably not a lot. Your folks and your peers in high school expected that you would go to college, so you did. That’s usually about it. 

Are you utilizing this investment wisely while you’re in Ann Arbor? Are you taking the right courses? Since you’re not sure what you want to do, or why exactly you’re here, how could you know? The good news is that there are some useful and thought-provoking answers to such questions, many of them hidden in the nooks and crannies of liberal arts curriculum itself.

In this course students are challenged to apply the insights they have been learning from their study of history, sociology, psychology, economics and the humanities to their own current role as college student. A central theme concerns how the student role relates to succeeding roles in the institutional complex of modern society. One principal paradox that motivates this course of inquiry is the celebrated disjuncture between the abstract study of literature, sciences and the arts and the ‘practical knowledge base’ that one would expect draw upon most professional careers. In common parlance the word ‘merely academic’ translates as ‘mostly irrelevant.’ But as it turns out, empirically and practically, a liberal arts education represents an excellent preparation for most professional careers – a paradox that invites the student to internalize and make use of some of the central concepts from the liberal arts as valuable resources rather than arcane requirements and rites of passage.

Key Topical Areas:

  • Two Cultures: On the Tension Between the Humanities and Sciences
  • Education and Ethics: Is There a Linkage Between the Two?
  • The Evolution of the Modern University
  • The Evolution of the Modern Scholarly Discipline
  • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
  • The Meaning of Globalization
  • On Writing Well
  • Grading and Achievement
  • Students and Society
  • Those Who March Grimly on the Career Treadmill
  • Human Capital Theory
  • The Effects of Education
  • The Reproduction of Social Inequalities
  • The Psychology of Human Achievement
     

Course Requirements

There are no examinations in this class. Your grade will be based on a series of short writing assignments. Several assignments require you to react to lectures and readings; others challenge you to link lessons from your own life story with the themes of the course concerning education, careers and the life cycle.

Required texts:

Wilson, Edward O. (1998). Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge. New York, Knopf. Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition $10.20

Machiavelli, Niccolo ([1513] 1989). The Prince. New York, Prometheus  Bantam $4.50

Kuhn Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions  (1962) University of Chicago Press $9.75 3rd edition

Csikszenthmihalyi, Mihaly (1991). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York, Harper Collins. $10.50

*CP= Course Pack
         (Available at Excel 1117 S. University Avenue; Tel: 996-1500)


Weekly Reading and Course Assignments

Week 1: Jan 5 Introduction

CP: Schneider, Carol G. (2005). 'Liberal Education: Slip-sliding Away?' Pp. 61-76 in. Declining by Degrees : Higher Education at Risk. Richard H. Hersh and John Merrow. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

CP: Gregorian, Vartan (2005). 'Six Challenges to the American University' Pp. 77-96 in. Declining by Degrees : Higher Education at Risk. Richard H. Hersh and John Merrow. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Week 2: Jan 10 and 12 Two Cultures: On the Tension Between the Humanities and Sciences 

Wilson, Edward O. (1998). Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge. New York, Knopf. Pages 8-48

Week 3: Jan 17 and 19 Education and Ethics: Is There a Linkage Between the Two?  

Machiavelli, Niccolo ([1513] 1989). The Prince. New York, Prometheus. (entire)

CP: Axelrod, Robert, (1984). The Evolution of Cooperation. New York, Basic. (Pp: vii-24)

Week 4: Jan 24 and 26 The Evolution of the Modern University  

CP:  Perkin, Harold (1991) History of Universities (Pp:169-204 )in Altbach (ed.) International Higher Education. New York: Garland.

Week 5: Jan 30 and Feb 2 The Evolution of the Modern Scholarly Disciplines  

Wilson, Edward O. (1998). Consilience: New York, Knopf. (Pp: 49-71; 197-259)

Week 6: Feb 7 and 9 The Structure of Scientific Revolutions 

Kuhn, Thomas (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago, University of Chicago Press. (Pp: 1-110)

Week 7: Feb 14 and 16 The Meaning of Globalization  

          Start Lives and Careers Biographic Assignment

CP: Held, David, et al. (1999). Global Transformations : Politics, Economics and Culture. Stanford, Stanford University Press.( Pp:1-28)

CP: Reich, Robert B. (1991). ‘The Rise of the Symbolic Analyst’ in The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st-Century Capitalism. New York: Knopf. (Pp: 171-207)

Week 8: Feb 21 and 23 On Writing Well 

          Continue biography

CP: Elbow, Peter (1998). Writing Without Teachers. New York: Oxford Univeristy Press.(Pp: 48-75)

*********Spring Break************

Week 9: Mar 7 and 9 Grading and Achievement  

CP: Collins, Randall (1979). Credential Society: A Historical Sociology of Education and Stratification. New York, Academic Press. (Pp: 1-21)

Week 10: Mar 14 and 16 Students and Society 

          Finish biography

CP:  Gitlin, Todd (1993). The Sixties : Years of Hope, Days of Rage. New York: Bantam. (Pp: 81-104)

CP:  Altbach, Philip (1991) ‘Student Political Activism’) in Altbach (ed.) International Higher Education New York: Garland. (Pp:247-260)

Week 11 Mar 21 and 23 Those Who March Grimly on the Career Treadmill 

CP: Collins, Randall (1979). Credential Society: A Historical Sociology of Education and Stratification. New York, Academic Press. (Pp: 131-181)

Week 12: Mar 28 and 30 Human Capital Theory 

CP: Woodhall, Marueen ‘Human Capital Concepts’ in A. H Halsey et al. (eds.) Education: Culture, Economy, Society.(Pp:119- 223)

CP: Becker, Gary S. (1993). ’Human Capital Revisited’ in Human Capital. Chicago, The University of Chicago Press. (Pp:15-26 )

Week 13: Apr 4 and 6 The Effects of Higher Education 

CP: Pascarella, Ernest T. and Patrick T. Terenzini (1991) ‘Cognitive Skills and Intellectual Growth’ in How College Affects Students. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass. (Pp: 114-161 )

Week 14: Apr 11 and 13 The Reproduction of Social Inequalities 

CP: Reich, Robert B. (1991)’Why the Rich Are Getting Richer and the Poor, Poorer’ in The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st-Century Capitalism. New York: Knopf. (Pp: 208-240)

Week 15: Apr 18  The Psychology of Human Achievement 

Csikszenthmihalyi, Mihaly (1991) Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York, Harper Collins. (entire)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


(c) W. Russelll Neuman
Email)
rneuman@umich.edu
Phone) 734-615-8320