A heartfelt, well-documented exposé of a major rip-off that debases education in several important ways.

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UNIVERSITY, INC.

THE CORPORATE CORRUPTION OF HIGHER EDUCATION

Intellectual property, developed in the biology and electronics labs of our great universities, is being methodically transferred to industry, reports independent scholar and journalist Washburn.

For the past two decades or so, she argues in her first book, institutions of higher learning have sold out the public weal for private wealth. The sciences, generally sponsored by big business, do quite well while the humanities lose in scholastic budget battles. It’s not Chaucer who pays the bills. On campus, research comes before science teaching; targeted study supports corporate needs; proprietary and secret investigations are replacing platform research and shared information. Supported by federal legislation, researchers simultaneously serve two masters: their educational institutions and the mighty corporate sponsors that fund their studies. These researchers frequently have personal financial interests in the results of their often-tainted science. In exchange for cash, stock, and corporate titles, the sponsors retain important rights in the studies, including control of journal reports. Big money is involved, and no one should be surprised that virtually every college, from mighty Ivy League to little land-grant school, boasts its own active technology-transfer office, eager to provide facilities and contracts. Beside ghostwritten reports and bad mentoring, the results may include flawed protocols and fatally mistreated human test subjects. The free marketplace of information, the historic core of science, is going out of business. Instead, short-term aims clothed in proprietary secrecy are on sale (for considerable fees) with an academic imprimatur. Chaucer gives way to computer programs and the demands of genome manipulation. Taxpayer-funded studies are subject to license fees, instead of being freely shared. While Washburn doesn’t suggest that the IRS investigate the unrelated business income of tax-exempt institutions, she does advocate specific corrective actions along the lines of improved legislation and third-party oversight.

A heartfelt, well-documented exposé of a major rip-off that debases education in several important ways.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-465-09051-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

COLUMBINE

Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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