Bain (History and Academic Affairs/Univ. of the District of Columbia; What the Best College Teachers Do, 2004, etc.) taps into the experiences of dynamic, innovative individuals to tease out how their college experience shaped them.
The author does not present much groundbreaking material, but his interviews with Nobel Prize winners, professional athletes and entertainers and well-regarded educators and researchers demonstrate the many vital approaches a student can bring to their college experience. Bain writes with clarity and modulated enthusiasm about intrinsic motivation, adaptive experts and the necessity of invention and the importance of mindfulness. He convincingly argues for the significance of a liberal education—“engaging in dialogues that brought their own perspectives to bear yet tested them against the values and concepts of others and against the rules of reason and the standards of evidence”—but what really piques Bain’s interest is the act of immersing oneself in any activity that ignites true passion. Creativity comes to those who become “lost in something other than themselves.” The experiences of successful students are certainly burnished by exposure to the length and breadth of a liberal curriculum, but they are spurred by awe and fascination. The best students seek the meaning behind the text, its implications and applications, and how those implications interact with what they have already learned. To think in so rich and robust a way as Bain describes—“trying to answer questions or solve problems that they regard as important, intriguing, or just beautiful”—is an aspiration of the first order.
A soundly encouraging guide for college students to think deeply and for as long as it takes.