An uncompromising look at America’s college-sports conundrum, offering a controversial solution that just might work.



Two higher education experts analyze college sports and offer recommendations for reform.

Several scandals have revealed the fault lines in big-time college sports, including those involving former University of Southern California running back Reggie Bush, former University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, University of Michigan basketball, and University of North Carolina athletics. When grades take a back seat to the playing field, the term “student athlete” can appear to be contradictory. Shropshire (Global Sport/Arizona State; Sport Matters, 2015, etc.) and debut author Williams seek to change this perception, arguing that, while athletics pay off for a select few, education benefits almost everyone. As the national conversation turns to the possibility of compensating student athletes, the authors urge a different priority: providing said athletes with a meaningful education. From this thesis, they discuss how amateur sports have become compromised by an infusion of cash from media-rights deals, creating tension between athletic and academic priorities. They explain why previous reformation attempts failed and lay out their own recommendations. Their novel approach, the “Meaningful Degree Model,” would separate “revenue” sports (such as football, baseball, and men’s basketball) from “nonrevenue” ones. Athletes in the former would receive “lifetime scholarships” that would give them the flexibility to get their degrees as traditional full-time students or to defer it. These scholarships would be available indefinitely. It may sound like a fantasy, but Shropshire and Williams keep it grounded, showing its value to schools as well as to student athletes. As academics, the authors are used to marshaling evidence to support their assertions, and the research they lay out here is impressive. It’s clear that they’re no fans of the present system, yet their discussion is refreshingly free of displays of cynicism and outrage. Although their prose style could be snappier (“Perhaps the Ivy model’s most salient feature is the embodiment of the student-athlete ideal”), they offer substance over hype in this work.

An uncompromising look at America’s college-sports conundrum, offering a controversial solution that just might work.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61363-082-2

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Wharton Digital Press

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2018

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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American schools at every level, from kindergarten to postgraduate programs, have substituted ideological indoctrination for education, charges conservative think-tanker Sowell (Senior Fellow/Hoover Institution; Preferential Polices, 1990, etc.) in this aggressive attack on the contemporary educational establishment. Sowell's quarrel with "values clarification" programs (like sex education, death-sensitizing, and antiwar "brainwashing") isn't that he disagrees with their positions but, rather, that they divert time and resources from the kind of training in intellectual analysis that makes students capable of reasoning for themselves. Contending that the values clarification programs inspired by his archvillain, psychotherapist Carl Rogers, actually inculcate values confusion, Sowell argues that the universal demand for relevance and sensitivity to the whole student has led public schools to abdicate their responsibility to such educational ideals as experience and maturity. On the subject of higher education, Sowell moves to more familiar ground, ascribing the declining quality of classroom instruction to the insatiable appetite of tangentially related research budgets and bloated athletic programs (to which an entire chapter, largely irrelevant to the book's broader argument, is devoted). The evidence offered for these propositions isn't likely to change many minds, since it's so inveterately anecdotal (for example, a call for more stringent curriculum requirements is bolstered by the news that Brooke Shields graduated from Princeton without taking any courses in economics, math, biology, chemistry, history, sociology, or government) and injudiciously applied (Sowell's dismissal of student evaluations as responsible data in judging a professor's classroom performance immediately follows his use of comments from student evaluations to document the general inadequacy of college teaching). All in all, the details of Sowell's indictment—that not only can't Johnny think, but "Johnny doesn't know what thinking is"—are more entertaining than persuasive or new.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 1993

ISBN: 0-02-930330-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1992

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