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Cottom does a good job of making the name “Lower Ed” stick, and she makes a solid case for reviewing the entire system of...

An informal sociological study of diploma mills and their often ripped-off discontents.

Before becoming a sociology professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, sometime Slate columnist Cottom worked at a for-profit college whose machinations she came, once understanding them, to despise. In this slender book, she lays out a case against a system that engenders predation and that profits, in the end, from social and economic injustice. The unknown number of for-profit students—variously said to be between 1.2 million and about twice that many enrollees—pays about 20 percent more than at a “flagship public university” for an undergraduate degree but about four times more than an associate’s degree at a community college. What drives this preyed-upon class, whose members, the author rightly adds, are not necessarily academically inferior? In part, perhaps, the promise of a degree more easily attained than at a regular academic institution. However, writes Cottom, another factor is that most of these students, ill-educated to begin with, simply have no preparation in navigating bureaucracies and no way of gauging the difference between one school and the next, down to knowing what the cost might be. “Traditional colleges,” she writes, “benefit from a deeply entrenched cultural faith in the value of college, particularly among higher-status groups.” For the lower-status and the aspirational, college is a way of getting one’s ticket punched, to get a credential that might lead somewhere better. In the end, Cottom suggests, by their very existence, with reassuringly august names like the University of Phoenix and ITT Technical Institute (and, perhaps most notoriously, Trump University), these schools, which are often publicly subsidized to some extent, are “an indicator of social and economic inequalities and, at the same time, are perpetuators of those inequalities.”

Cottom does a good job of making the name “Lower Ed” stick, and she makes a solid case for reviewing the entire system of higher education for openness of opportunity.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62097-060-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1992

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The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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