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Harnessing America's Wasted Talent: A New Ecology of Learning

ISBN: 978-0-470-53807-4
176 pages
February 2010, Jossey-Bass
Harnessing America


Praise for Harnessing America's Wasted Talent

"President Obama offered America and the world renewed hope for a better tomorrow. With decades of experience in alternative forms of higher education, Peter Smith grabs that optimistic spirit and seizes the moment to reveal to us the exciting age of Web-based teaching and learning, which is opening access to untold numbers of learners while harnessing the previously wasted talents of millions of people in America and billions around the world. Those seeking insights, a vision of the future, and a chance to join this educational revolution should look forward to Harnessing America's Wasted Talent."
—Curtis J. Bonk, professor, Indiana University, and author, The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education

"Anyone who wants to understand where American higher education is headed should read Harnessing America's Wasted Talent. Peter Smith's vision of the future of higher education is based on several decades of experience—at the national, state, and international levels. He brings a rare perspective that will interest students, educators, politicians, and those American business leaders who are worried about the future of our workforce and the health of our democracy."
—Charles Kolb, president, The Committee for Economic Development

"Harnessing America's Wasted Talent is a must-read for those of us concerned about the increasing economic and education gaps in our country. Peter Smith takes on an important American disconnect: the need for an educated workforce and the fact that most working Americans lack a college degree. Drawing upon his experience in higher education and politics, Smith dissects the problem and presents a contemporary, practical plan to enhance the learning capacity of our country."
—Joseph B. Moore, president, Lesley University

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Table of Contents



About the Author.

Part One: The Law of Thirds.

1 Wasted Talent.

2 Maxed Out: Why Colleges Can't Meet This Challenge.

3 The Paradox of Personal Learning.

Part Two: Dangerous Conceits.

4 Different Strokes for Different Folks.

5 Learning Is More Than “Strictly Academic”.

6 You Can't Get There from Here.

Part Three: From Access to Success: A New Ecology of Learning.

7 The End of Scarcity: Education's Emerging Long Tail.

8 Game Changers: New Media and the Open Education Resource Movement.

9 Reaching the Middle Third: Talent-Friendly Colleges for the Twenty-First Century (C21Cs).

Conclusion: A New Ecology of Learning.




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Author Information

Peter Smith is senior vice president of academic strategies and development for Kaplan Higher Eduction and is the former assistant director for education of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Smith also served as the founding president of California State University at Monterey Bay and the Community College of Vermont. He served as Vermont's lieutenant governor from 1982–1986 and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1989. Dr. Smith is the author of the critically acclaimed The Quiet Crisis: How Higher Education Is Failing America.
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Press Release

January 29, 2010
Harnessing America’s Wasted Talent

San Francisco, CA – An alarming statistic demonstrates only 20% of all ninth graders will obtain at least and Associate’s degree in the next 10 years. In order to sustain our leadership role in the global economy, we will need to double the number of people with at least an Associate’s degree by 2025. If we are serious about increasing success rates in higher education, America must adopt radically new understanding of effective teaching and learning in the 21st Century.

Harnessing America’s Wasted Talent: A New Ecology of Learning (Jossey-Bass; 978-0-470-53807-4; February 2010) by Peter Smith is essential reading for every college and university leader, as well as for policy-makers concerned about a competitive workforce for the future. Harnessing America’s Wasted Talent will:

  • Define and describe new thinking about the cause of school failure
  • Discuss its social, civic and economic consequences
  • Give the reader the tools and the understanding to do something about it

Specifically, author Peter Smith will discuss three major ways that the orthodox college model blocks access to opportunity and wastes talent for many:

  • Employing a teaching-learning model which favors one dominant learning style, resource allocation template, and attendance pattern over many others;
  • Reluctance to validate and recognize learning that occurs outside of college; and
  • Employing transfer policies which consistently discount earned credit from other qualified sources, adding time, costs and frustration to degree attainment.

The latter part of the book moves on to describe a new paradigm that uses technology and online tools to capitalize on the capacity of every learner, personalizing education to meet their needs.

Harnessing America’s Wasted Talent pulls all of us – learners, teachers, business leaders, employees – out of our respective foxholes a bit by suggesting a more systematic way of valuing what we have in higher education while making space for the dramatic changes we need.

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