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The Quiet Crisis: How Higher Education Is Failing America

ISBN: 978-1-882982-70-7
200 pages
May 2004, Jossey-Bass
The Quiet Crisis: How Higher Education Is Failing America (1882982703) cover image


The Quiet Crisis argues that we are failing to educate large numbers of students in higher education successfully because we are employing an out-of-date educational model that ignores the knowledge and resources available that would make these students successful. This model—the author argues—ignores the newest scientific findings about how we learn; it still favors those in the upper economic strata and works against minorities, despite efforts to level the playing field; and it is slow to harness the power of technology to allow for deeper and better learning.

Drawing on his 30 years as a higher education administrator and policymaker, Peter Smith exposes this hidden crisis in American higher education and makes recommendations for its transformation. Through research data and stories, he argues, clearly and forcefully that our schools are organized for failure and that our historic “industrial model” simply won’t make the grade to compete in the knowledge economy. Unless we rethink higher education profoundly, we will serve a declining percentage of the population successfully each year, and thus we will fail in our mission to create, teach, and sustain the next generation of leaders.

This book will appeal not only to teaching faculty and academic administrators, but also to political leaders, parents, and anyone else who cares about the future of the academy and the bigger picture a successful educational system informs.

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Table of Contents

About the Author.



Part One: The Quiet Crisis.

1. The Opportunity Promise.

2. Universities as Learning Organizations.

3. Breaking the Model: From Storied Tradition to Valued Position.

Part Two: The Emergence of a New Learning Ethos.

4. Lived Experience: The Root of Learning.

5. Personal Learning, Reflection, and Growth.

6. Diversity: The Tie That Binds.

7. From Wishes to Wireless.

Part Three: FutureThink.

8. A New Mainstream.

9. Quality in the Learning Age.

10. A Policy Framework for the 21st Century.



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Author Information

Peter Smith is founding president of California State University-Monterey Bay (1994). He also founded and served as president of the Community College of Vermont (1971), and served as vice president of advancement at Norwich University (1986) and dean of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at George Washington University (1991). A native of Vermont, Smith served there as a state senator, lieutenant governor, and a member of the U.S. Congress.
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"The Quiet Crisis presents an urgent plea for reform in America's higher education systems from an experienced educator who understands what learning is about and its importance to our democracy."
—Leon E. Panetta, Director, The Panetta Institute for Public Policy

"Peter Smith's The Quiet Crisis takes on a daunting task—convincing America that its cherished higher education system, the envy of the world, is flawed. It would seem a fool's errand if it were not for the clear and compelling case that he puts forward, his extensive experience as an academic and as a policymaker, and the urgency of reshaping the system of higher education to meet the enormous—and growing—expectations that society has thrust upon it."
—Frank Newman, Visiting Professor of Public Policy, Center for Public Policy & American Institutions, Brown University

"By writing in such a refreshing personal and passionate way about the connection between teaching and the survival of the American dream, Peter has given the national discussion about the reform of teaching a shot of maral urgency."
—Russell Edgerton, Director, The Pew Forum on Undergraduate Learning

"This book offers a critique of the current state of affairs in higher education and a vision for the future by an individual uniquely qualified to make such judgments."
—Arthur E. Levine, President, Teachers College, Columbia University

"Peter Smith's new book has important lessons for everyone interested in American higher education."
—Tom Ehrlich, Senior Scholar, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

"Peter Smith uses his personal, professional, and political experiences to describe how higher education is failing America. We need to have a national conversation about his message."
—Ted Sanders, President, Education Commission of the States

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