We're Losing Our Minds by Richard P. Keeling and Richard H. Hersh

“The sources of the primary problems in American undergraduate higher education – the lack of true high learning, the absence of a serious culture of teaching and learning, and the consequent insufficient quality and quantity of student learning – are deeply cultural, and solving them will require fundamental, thoroughgoing changes in our colleges and universities.”

I am very passionate about higher education. I strongly believe in higher education, yet I too believe higher education in America can use some renovation. I have read a few doom-and-gloom higher education books over the years – some bad ones and some horrible ones – with each one calling for a total overhaul of our colleges and universities. Though I do not really disagree with anything written in We’re Losing Our Minds, I was yet again underwhelmed by the material.

The authors have superb credentials with both of them serving in numerous administrative roles at several distinguished schools. Yet the question that comes to mind is this: if they are so dissatisfied with higher education, why couldn’t they change it while they were in charge? Obviously politics and what not will get in the way, but with so many schools out there, why can’t one become the ideal institution? And if there is one like that, why are we not diving into it and reproduce the results? To me it’s like a chef complaining about all the horrible food other chefs make. The chef needs to stop complaining, stop focusing on others, and cook the best food ever.

Colleges want to be accessible to all. However you risk low retention rates when unprepared students begin to drop out. When your retention rates drop, you must focus on faculty and staff to create programs and mentoring to help students be more successful. When you hire too many faculty and staff your costs increase. When your costs increase your tuition increases. When your tuition increases, you become less accessible.

And when you have thousands of colleges on this same vicious cycle, things can get messy.

As the authors state, learning needs to be the utmost goal. I couldn’t agree more, but what works in theory – as describe in the book – doesn’t work in reality. (“In theory…communism works…in theory” –if you get that joke, then you are smart.)

To me, this book was kind of bland. It was a very long 170+ pages. The second half was better than the first, which is kind of rare. Honestly, I do not feel like I learned much from this book.