Academically Adrift Reading Group

The Philosophy teaching blog, In Socrates’ Wake, is hosting a reading group on Richard Arum and Josipa Roska’s Academically Adrift .  Here are the details:

So the global academic buzz over Academically Adrift has prompted us to organize our third ever ISW reading group (following groups on James Lang’s On Course and Martha Nussbaum’s Not for Profit). Here’s our plan:

We’ll begin the group the week of February 28. You can anticipate two or three posts per week, in addition to the usual ISW content. Since the book is brief, we’re not going to adopt the chapter-based approach we followed with past reading groups. Instead, ISW contributors will offer posts highlighting themes or claims in the book, linking these themes or claims to teaching philosophy. Richard Arum and Josipa Roska, the book’s authors, have indicated they may drop by from time to time to offer comments on our discussion.

Academically Adrift?

I just saw this article in The Chroncle of Higher Ed about the recently published book, Academically Adrift, which  paints a rather depressing picture of the critical thinking skills of college grads. This paragraph caught my eye:

While these students may have developed subject-specific skills that were not tested for by the CLA, in terms of general analytical competencies assessed, large numbers of U.S. college students can be accurately described as academically adrift. They might graduate, but they are failing to develop the higher-order cognitive skills that it is widely assumed college students should master. These findings are sobering and should be a cause for concern.

The rest of the article is here, but it seems like a strong indictment of the current state of higher education.

Higher Education?

In an otherwise confused and incomprehensible discussion about academic life in the NY Times, Mark C Taylor made one comment that I actually agree with: “Nothing represses the free expression of ideas more than the long and usually fruitless quest for tenure.” I’ll leave aside whether or  not it’s a fruitless quest, but Andrew Hacker makes a similar case in The Atlantic.

A lot of the pressure to publish is tied in with the pressure to earn tenure. You argue that tenure actually doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do—it doesn’t preserve academic freedom.

Here’s what happens. Academics typically don’t get tenured until the age of 40. This means that from their years as graduate students and then assistant professors, from age 25 through 38 or 39, they have to toe the line. They have to do things in the accepted way that their elders and superiors require. They can’t be controversial and all the rest. So tenure is, in fact, the enemy of spontaneity, the enemy of intellectual freedom. We’ve seen this again and again. And even people who get tenure really don’t change. They keep on following the disciplinary mode they’ve been trained to follow. Continue reading


I’m teaching a Summer course on ethical, moral and social theory.  As many know, summer courses are generally accelerated which makes the contact time per meeting between 2-3 (or more) hours.  The advantage is that I can show films and whatnot and actually talk about them directly following the screening.  Amongst other things I’ll be teaching Kant’s Grounding, Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morality and Marx’s Communist Manifesto. So, here’s my question:  Does anybody have any suggestions for movies, tv shows, documentaries etc to view when we consider these texts?

Much appreciated, really.