Shoot me if I ever begin a presentation with a slide that says: “The world is changing”, followed by some brilliant insights on the impacts of globalization and social media, and concluding with a call for dramatic change in higher education. Fact is, the world has always been changing. And universities, sluggish and monolithic, have always struggled to respond and stay relevant – relevant enough, that is, to continue to attract the support of trusting taxpayers and hopeful parents.
But what interests me more these days is the role that higher education plays, intentional or not, in preservation, in holding onto things that seem to matter – not just texts and
artifacts, but customs and culture, ways of being and doing – in the face of so much pressure to change. In this current era of rapid transformation around us, I find myself thinking more and more of the comfort of campus, its predictability, and how we decide what we’ll preserve, for better or worse.
And so it was serendipitous that I would discover, on a recent vacation to Detroit, in amongst the one million volumes contained in the four vast floors of John K King Used & Rare Books on West Lafeyette Blvd., an inspiring collection of essays on the future of American higher education. Continue reading