'The New Education'

Cathy N. Davidson, Basic, 318 pages, $28. At the beginning of the 20th century, Harvard President Charles Eliot helped reshape the United States' idea of a modern research university. Now, in the digital 21st century, our economy is vastly different, and we need another rethink within our universities. So argues Cathy N. Davidson in "The New Education." She seems to see Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, as the Charles Eliot of our time. Crow wants to define the quality of his school not by how many applicants are rejected but by how many students are educated. And he is very willing to offer online programs to expand his university's reach, while still supporting high-level research. Davidson is one of the most thoughtful voices from within academia calling for a more student-centered university. "The New Education" is a welcome collection of stories detailing how professors, administrators and students are designing paths that are relevant to our changing culture and society. At its core, the new education that Davidson envisions creates a platform for student-centered, active learning. Technology will be a part of that, but only if it enhances student agency. The reforms that get results at community colleges, at large public universities or at small private liberal arts colleges are changes that put student learning as the highest priority. This means schools have to treat teachers fairly, too, attending to their work conditions and opportunities for continued learning, which means providing opportunities to do research.