The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them The Great Mistake discussion

The Great Mistake (and What To Do about It)

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Thomas Isern This discussion is created in Goodreads to explore the ideas argued in Christopher Newfield's book, The Great Mistake. All readers are welcome, but a particular invitation goes out to scholars and citizens in North Dakota, where the management of higher education is a front-burner issue.

Thomas Isern (My review)

A work both discouraging and hopeful. Because The Great Mistake deserves extended discussion, I am going to go the other way here - provide brief comments, and then continue the discussion elsewhere.

Newfield's diagnosis is convincing: the hegemony of neoliberal ideology has suppressed the ideal of higher education as a public good and replaced it with the notion of higher ed as a private good, to be funded on a user-pay basis. The details of his argument all flow from this overall thesis.

Newfield's prescriptions are worth considering, but, I think, not entirely on the mark. Yes, we need to reinvest in higher education in line with its contributions to the public good, and yes, we need to improve teaching and learning for the specific good of what the author calls the "creativity economy." As he explores these ideas, however, he lays too much emphasis on self-discovery as a humanistic ideal. Exploration of self, conducted in a silo, is meaningless. Self is best defined in relation to community.

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