Sandy Baum and Michael McPherson recently published a book, Can College Level The Playing Field?: Higher Education in an Unequal Society, which I’d recommend to anyone who wants to understand the structural position of higher education in the US. Spoiler alert here: Their answer is “No”. Most of the book is taken up with explaining why, by showing the multiple ways in which background inequalities and inequalities in the pre-college education system constrain any efforts higher education might make to level the playing field, and showing how unequal the higher education system is anyway, including – and this seems not to be well understood by politicians or a lot of commentators – how unequal the public sector itself is.

Full disclosure: I’m close friends with both of the authors, and read at least 3 versions of the manuscript before it was published and, I just realized by looking at its Princeton University Press page, wrote a blurb for it. The producer of the CEE podcast series is putting the finishing touches on an interview that we’ve done with them, and as soon as it is published, I’ll post about it encouraging you to listen and, again, encouraging you to read the book.

This (extremely long) post, though, is only secondarily about the book. My main interest is in a genuinely awful review of it, and of another book by Gary Orfield (which, I will emphasize several times, I have not read yet), in Boston Review by Christopher Newfield. I’m writing about it partly because it so irritated me that I want to get my irritation out of my system, but also partly because it illustrates some of the failings that are common to many of the books and commentaries I read about higher education.

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Monday photoblogging: cranes

by Chris Bertram on February 6, 2023

Apologies for the brief photo hiatus. Stuff going on. Anyway, here are some cranes.

Cranes from East Street