ERIC Number: EJ764573
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005
David Riesman and the Problem of Diversity in American Education
McClay, Wilfred M.
Journal of Education, v186 n1 p1-9 2005
Americans are increasingly drawn to their own version of "muddling through," and are likely to view the process of reasoning from intellectual or moral principles with grave suspicion, if not outright hostility, as a form of undemocratic confinement. One sees this with especial clarity in today's institutions of higher education, in which the formative dimension of college education has been almost completely abandoned as unacceptably elitist and prescriptive. Instead, college has become a kind of extended "Wanderjahr" of social and sexual experimentation, mingled with a largely unacknowledged program of inculcation into approved tastes and enlightened attitudes--all of it serving little coherent purpose beyond that of certifying middle-class status at the end of the road. Given the overwhelming force of consumerism in higher education, even the most selective colleges have succumbed to lax standards and grade inflation. College has become a middle-class American rite of passage, but it is unclear where the passage is meant to lead. This author contends that, since undergraduate education is by its nature supposed to have a formative effect, educators must either seek to establish a more uniform and universal standard for higher education, or must be willing to foster more genuinely diverse educational institutions. Stating that the most important task facing American education is the preservation of its institutional diversity, the author examines the work of David Riesman, author of "The Lonely Crowd" (1950), who argued that genuine individuality cannot be sustained without the social and cultural contexts that support it, particularly schools.
Descriptors: Cultural Influences, School Culture, Higher Education, College Students, Undergraduate Study, College Role, Role of Education, Academic Standards, Diversity (Institutional), Social Values, Values Education, Student Diversity
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United States