• Eye Opening
  • Visionary
  • Concrete Examples


CUNY professor Cathy N. Davidson offers background information on why today’s education systems have their roots in an industrial age. She presents examples of new educational models that US community colleges and elite universities are exploring. She provides a list of simple techniques on how to shift classrooms toward a more active learning model. She presents a separate list telling students how to get the most out of their education.


Charles Eliot

Charles Eliot established the format for American college education, but students today don’t need the same skills they needed at the end of the 19th century. He studied European universities to learn what might help American colleges flourish as a training ground for future industrial corporate leaders. Eliot visited the University of Berlin, which provided an education in the humanities and the sciences. The university encouraged students to make their own choices of courses and professors to cultivate their independent interests. Its concept of “academic freedom” allowed faculty members to pursue research without concern for the political preferences of administrators or politicians. 

Eliot also studied the French system, which standardized “curriculum, requirements and admissions procedures.” He accepted a job at MIT and in 1869, published an important essay, “The New Education.” In it, Eliot described problems in higher education and presented alternatives that followed his findings. It received enormous attention and led to his job as president of Harvard ...

About the Author

Cathy N. Davidson is the founding director of the Futures Initiative and a distinguished professor at the Graduate Center, CUNY. She is the author or editor of 18 books.

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