In many college campuses, incoming freshmen are assigned a book to read during their pre-term summer, or in the early weeks of the first semester. The theory is that the students will be “grounded” in at least one book before branching off in their separate threads. Would you like to know what’s being assigned?
Books about multiculturalism, immigration or racism were the most prevalent (60 colleges), followed by environmental issues (36 colleges), the Islamic world (27 colleges), New Age or spiritual books (25 colleges), and issues related to the Holocaust or genocide (25 colleges). Only 6 colleges assigned classics. The study also looked for other patterns in the selections, and reported that 46 of the choices have a film version, 29 are about Africa, 9 are related to Hurricane Katrina and 5 are about dysfunctional families.
The report cites several issues with the selections. “We found the preponderance of reading assignments promotes liberal social causes and liberal sensibilities. Of the 180 books, 126 (70 percent) either explicitly promote a liberal political agenda or advance a liberal interpretation of events. By contrast, the study identifies only three books (less than 2 percent) that promote a conservative sensibility and none that promote conservative political causes.”
Moving beyond ideology, the report says that “the books selected for common reading are generally pitched at an intellectual level well below what should be expected of college freshmen.
Most parents recognize that the cost of getting a kid through college these days has mushroomed alarmingly. It’s not uncommon to see undergrads emerge from the ivy-panoplied parapets into the world with over $100k in college loans atop their shoulders. But cost is an objective feature, and by itself without context. If you place cost in the numerator of an equation, and quality in the denominator, you’ll recognize the dual hit.
Some universities are claiming that the assignment of “beach books” to incoming freshman is a kind of micro-core curriculum, and a way of attempting to overcome the deficiencies of the secondary school system. Others might look at the selection and opine that, rather than overcoming these deficiencies, the academy is taking them on.