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Kirp seeks balance between market and academics

David L. Kirp, who has written books on subjects as varied as AIDS, affordable housing, gay rights and charter schools, has now turned his attention to a force he has observed firsthand in his three decades in academia: the marketing of higher education.

Kirp, a Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, spoke about his latest book, Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line, at the American Museum of Natural History's Linder Theater with BookTalk moderator Richard Heffner, host of PBS's "Open Mind."

"There have been times in our history when we've been market-obsessed," Kirp said. "This is one of them." That obsession manifests itself in higher education by treating students as consumers to be lured to elite universities and placated with good grades and plush accommodations, he said. Sometimes it also means selling university research to the highest bidder--a procedure engaged in by his own institution, as well as many others.

What is Kirp's ideal? There is merit in the classic notion that the academy defends values that don't have short-term benefit, he said: "If your hand is out to power, it's hard to speak truth to power." Yet while an institution should know what it is and what it stands for, it must also look after the bottom line to survive and thrive.

FOR MORE: "David Kirp Discusses the Marketing of Higher Education at TC Booktalk" (Inside TC Newsletter, February 2004)

Miller takes a leap from mind to mind

Asked about what he saw as the greatest challenge for the textbook publishing world, Harold Miller replied, "The textbook being written by those who created the idea…that's what we've lost, and that's what we have to get back."

Miller, former President and Chairman of publishing house Houghton Mifflin, Inc., discussed his new book, Publishing: A Leap from Mind To Mind at TC's BookTalk.

The title came from a conversation Miller had with a long-time editor at Houghton Mifflin, who described what she saw as the real work of publishing. Moderator Richard Heffner asked whether that was "an idealistic view, given the transformation that's taken place in the publishing world." Miller responded by explaining: "We've watched publishing move from author-centered textbooks written by authorities in the field, towards having a set of anonymous authors." As a result, "You lose the creativity--that leap from mind to mind," said Miller.

Miller, a TC alumnus who joined Houghton Mifflin 1950 as a textbook salesman, witnessed the revolutionary changes that have taken place over the past five decades in the educational publishing field. In his book, Miller focuses contemporary issues through the "lens" of his publishing career, drawing from nearly 100 interviews with people who helped shape 20th century elementary and high school publishing.

FOR MORE: "BookTalk: A Leap from Mind to Mind" (Inside TC Newsletter, June 2004)

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