Agent of Democracy: Higher Education and the HEX Journey

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The professional mind-set prevailing in higher education today often ignores the “common goods” that only democratic self-rule can provide. Why? Some say the professional mind-set is profoundly antidemocratic, especially when it presumes that specialized knowledge and experience is a sufficient substitute for a democratic process of participating equals. 

Although there are currently many higher education experiments in which the public does set the agenda for research and actually conducts much of the work, there are still too many projects ostensibly done for the public with nothing to be done by the public. How, then, can the academy, with such a mind-set and its preoccupation with hustling prospective students and chasing after academic luminaries, be of any help in renewing democratic practices?

In Agent of Democracy: Higher Education and the HEX Journey, editors David W. Brown and Deborah Witte, a Kettering Foundation program officer, explore the linkages that have been forged between higher education and a “healthy democracy.” This volume celebrates and expands on the journal Higher Education Exchange, an annual publication of the Kettering Foundation edited by Brown and Witte. For more than 10 years, HEX has published case studies, analysis, news, and ideas about efforts within higher education to develop more democratic societies.
 Agent of Democracy features essays by 10 thoughtful theorists and practitioners whose work regularly appears in the Higher Education Exchange. Their work is a contribution to the resurgent movement bent on strengthening higher education. Chapters in this volume include:

  • “The Engaged University: A Tale of Two Generations,” Peter Levine
  • “The Limits of Public Work: A Critical Reflection on the ‘Engaged University’,” Mary Stanley
  • “Should Higher Education Have a Civic Mission?,” R. Claire Snyder
  • “Public Work: Civic Populism versus Technocracy in Higher Education,” Harry C. Boyte
  • “Public Work at Colgate: An Interview with Adam Weinberg”
  • “Reconstructing a Democratic Tradition of Public Scholarship in the Land-Grant System,” Scott Peters
  • “A Portrait of a University as a Young Citizen,” Jeremy Cohen
  • “The Makings of a Public and the Role of the Academy,” Noëlle McAfee
  • “The New England Center for Civic Live—A Decade of Making a Difference,” Douglas F. Challenger
  • “Democracy’s Megachallenges Revisited,” David Mathews

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Higher Education

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