Earlier this month, the Faculty Commons hosted a book club session on The Heart of Higher Education: A Call to Renewal, Transforming the Academy through Collegial Conversations by Parker J. Palmer & Arthur Zajonc with Megan Scribner. The book tackles the controversial topic of the purpose of higher education. The authors ask specifically:

“How can higher education become a more multidimensional enterprise, one that draws on the full range of human capacities for knowing, teaching, and learning; that bridges the gaps between the disciplines; that forges stronger links between knowing the world and living creatively in it, in solitude and community?” (2)

The book answers those questions by taking a holistic approach to the student. The authors assert that a college education should go beyond teaching area-specific materials, and instead prepare students to become full-grown citizens, invested in society.

The authors encourage discussions and debates within academic communities to foster a more rounded understanding of students, one that considers that

“the relationships and experiences of our lives – and the lives of our students – are not dismissed as irrelevant or inconsequential but are fully granted their own standing as building blocks of reality; they are not secondary qualities or adaptive strategies but primary dimensions of our humanity.” (11)

Professors as mentors as well as teachers can have a great impact on adopting such a view. The book lists many examples where teachers started making changes within their classrooms to consider the students beyond academic standards. The annexes in particular offer a series of testimony and experience from professors and student life professional of the practical ways they have implemented a more integrative view of education, one that combines theory and practice.

Throughout the book, Palmer and Zajonc also list questions that professors can use to keep the discussion going about the role of college in students’ development, and the role professors and other supporting employees can have.

The book is available on amazon here, or at the library.