A Dam in the River: Releasing the Flow of University Ideas

A Dam in the River: Releasing the Flow of University Ideas

A Dam in the River: Releasing the Flow of University Ideas

A Dam in the River: Releasing the Flow of University Ideas

Excerpt

A dam blocks a river’s flow, creating a reservoir. The reservoir holds great potential benefit for the people downstream; just open the sluice gates and you irrigate farmlands, create hydro-electric power, control seasonal flooding, provide recreation areas, and enable river navigation. In many dams, it’s really simple to open the gates, just by pushing a button. All that benefit, so easy.

A Dam in the River is about the flow, not of water, but of ideas. It tells of the huge and ever expanding reservoir of ideas in America’s outstanding universities and colleges—arguably the world’s deepest source of knowledge about the widest range of subjects. This reservoir holds great potential benefit for the people downstream—off campus.

This book focuses on universities and America’s off-campus public. It explains how and why the public can benefit greatly from academic ideas. But as it also explains, the sluice gates for ideas at most American campuses have long been nearly shut. The coming chapters will show how this reduces the flow to a weak stream, able to water only an upper crust of the nation. And yet, like a real dam, increasing the academic flow can be easy—and inexpensive. Much can be done with no cost at all, just by thinking creatively about how to reallocate already existing resources.

You may be surprised to read that ideas flow from the campus to the American public only in a weak stream. You may have in mind, for instance, the great increase in online courses now available to the public via the “continuing education” divisions of many universities and colleges. But as I will show, most of these courses for adults are designed to develop specific career-oriented or technical skills (admittedly an important goal), not to stimulate the mind with ideas (the subject of this book). You will see that fewer than two percent of adult Americans take online, continuing education courses of this idea type—courses that . . .

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