Meet us in Chicago: American Educational Research Association

By  Greg Britton

American education is a place of remarkable dynamism right now. The popular media is awash in stories that consider everything from the efficacy of how we test our children to how we fund our schools, or whether it is possible that those schools can even alleviate the effects of growing social inequality. We question the value of a college degree in the cold cost-benefit analysis of personal economics, weighing student debt against a perceived upside. We defend the liberal arts against those who insist that it is better to prepare students for good jobs in a globalized economy. Even technology threatens to disrupt the classroom—while also promising to extend free education virtually around the world.

When confronted with these issues, we do best to rely upon solid research and thoughtful analysis, the kind of work that generates more light than heat. The American Educational Research Association meeting, held this week in Chicago, is the largest gathering of scholars who study education in all its forms. Annually it attracts over 15,000 scholars, more than twice that of big meetings like the Modern Language Association and the Organization of American Historians. And Hopkins will be there too, talking with scholars, meeting new authors, showing off many of our new books. A few of those new books show the breadth of that conversation:

Michael Crow and William Dabars’s Designing the New American University explores the idea of how we might reimagine higher education for the twenty-first century in a way that is both inclusive and globally engaged.

A hundred years ago, Thorstein Veblen took aim at the takeover of American universities by robber barons and men of business—“captains of erudition” as he called them—in his The Higher Learning in America. We bring that back into print in its first annotated edition (and Inside Higher Ed just ran this rave review).

Critical Approaches to the Study of Higher Education shows students how to apply cultural studies, critical theory, and interdisciplinary methods to the study of the field; and Academic Capitalism in the Age of Globalization is an eye-opening example of the power of those methods to reveal the surprising underpinnings of our educational system.

Claire Howell Major’s book, Teaching Online: A Guide to Theory, Research, and Practice, demystifies online teaching by helping both enthusiastic and wary educators to do their best work as digital instructors; while Bill Ferster’s Teaching Machines: Learning from the Intersection of Education and Technology offers a skeptic’s view of the history of using technology to make teaching faster, cheaper, and better.

In the area of education history, we have Chad Wellmon’s Organizing Enlightenment: Information Overload and the Invention of the Modern Research University, a brilliant book about how eighteenth-century scholars confronted the same problem we do—the avalanche of daily information—and how they sought to organize, control, and share it.

There are books here that contradict each other, authors who argue with one another, and information that builds on other information in unexpected ways. At Hopkins we see the value in that debate. Our goal is to publish these arguments in a nuanced and meaningful way. If we do that right, we will shed light on these critically important issues.

Greg Britton is the editorial director at Johns Hopkins University Press. Follow Greg on Twitter at @gmbritton, and meet him in Chicago at JHUP’s exhibit at the AERA annual meeting.

 Featured books at AERA:

Designing the New American University, by Michael Crow and William Dabars
The Higher Learning in America, by Thorstein Veblen, edited with an introduction and notes by Richard F. Teichgraeber III
Critical Approaches to the Study of Higher Education, edited by Ana M. Martínez-Alemán, Brian Pusser, and Estela Mara Bensimon
Academic Capitalism in the Age of Globalization, edited by Brendan Cantwell and Ilkka Kauppinen, with a foreword by Sheila Slaughter

Teaching Online: A Guide to Theory, Research, and Practice, by Claire Howell Major
Teaching Machines: Learning from the Intersection of Education and Technology, by Bill Ferster
Organizing Enlightenment: Information Overload and the Invention of the Modern Research University, by Chad Wellmon
Policy Documents and Reports, from the American Association of University Professors