- Cautionary TalesIdeals and Realities in Twenty-First-Century Higher Education
In this age of reaching out and reaching across traditional silos of cultural and disciplinary work in higher education, we freely export and import students, teaching methods, and critical theories. We find ourselves buried in research reports from around the world (albeit still restricted by language barriers) about teaching and learning from a broad set of theoretical perspectives [End Page 537] often outside of our disciplinary or cultural experiences. We are drawn to innovative and exciting work across disciplinary and cultural frontiers. We champion diversity, hybridity, and collaboration. Effective interdisciplinary collaboration would seem to be a model for the collaboration and innovation we need in international situations, inasmuch as it is part of what the students and teachers involved in international work must do. But these apparently valuable and intuitively positive activities can be fraught with unexpected challenges if we are not aware of the larger institutional forces at work.
The three edited collections reviewed here foreground in various ways the nature of higher education as a business. They suggest that the innovative teaching and learning at the center of our interests are subject to commodification, global economic and ideological forces, disciplinary hierarchies, and entrenched institutional traditions. Colonialist legacies seem never far away. Teaching and administrative work is increasingly hybrid and interdisciplinary, and questions of interdisciplinarity and cultural ownership are thus central to our concerns: we must open ourselves to the ways of thinking and constructing ideas and texts in these other contexts, and we must work with colleagues to do the same. But we will not be successful in these efforts without a clear grasp of the complex contexts in which they take place —the lack of reward for hybridity and interdisciplinarity, for example, or the market force ideologies underpinning international exchange. The three volumes discussed here push us to consider who we are; the value of our work to others in increasingly complex situations of higher education; the relationships among literate activity in the first year and in the disciplines; and literature, language, teaching, and research across traditional disciplinary and cultural boundaries.
Of course, each edited collection could be read without the other two, but the connections among the three intersect and diverge in ways useful to U.S. faculty and administrators, offering the kinds of knowledge and contexts we need in order to maintain a metaperspective and not become complicit in uncritical expansion or faculty activity. In addition, in the other cultural and disciplinary contexts described in these collections, we see clearly the value of research as the ground out of which questions and responses grow. These collections should renew our interest in carrying out research in our literate fields as a way to deepen our understanding of the related themes of international and interdisciplinary collaborations.
The first collection, Internationalizing Higher Education: Critical Explorations of Pedagogy and Policy, is about the increasingly complex world in which universities exist and the equally complex student bodies with which they work, offering key insights into the notions of internationalization [End Page 538] and globalization as backdrops to all current work in higher education, certainly not restricted to fields such as business, foreign language and culture. In fact, the humanities, tied in some ways tightly to language issues, should be one of the most forward-thinking and critically grounded domains in the drive to internationalize, given its long relationship with the study of the effects of colonialism. We should be the first to keep a critical watch on how we export students or curricula, as well as on the ways we respond to students who come to us: the impact of other nations' programs on us as we receive international students, our...