What We Are Reading Today: Two Cheers for Higher Education

Updated 29 December 2018

What We Are Reading Today: Two Cheers for Higher Education

Author: Steven Brint

Crushing student debt, rapidly eroding state funding, faculty embroiled in speech controversies, a higher education market disrupted by online competition — today’s headlines suggest that universities’ power to advance knowledge and shape American society is rapidly declining. But Steven Brint, a renowned analyst of academic institutions, has tracked numerous trends demonstrating their vitality, according to a review on the website of Princeton University Press. After a recent period that witnessed soaring student enrolment and ample research funding, universities, he argues, are in a better position than ever before.
Focusing on the years 1980–2015, Brint details the trajectory of US universities, which was influenced by evolving standards of disciplinary professionalism, market-driven partnerships (especially with scientific and technological innovators outside academia), and the goal of social inclusion. Opportunities for economic mobility are expanding even as academic expectations decline.


What We Are Reading Today: Steadfast Democrats

Updated 27 February 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Steadfast Democrats

Authors: Ismail K. White and Chryl N. Laird 

Black Americans are by far the most unified racial group in American electoral politics, with 80 to 90 percent identifying as Democrats — a surprising figure given that nearly a third now also identify as ideologically conservative, up from less than 10 percent in the 1970s. Why has ideological change failed to push more black Americans into the Republican Party? Steadfast Democrats answers this question with a pathbreaking new theory that foregrounds the specificity of the black American experience and illuminates social pressure as the key element of black Americans’ unwavering support for the Democratic Party, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

Ismail White and Chryl Laird argue that the roots of black political unity were established through the adversities of slavery and segregation, when black Americans forged uniquely strong social bonds for survival and resistance. 

White and Laird explain how these tight communities have continued to produce and enforce political norms—including Democratic Party identification in the post–Civil Rights era. The social experience of race for black Americans is thus fundamental to their political choices.