Public Purpose Magazine, Fall 2008
Public Purpose Cover Fall 2008

Painting a Post-Election Picture:Higher Education Policy After November 5By Anita Blumenthal
Although higher education has not been a media-grabbing campaign topic, the new congress and administration will inevitably need to deal with a number of critical issues, from funding to accountability to competitiveness. The post-election period could be a time for the higher education community to reframe the discussion and promote comprehensive reform.

Hope and History:The Challenge of Civic OrganizingBy Harry C. Boyte

Upon occasion, as the Irish poet Seamus Heaney has put it, hope and history rhyme. This may be such an occasion for state and regional colleges and universities. Moreover, presidents have a crucial leadership role. In recent decades, presidents across the vast landscape of higher education have all too often become simply fundraisers and managers, not public philosophers. But the great potential of the presidents’ role is to bring poetry – breadth and depth and lilt of vision – back into the work of making clear the public purposes of our institutions. In specific terms, presidents need to address the fact that the recent dramatic increase in young adults’ participation in public affairs has been accompanied by growing evidence that young people want fundamentally different kinds of participation. Together, these present both challenges and opportunities for AASCU in 2009, whichever party wins, to help craft a new public purpose for higher education.


Universities Seek the Right Formula for More Math and Science TeachersMajor Grants Fund Implementation of a Tested, Successful ModelBy Kevin Boatright
Newspaper want ads paint a clear, dim picture—school districts are scrambling to recruit math and science teachers. Openings are everywhere—in both rural and urban settings—and schools sometimes simply take what they can get. Currently, about 30 percent of high school math teachers didn’t major in math in college. Likewise, approximately 60 percent of teachers in the physical sciences didn’t major in these areas and are considered to be teaching “out-of-field.”

Reflections on a BirthdayThe American Democracy Project Turns FiveBy George Mehaffy
At a 4th of July family gathering, my nephew reported that his son, 16, said that I was the coolest old man he had ever met. I think he meant it as a compliment. I just had a birthday, so his observation was particularly vivid. AASCU’s American Democracy Project (ADP) just celebrated a birthday as well, its fifth. As I thought about birthdays, the project’s and mine, I was reminded of that adage about old dogs and new tricks. What have we learned over the past five years? The project continues to focus on the role of AASCU institutions in preparing the next generation of informed, engaged citizens for our democracy. As a community of institutions, AASCU colleges and universities have proudly proclaimed themselves as “Stewards of Place,” reflecting the deep and pervasive connections that AASCU institutions have with their surrounding communities. The American Democracy Project contributes to that powerful notion of regional stewardship. The goal of our project is to strengthen our universities as “Stewards of Place” by producing college graduates who can be agents and architects of positive change in local and regional communities. We want to develop the civic skills and civic identities of undergraduates, preparing students to be contributors to thriving local communities and regions. That’s a statement of purpose that I don’t think I could have articulated five years ago. But it has certainly been the emerging, and now dominant, conception of our work.