Are You Smart Enough?
How Colleges' Obsession with Smartness Shortchanges Students

Paper: 978 1 62036 448 2 / $22.50
Published: March 2016  

Cloth: 978 1 62036 447 5 / $95.00
Published: April 2016  

Lib E-Book: 978 1 62036 449 9 / $95.00  
About Library E-Book

Published: March 2016  

E-Book: 978 1 62036 450 5 / $17.99
Published: March 2016  

Publisher: Stylus Publishing
128 pp., 5 1/2" x 8 1/4"
This book explores the many ways in which the obsession with “being smart” distorts the life of a typical college or university, and how this obsession leads to a higher education that shortchanges the majority of students, and by extension, our society’s need for an educated population.

The author calls on his colleagues in higher education to return the focus to the true mission of developing the potential of each student: However “smart” they are when they get to college, both the student and the college should be able to show what they learned while there.

Unfortunately, colleges and universities have embraced two very narrow definitions of smartness: the course grade and especially the standardized test. A large body of research shows that it will be very difficult for colleges to fulfill their stated mission unless they substantially broaden their conception to include student qualities such as leadership, social responsibility, honesty, empathy, and citizenship.

Specifically, the book grapples with issues such as the following:

• Why America’s 3,000-plus colleges and universities have evolved into a hierarchical pecking order, where institutions compete with each other to recruit “smart” students, and where a handful of elite institutions at the top of the pecking order enroll the “smartest” students.

• Why higher education favors its smartest students to the point where the “not so smart” students get second-class treatment.

• Why so many colleges find it difficult to make good on their commitment to affirmative action and “equality of opportunity.”

• Why college faculties tend to value being smart more than developing students’ smartness (i.e., teaching and learning).

Table of Contents:

1. The Higher Education Pecking Order
2. Admissions Madness
3. Developing Smartness: Higher Education’s True Mission
4. The Challenge to Educational Equity
5. Which Kinds of Smartness Really Matter?
6. Faculty Culture: The Core of the Problem
7. Is There Any Way Out?



Author Interview with The Chronicle of Higher Ed

Reviews & Endorsements:
“Professor Astin discusses a fundamental defect in the way professors and college officials regard their students, their own approach to teaching, and the quality of their institution. Every faculty member, dean, and college president can benefit from reflecting on the message of this book and pondering its implications for the way they go about their work.”
- Derek Bok, former President of Harvard University
"For five decades, Alexander Astin has been one of the most powerful voices in higher education. In this volume, he challenges colleges and universities to shift their focus from selecting excellent students to developing excellence in all students. This is a book about the fundamental purposes of college that should be read by those who work in, attend, or care about higher education."
- Arthur Levine, President, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and President Emeritus, Teachers College, Columbia University