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Shaping Our Future: How Should Higher Education Help Us Create the Society We Want? (NIF Issue Guide)

One of the National Issues Forums Institute‘s issue guides, Shaping Our Future: How Should Higher Education Help Us Create the Society We Want?, outlines this public issue and several choices or approaches to addressing the issue. National Issues Forums do not advocate a specific solution or point of view, but provide citizens the opportunity to consider a broad range of choices, weigh the pros and cons of those options, and meet with each other in a public dialogue to identify the concerns they hold in common.

Excerpt from the issue guide:

The diverse system of US higher education–including public and private universities, smaller four-year independent colleges, two-year community colleges, for-profit schools, and others–already serves a number of important social purposes.  But this guide focuses on the future.  It takes up this fundamental question:  How should higher education help us create the society we want?  It offers three options to consider, each with benefits as well as drawbacks.

While it’s certainly possible for higher education to pursue multiple goals, it’s also true that colleges and universities can’t do everything.  To be effective, they need to focus their energies and set priorities.  As we envision higher education in the future, there are options and trade-offs, and it’s important to think and talk about them with our fellow citizens.  By doing so, we can begin to make tough choices about what higher education can and should be expected to do.

This issue guide presents three options for deliberation:

Option One: Focus on Staying Competitive in the Global Economy
Higher education should help ensure that our economy remains competitive in a tough global marketplace–and that means recapturing our lead in science and technology.  Countries like China are transforming their systems to educate more high-tech professionals, and we should too.  It’s our best chance to keep our economy growing.

Option Two: Work Together and Repair an Ailing Society
Many of the problems we face as a nation reflect an underlying crisis of division and mistrust.  Higher education shapes students’ views about the larger society, and it can do more to strengthen values like responsibility, integrity, and respect for others.  Students also need real-life experience in collaboration and problem solving.

Option Three: Ensure that Everyone Gets a Fair Chance
We call this the land of opportunity, but it isn’t that way for many Americans.  Because graduating from college unlocks the door to advancement, higher education and government should do much more to ensure that all Americans have an equal shot at getting a degree–without accumulating huge debts.

More about NIF Issue Books…

NIFI’s issue guides introduce participants to several choices or approaches to consider. Rather than conforming to any single public proposal, each choice reflects widely held concerns and principles. Panels of experts review manuscripts to make sure the choices are presented accurately and fairly. By intention, issue guides do not identify individuals or organizations with partisan labels, such as Democratic, Republican, conservative, or liberal. The goal is to present ideas in a fresh way that encourages readers to judge them on their merit.

NIFI offers various materials for each of the issues it produces issue guides on. The moderator guide or “guide to the forums” for each issue is available as a free download.  Discussion guides (or “issue guides”) for participants are generally available in print or PDF download for a small fee ($2 to $4).  DVD’s can also be purchased for some issues for just $6, for use at the beginning of your forums to introduce the topic and approaches.

All NIF issue books and associated tools can be accessed at www.nifi.org/discussion_guides/index.aspx.

Resource Link:  http://nifi.org/issue_books/detail.aspx?catID=6&itemID=21640

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Add a Comment

  1. Sandy Heierbacher Says:

    Note that the PDF version of the Shaping Our Future issue guide is currently a FREE download — until December 31, 2012.

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