A century ago, universities were primarily in the business of molding upper-class young men for the professions. The world has changed, and universities have been forced to keep pace by experimenting with affirmative action, curriculum overhauls, part-time degree programs, and the like. But at the core of the modern university establishment is an ingrained academic culture that has operated in the same ways for centuries, contends Robert Ibarra, and in Beyond Affirmative Action, he calls for a complete paradigm shift.
Why does academic culture, he asks, emphasize individual achievement over teamwork? Why do so many exams test discrete bits of knowledge rather than understanding of the big picture? Why is tenure awarded for scholarly publications rather than for sharing knowledge in diverse ways with students and a wider community? Why do undergraduates drop out? And why do so many bright graduate students and junior facultyincluding many minorities, women, and some majority malesbecome disenchanted with academia or fail to be accepted and rewarded by the tenured faculty?
Ibarra introduces a theory of "multicontextuality," which proposes that many people learn better when teachers emphasize whole systems of knowledge and that education can create its greatest successes by offering and accepting many approaches to teaching and learning. This revolutionary paradigm also addresses why current thinking about academic systems and organizational culture, affirmative action, and diversity must be revised. Ibarra bases his groundbreaking proposals upon his own synthesis of findings from anthropological, educational, and psychological studies of how people from various cultures learn, as well as findings from extended interviews he conducted with Latinos and Latinas who pursued graduate degrees and then either became university faculty or chose other careers. From his perspectives as a practicing anthropologist, teacher, researcher, and administrator, Ibarra provides a blueprint for change that will interest:
o Administrators developing campus strategic plans
o Boards, commissions, and agencies making policy for educational institutions
o Students and faculty struggling to find ways that academia can serve multiple constituencies
o Academic and career advisors to students
o Researchers in cognitive psychology, sociology, anthropology, education, and ethnic studies
o Businesses rethinking their organizational cultures and strategies
Ibarra proposes that education can create its greatest successes by taking many different approaches to teaching and learning, and employing many different measures of success.