Book Reviews

Book by Rosa A. Eberly, Jeremy Cohen
Review by Matthew Church
Academic Counselor Senior
University of Louisville


In recent years, public scholarship has grown and expanded throughout higher education. Public scholarship is a concept that links academic and creative work with public sovereignty, democracy, and the ideals of the United States Constitution. Originating at Pennsylvania State University, public scholarship espouses a higher purpose for higher education: Preparing students to be knowledgeable citizens and carry out the vision of the U.S. Constitution.

Editors Eberly & Cohen compiled a text that examined the development, rationale, and growth of public scholarship in contemporary higher education. They defined public scholarship as imparting in students a deep understanding of the obligations and duties of democratic community and providing opportunity to employ the university's intellectual and creative resources in the service of those obligations (p. 8). Furthermore, the pursuit of public scholarship provides higher education with a more defined role in society and civic engagement. Thus public scholarship is part of a civic compact to teach students the principles and practice of public sovereignty.

This text is divided into eight chapters dealing with topics such as organizational influence on public scholarship, rhetoric and public scholarship, and educating global citizenry. Authors offer a rubric/example of the tenets and range of public scholarship as they address the philosophical foundations and applications of public scholarship to higher education and society. The various aspects and philosophical foundations of public scholarship are presented in clear and engaging chapters.

While all eight chapters offer great insight into public scholarship, Eberly and Cohen are at their best in linking public scholarship to greater civic engagement. Cohen conveys the aim and goal of public scholarship in calling for "the contemporary recognition that education is no less an element of public sovereignty than is a free press” (p. 14). Public scholarship evolved from education as the conveyor of social, political, and cultural expectation, to include serving as a foundation for democratic contribution. The main benefit of public scholarship is its emphasis on knowledge as a public good and the preparation of college students for civic participation. Public scholarship focuses on college students since they are at a point in their lives when they 1) determine their talents, 2) chose what they value and 3) decide how they will earn a living.  In promoting curricula based on the ideals of public scholarship, colleges and universities prepare students to be effective citizens and participants in democracy. One of the attractions of public scholarship is the possibility that students will see higher education as preparation for more than a career. "In light of the profound social and economic changes younger generations face, to act as if job training is the only function universities serve is a rather myopic point of view” (p. 45). The focus on civic participation creates a finite link between higher education and contemporary society. Within this link between education and society, higher education is grounded in teaching, responsible citizenship, and the traditional ideals of higher education.

Advisors can make ready use of this work. First, when they adopt the ideals of public scholarship, advisors can take pride in advising students to complete their degrees as they become effective and knowledgeable citizens. Second, the notion of preparation for civic roles allows possible directions in shaping the curricula for undecided students as they help students define their interests and recommend courses that best prepare individuals for civic participation. Third, advisors can cite the link between education and civic participation in stressing the importance of higher education to students who may become disillusioned with school. Finally, public scholarship allows a link between contemporary higher education and the traditional ideals of higher education.


A Laboratory for Public Scholarship and Democracy (2006) Book by Rosa A. Eberly, Jeremy Cohen (Eds.). Review by Matthew Church. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass 112 pp., $29.00, (paperback), ISBN # 0-7879-8530-9
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