Book Reviews

Book by Nancy L. Thomas
Review by: Ryan Tomasiewicz
Academic Advisor
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


The purpose of this book was to call attention to the role higher education can and will play in preparing citizens, working with local communities, and engaging in conversations to address critical issues affecting our local, regional, and national governments. The authors suggest that higher education must consider the ways in which deliberative democracy in education can aid in preparing the next generation of informed citizens to address current issues through equal participation and access. Toward this aim, the chapters describe deliberative democracy, share a sample of current practices, and suggest directions for future application and discussion within  higher education

Authors  begin by discussing the decline of civility in the United States, emphasizing that higher education can serve as a mechanism to increase civility through the exploration and dissemination of knowledge. For example, the college classroom can be a place for rich discussions regarding controversial issues of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. These classroom discussions can be based on a dialogic process that has been successfully applied in higher education. In addition, colleges and universities can reach out into the community and engage in effective dialogic partnership that can address issues of power and privilege towards productive ends. The authors challenge the higher education community, itself, to begin to shape and to model democracy through its scholarship and its governance. 

I found this book to be an excellent introduction to understanding how and why deliberative democracy is an important and necessary principle for higher education. Especially helpful were the short chapters that readers  could pick up in between advising appointments and meetings and still engage in professional learning that could inform our everyday practice  in working with students.  The target audience and content do not refer directly to academic advising, but to the larger higher education community and specifically faculty and administrators. 

Even though this book does not address advising specifically, the basic concepts and principles can be productively applied while advising students; however, it will require reader to find ways in which they can incorporate these critical ideas and concepts into everyday practice. One practical application of the concepts in this book that I found helpful was how to identify the courses in which  students can develop the skills and knowledge necessary to engage in dialogue. 

Educating for deliberative democracy (New directions for higher education #152). (2011). Book by Nancy L. Thomas (Ed,). Review by Ryan Tomasiewicz. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 120pp., $29.00, (paperback), ISBN# 978-1-1180-3245-9
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