Last year Ashland Universitys "Introduction to University Life" program solicited suggestions from the faculty regarding books that might be profitably assigned to all first-year students and used as a basis for class discussions. I think I suggested Neil Postmans Amusing Ourselves to Death, hardly a conservative book. In any case, does anyone think theres a shortage of important, substantive books out there with which to challenge students?
Well, it turns out that IUL decided to go with Barbara Ehrenreichs Nickel and Dimed. I suppose I shouldnt be surprised; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been using it as "expected" (meaning required) reading for a few years now, much to the consternation of North Carolinas conservative state legislature. Now Ive learned that my alma mater, Ohio University, has adopted the book as part of its Common Reading Project. Perhaps there are other schools doing this as well; if so, Id like to hear about it.
So whats going on here? Are faculty members making these decisions unaware of the huge menu of important and challenging works available on a variety of subjects? Why are these schools so set on using a third-rate book as a means of introducing 18-year-olds to the rigors of university life? Is "Nickel and Dimed" now to be considered one of the Great Books?