Freshmen across the state get their first tastes of academic work and university culture via summer reading programs. The flavors range from strong and satisfying (Three Cups of Tea) to bitter and indigestible (Covering).
Summer reading programs are supposed to create a common ground among new students, challenge them to think critically about new ideas, and introduce them to university work and intellectual life. Unfortunately, at most North Carolina schools, the books rarely represent real college-level work or even entertaining literature. Instead, colleges assign books that are faddish or polemical, giving students the notion that that college is more about what to think than about how to think.
For example, the book Meredith has chosen, Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, makes no attempt at objective, scholarly inquiry, failing to acknowledge that reasonable and well-informed people have come to different conclusions about climate change.
For the record, we’ve compiled many of this year’s offerings:
• Appalachian State: The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
• Duke University: What is the What by Dave Eggers
• Elon University: The Shame of the Nation by Jonathan Kozol
• East Carolina: My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student by Rebekah Nathan
• Meredith College: An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore
• N.C. State: Sounds of the River by Da Chen
• UNC-Asheville: The Ravaging Tide by Mike Tidwell
• UNC- Chapel Hill: Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights by Kenji Yoshino
• UNC-Greensboro: Students may choose among eight books, ranging from Cradle-to-Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough & Michael Braungart, to My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student by Rebekah Nathan
• UNC-Wilmington: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
• Wake Forest: “Millennials Talk Politics: A Study of College Student Political Engagement,” a study published by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement
• Western Carolina: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen & David Oliver Relin