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"I Love Learning; I Hate School""I Love Learning; I Hate School"

An Anthropology of College

Susan D. Blum

Narrated by Laura Jennings

Available from Audible

Book published by Cornell University Press

Frustrated by her students' performance, her relationships with them, and her own daughter’s problems in school, Susan D. Blum, a professor of anthropology, set out to understand why her students found their educational experience at a top-tier institution so profoundly difficult and unsatisfying. Through her research and in conversations with her students, she discovered a troubling mismatch between the goals of the university and the needs of students.

In "I Love Learning; I Hate School," Blum tells two intertwined but inseparable stories: the results of her research into how students learn contrasted with the way conventional education works, and the personal narrative of how she herself was transformed by this understanding. Blum concludes that the dominant forms of higher education do not match the myriad forms of learning that help students—people in general—master meaningful and worthwhile skills and knowledge. Students are capable of learning huge amounts, but the ways higher education is structured often leads them to fail to learn. More than that, it leads to ill effects. In this critique of higher education, infused with anthropological insights, Blum explains why so much is going wrong and offers suggestions for how to bring classroom learning more in line with appropriate forms of engagement. She challenges our system of education and argues for a “reintegration of learning with life.”

Susan D. Blum is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. She is the author of "I Love Learning; I Hate School": An Anthropology of College; My Word! Plagiarism and College Culture; Lies That Bind: Chinese Truth, Other Truths; and Portraits of "Primitives": Ordering Human Kinds in the Chinese Nation; the editor of Making Sense of Language: Readings in Culture and Communication; and coeditor of China Off Center: Mapping the Margins of the Middle Kingdom.


“We should take very seriously the critique of higher education offered by Susan Blum; the book is excellent, and I highly recommend it. Blum does the profession a service by drawing our attention to the ways in which traditional educational structures put barriers in the way of our students and their learning. She has a powerful command of educational history and theory, and her insights and anecdotes rang true to me throughout the book.”

Chronicle of Higher Education

‘I Love Learning; I Hate School’ is a must-read for all who care about educational improvement and renewal. Moving beyond critique, Blum shows a way forward with practical ideas instructors at all levels can use to make their classrooms less school-like, and in Blum’s words, more ‘joyful, relevant, and humane.”

—Peter Demerath, University of Minnesota, author of Producing Success: The Culture of Personal Advancement in an American High School

“Susan D. Blum has written the book the majority of college faculty would write if they only had her encyclopedic knowledge, deep insight, and courage.”

—David F. Lancy, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, Utah State University, author of The Anthropology of Childhood: Cherubs, Chattel, Changelings

“In 'I Love Learning; I Hate School,' Susan D. Blum courageously achieves the goal of anthropologists who work in their own culture: she makes the familiar strange. She does so by painting a vivid portrait of learning in today's universities, a portrait that those of us who love university teaching know but are reluctant to admit—the system too often fails even our most capable students. Blum leads the reader on an intimate, often uncomfortable, journey, a journey that everyone associated with higher education should take.”

—Christine Finnan, College of Charleston, coauthor of Accelerating the Learning of All Students: Cultivating Culture Change in Schools, Classrooms, and Individuals

'I Love Learning; I Hate School' is beautifully written. It addresses a shared set of educational dilemmas experienced both intellectually and viscerally by teachers and students in our current university system. Susan D. Blum’s work is innovative in its approach and stimulating in its insight into educational history, theory, and practice. This book offers a thoughtful, intimate slant on how to make sense of our lived experience as teachers and students.”

—Cathy Small, Northern Arizona University

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