Anya Kamenetz: DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education

April 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Non-Fiction, WritersCast

978-1603582346 – Chelsea Green Publishing – paperback – $14.95 (also available in e-book formats)

In some ways the title of this book is a bit misleading, as there is no reference to a major part of the book – an extensive discussion at the beginning of DIY U that is a history and analysis of American higher education.  It’s an important discussion for millions of Americans who question how the system got to where it is, and how it could be made to change.  I think of myself as pretty knowledgeable about how things work but I was completely surprised at some of the things I learned about modern higher education in this part of the book.  I’m willing to say that it’s a must-read for anyone interested in public policy and the future of our society (hopefully that’s alot of people).  We need to question every aspect of how we educate our citizenry.

Which leads us to the next part of the book, which is really what the title refers to.  Whereas the entrenched systems appear to be immoveable, there is so much ferment and change afoot, so much that is enabled by the web and the networked, decentralized, open source nature of emerging, modern culture, that there really is hope for the meaningful and significant change we need.  As Chelsea Green says about DIY U on their website: “The future lies in personal learning networks and paths, learning that blends experiential and digital approaches, and free and open-source educational models. Increasingly, you will decide what, when, where, and with whom you want to learn, and you will learn by doing. The university is the cathedral of modernity and rationality, and with our whole civilization in crisis, we are poised on the brink of a new Reformation.”

I loved talking to Anya Kamenetz and wish we had more time to talk – not just about her book and the work she did to write it, but her incisive ideas and her many interests in modern, connected culture.  We had a great conversation talking about her book and so many of her ideas.  She’s incredibly intelligent, has complete command of her subject and is a terrific writer  – her extensive experience as a journalist serves her well both in conversation and in the longer form of a full length book.  She can work with big swatches of information and ideas and make them clear and understandable, and importantly, never bores her readers.  Hopefully I’m not alone in wanting see this book help us envision and then implement significant change in education, learning and social change.  This is a book that can make a real difference.

Anya Kamenetz is a staff writer for Fast Company magazine. The Village Voice nominated her for a Pulitzer Prize for contributions to the feature series Generation Debt, which became a book in 2006. She has written for the New York Times, appeared on CNN and National Public Radio, and been featured as a “Yahoo Finance Expert.” A frequent speaker nationwide, Anya blogs at, The Huffington Post, and She lives in Brooklyn with her husband.