Gen Ed


Gen Ed is a novel that locates serious discussion of general education in the context of some of the day-to-day realities encountered in putting it into practice and promoting efforts at reform at Metropolitan Atlantic University (aka the Metro). This dual focus is found in the often-pugnacious policy debate among the faculty and a more light-hearted discussion of related questions carried on by Professor Kelly as he models Socratic teaching in his upper-level class for prospective teachers. Reforming general education at the Metro is not free of the vanities and vulgarities of ambitious men and women and self-serving politicians, of course, nor those who poke fun at them. Arnie Smatter, the irrepressible and nosey chat show host of Radio YOY ensures that this does not go unnoticed.

The overall humorous tone of Gen Ed does not detract from Mulcahy’s thoughtful treatment of substantive issues that will be of interest to serious scholars, students, and a general readership. It is the behaviour of those involved, the broader media and political contexts in which events take place, which mainly becomes the object of humorous treatment.

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D. G. Mulcahy, Ph.D. (1970), Illinois, is CSU Professor Emeritus at Central Connecticut State University and a Past President of the New England Philosophy of Education Society. His books include The Educated Person (2008) and Knowledge, Gender, and Schooling (2002).
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"In Gen Ed, D. G. Mulcahy provides us with a fascinating insight into the politics of university life. The story is gritty, moving and riveting, holding the reader’s attention from the very outset. The fictitious Metropolitan Atlantic University provides a convincing platform for the exploration of a range of themes and ideas, and while the idea of education is at the core, the various themes and sub-themes which emanate and are advanced capture the reader’s imagination and curiosity. The novel is unique in that while it can be read by educationalists as a novel about education, its reach and impact are both broader and deeper, treating perennial issues such as gender equality, leadership, power and the meaning of education. The emergence of a virus towards the end of the novel provides a timely and apt closing to a complex and spellbinding world." – Judith Harford, FRHistS, University College Dublin
"Gen Ed is a remarkable work. It follows in the long tradition of the academic novel, and is a delightful tale of life and politics on a small university campus. It is far more than this, though, because it also addresses a number of important topics about liberal arts and general education in higher education, and does so in a thoughtful way without overwhelming the reader with the complexities of the debates taking place on many college campuses. As a professor and former university administrator who has also served on a local board of education, I can vouch for much of the reality of Gen Ed. The main characters in the book may seem like caricatures, but for anyone in higher education, they have more than a touch of authenticity." – Timothy Reagan, The University of Maine
"Some aspects of university politics are universal and some are country and even college-type specific. That is particularly so in relation to the United States and we get a great sense of how it can manifest itself throughout this most engaging book set in the fictitious Metropolitan Atlantic University. Thus, while the work contains lots of good humour, it is also insightful for the academic reader both in the United States and elsewhere in terms of the detailed day-to-day infighting that takes place. For me the most engaging aspect of the book is the many Socratic dialogues on general education – the site of so much contestation at ‘The Metro’. Time after times I had vicarious experience, feeling I was in the seminar room and partaking with the students. These scenes alone should make it compulsory reading for would-be undergraduates, graduates, schoolteachers, academics, and the general reader." – Tom O’Donoghue, The University of Western Australia, Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, Fellow of the Royal Historical Society
"Gen Ed is a profound and cutting-edge book for everyone; especially those trying to find meaning during the pandemic and hope for the future of education in America. Just as the COVID pandemic is ready to force the timely, gutsy, and provocative characters in Mulcahy’s latest book into quarantine, a fierce Gen Ed curriculum debate is raging at the METRO. Mulcahy takes us on a labyrinth full of diverse characters that will instantly remind you of people you know; including graduate and undergrad students, administrators, politicians, and professors. Mulcahy expertly juxtaposes the complexities of university life with the local board of education “hidden” agenda. The political forces and intricacies surrounding those that believe they found the Holy Grail of Gen Ed are expertly woven amidst the daily life of the characters. Mulcahy is a creative force bringing the characters to life within the dance of politics and the narrow-minded aspirations of university professors and politicians. Fasten your seat belt as you enter Gen Ed’s political circus and ride a roller coaster of enlightenment. Mulcahy weaves a much needed and creative portrait of general education philosophy and pedagogy; the first of its kind in years. Professor Patrick Kelly (who brews his own Guinness) will make you wish you were in his class as he challenges his students to think deeply and critically about their life and what is an educated person after-all. You will find yourself laughing one minute and frowning the next, when politics, back stabbing, and overall crude and dangerous behavior meet at the Metro Gen Ed arena as COVID 19 appears on the scene." – Barbara Clark, Central Connecticut State University
"Welcome to the world of academe, and the ever-so-bitter struggle to reform general education at Metro University. Who would think something as simple as curriculum revision would be a mirror for the folly and absurdity of our world? Here, we see protests and battles rage. There are no swords and blood, but the battles are as captivating as if we were watching zombies take over our backyard. [..] In the tradition of some of our finest satirists, Gen Ed is overflowing with endearing and infuriating characters: contrarians, intellectuals, Polly-annas, sycophants, radicals, cynics, and blowhards. In addition to the flesh-and-blood characters who promenade along its stage, various philosophers make appearances in the classroom ruminations of our hero, Professor Kelly, who draws students into the captivating world of Cicero, John Dewey, Horace Mann, and Paulo Freire. Even William Butler Yeats make a figurative appearance, reminding us that ‘education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. [..] And what a fire it is! [..] With heavy doses of snappy dialogue and chuckles throughout, Gen Ed is its own course in both the inanity and gravity of human behavior. Political intrigue, backroom deals, and bureaucratic jockeying are as prevalent as midterm exams. We see debates involving the nature of education, religion, the rights of parents--all played out amid the hum of administrative gears that grind in often hilarious and illuminating ways. We meet student radicals in the making, especially the endearing Filomena, as well as whistle-blowers, radio talk show hosts, and tweedy hustlers. In crossing paths, these characters create a microcosm of our world where personal vendetta, idealism, and human absurdity clash. To the credit of Mulcahy, all this is done without ever judging the characters. We love these characters, mostly because we see a bit of ourselves in them. [..] The book starts with the beginning of a typical semester at a non-descript city university and ends in a shocking and all-to-real finale, reminding us that we are mere players in a larger game of which we have no control. Gen Ed is a social critique. It is also a philosophical treatise. It is a lampoon that exposes the underbelly of our madcap lives. It lets us laugh at the silliness of its characters. It also lets us laugh, and learn to love again, the goodness in people around us, who are flawed and infuriating but never broken." – Ronnie Casella, Associate Dean of Education, SUNY Cortland
"I am delighted to have been invited to review this novel which explores the nature and purpose of education and general education in particular in higher education in the US. This fictional work is both entertaining and light hearted but also addresses so many issues which are fundamental in education, locally and internationally. The arguments of the value of public versus private education/universities, the definition and purpose of education, what counts as curriculum and who selects curriculum, the role of politics on the policies and the role of the media in shaping policies are just examples of the matters raised. The debate within Prof Kelly’s classroom reveals the best of Socratic teaching and the capacity of a good teacher to enable students from a variety of backgrounds to express themselves and to engage in authentic and challenging conversations on matters which they had not previously considered. The engagement of students in real debates and their inclusion in university committees, promoted their ownership of learning, gave them a voice and created opportunities to break down barriers between social classes. Some of the universal issues about status and gender are highlighted throughout the text; the education school is undervalued within the university and while the business school is described as ‘plush’, the conditions within the education school are described as ‘appalling’, reflecting the hierarchy within disciplines on university campuses. The text brilliantly portrays the mini-politics of life on campuses and in particular the sexualisation of female students and the undermining of female leaders is very real; the traditional male voices advocating the status quo are very dismissive of the new female academics who have alternative views and who are seeking to revise and reform programmes which have legendary status within the academy. [..] This work is humorous and at the same time has the capacity to stimulate conversations around very serious, deep and pervasive cultural issues in education. This is a very worthwhile and useful text and I commend the author for his imaginative and at the same time, wholly realistic approach to initiating discourse in education. This is a great piece of literature as well – the characters are well-defined and the reader is easily hooked, and constantly wondering ‘what will happen next?’ I know that if I were teaching a postgraduate program, or indeed working with a team of staff involved in the review of a course/curriculum, I would use this text to provoke critical conversations and to analyse the contextual layers which influence decision-making on education campuses. I look forward to seeing this book published and know that it will be a most useful resource in education." – Teresa O’Doherty, President, Marino Institute of Education, Dublin, Ireland

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20

Appendix: Questions for Discussion, Suggested Topics for Term Papers and Research Projects
About the Author
All of those with a scholarly interest in general education and the liberal arts as well as a broad readership that enjoys humorous fiction focused on college and university life.
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