As If Learning Mattered: Reforming Higher Education

By Richard E. Miller

CoverPublished in 1998, when the culture wars had reached the end of their second decade, Richard E. Miller’s As If Learning Mattered explored why higher education has been particularly resistant to reform. Unraveling stereotypes about conservative, liberal, and radical reform efforts, Miller looked at what actually happened when theories about education were put into practice. As If Learning Matters raises critical questions: What did Matthew Arnold do as a school inspector to promote the study of “the best that has been thought and said in our time”? Why did the Great Books program fail at the University of Chicago and succeed at a small liberal arts college in Annapolis, Maryland? How did Tony Bennett and others involved in the radical work of British Cultural Studies test their students’ knowledge of popular culture? How did ethnographers of schooling respond when they encountered students with apparently racist attitudes?

By grappling with such questions, As If Learning Mattered focused attention on how students, teachers, and administrators experience life in the academy as they negotiate the daily realities of reading lists, writing assignments, grading practices, and funding crises. By juxtaposing what educators think about social change with what these same people actually do in the classroom, Miller successfully identified new ways to generate locally effective reform objectives for the university as it retools for the information age.

Reflection: Read Richard E. Miller's reflection on the 25th anniversary of the publication of As If Learning Mattered

Table of Contents

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Front Matter



Chapter 1. Thinking with Students: Deliberations on the History of Educational Reform

Chapter 2. Ministering to a Mind Diseased: Matthew Arnold, Her Majesty’s Inspector

Chapter 3. “Education for Everybody”: Great Books and the Democratic Ideal

Chapter 4. Cultural Studies for the Masses: Distance Education and the Open University’s Ideal Student

Chapter 5. Teaching Others: Ethnography and the Allure of Expertise

Chapter 6. The Stories That Teach Us




About the Author

Richard E. Miller is Professor of English at Rutgers. In addition to As if Learning Mattered, he is the author of the books On the End of Privacy: Learning to Read, Write, and Think in the 21st CenturyHabits of the Creative Mind (with co-author Ann Jurecic), and Writing at the End of the World. He has delivered more than one hundred invited talks across the country and abroad on a range of topics related to literacy, technology, and higher education. Miller started his career as a writing teacher, spent time as an administrator, returned to the classroom as a teacher specializing in large Gen Ed lecture courses, and now focuses on teaching creative thinking and imaginative reading. In recognition of his success in these areas over the 29 years he has been teaching at Rutgers, he received the Chancellor-Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2022, which honors a member of the New Brunswick faculty “whose teaching contributions resulted in an extraordinary impact on the institution, students’ experiences, and public engagement.” He is currently writing a work of creative nonfiction entitled, On Becoming a Writer.

Publication Information: Miller, Richard E. (2023). As if Learning Mattered: Reforming Higher Education. The WAC Clearinghouse. (Originally published in 1998 by Cornell University Press)

Publication Date: August 15, 2023

Contact Information:
Richard E. Miller:

Landmark Publications in Writing Studies

Series Editor: Mike Palmquist, Colorado State University

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