Review: Broken

Broken Broken by Paul LeBlanc
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

As the man who led Southern New Hampshire University from a small unmemorable college in New England to one of the largest and most recognizable accessible institutions, Leblanc builds upon that achievement by looking at the broader societal challenges to consider what can be fixed.  In some ways this feels like a victory lap--having supposedly succeeded in one area, it's time to show others how it's done in areas that he seems to have a paltry understanding. The book goes through a mixture of biography, all the things SNHU is doing right through his leadership, occasional dips into times he just didn't get it right and maybe a place or two where he could get better, as well as occasionally dives into areas of K-12 education, criminal justice, healthcare, and the like to point out what he deems examples of systems that are putting humans first--just as he supposedly is.  Yet LeBlanc's purpose in this book is mired and unclear, but most evident, disingenuous to the point he is trying to make. He argues regularly about the importance of creating extensive systems that can still recognize and uphold the humanity and agency of every individual; he claims this is what he has done at SNHU through his students and his staff; yet, the vast majority of labor--labor that counts towards educational attainment is done by an adjunct system that is highly controlled and exploited. Underpaid, monitored, and expected to constantly respond to students and the like that is easily compared to the command and control approaches to other dehumanizing spaces such as Amazon, Uber, and such. It's a frustrating thing to hear how often he upholds the importance of relationships and spends less than a few pages in total considering the role of the actual educators in an institution that has over 100,000 students. It becomes hard to take what he says or his recommendations seriously because his own accomplishments seem suspect.  That said, he's not wrong about wanting to think about how to center relationships in complex systems, he just is far from doing it and therefore, this book feels like an unreflective and undeserved pat on the back to create opportunities for more financially-rewarding speaking engagements.

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