Monday, October 24, 2011

Humming to Higher Ed

Gail Collins with a NYT op ed on how we're dumbing down our schools and demanding less and less of our students at the college level as well:

There's a well-known study called "Academically Adrift" that followed 3,000 students on 29 campuses and determined that after two years, 45 percent showed no significant gain in learning — and even after four years, 36 percent showed little change.

This is particularly frightening because the young men and women entering college have already spent their entire senior year of high school doing nothing but fretting over what college they're going to get into. I would rather not think that many of the most expensively educated brains in the country are already formed by their 17th birthday.

Wait, there's more: Besides learning less, today's students are borrowing more. This year, the total amount of outstanding student loans will pass the $1 trillion threshold for the first time. The Federal Reserve has reported that Americans now owe more on student loans than on credit cards.

While this all looks pretty depressing, I think it's important to consider the bright side. When it comes to spending money they don't have, Americans today apparently prefer to invest in History 101 and Conversational French rather than clothes, vacations and new kitchen appliances.

However, Richard Arum, the co-author of "Academically Adrift," is not looking on the bright side at all. Particularly about the fact that his study found "that 36 percent of the students are studying five or fewer hours a week and get a 3.16 grade average."

Some 18-year-olds may be heartened by the idea that they can go to a good school, do almost nothing and still come home with a B. But Arum says this isn't going to cut it in the global economy. He compared the performance of the students he studied with a recent report on academic effort in European countries and discovered that when it comes to time spent on class work and homework, "only the Slovak Republic would come after us in academic time."

I don't think I can put a positive spin on beating the Slovak Republic.

Since Arum says the kids who never studied were more likely, two years out of college, to be living at home with their parents, it's clear that all mothers and fathers have a major interest in making sure their offspring are doing more reading than their competition in Bratislava.  


October 21, 2011

Humming to Higher Ed


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