A College Education

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A College Education—Now—and Then

When I went to college back in the Dark Ages, I used a tool called a typewriter to do my written work. It was a manual typewriter because electric models cost too much. These days, not only do college students not use that kind of tool to do their work; they apparently do not do much work at all.

A new study finds that 45% of students showed no significant improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning, or writing by the end of their sophomore years. After four years and graduation, 36% still showed no improvement.

Most of these students did not do much or learn much because they were never pushed in that direction. Half of students did not take a single course requiring at least 20 pages of writing in the semester before the study concluded. And one-third did not take a single course requiring 40 pages of reading per week. My American Literature course required about 350 pages of reading every week.

We have this notion that a college education is a desirable goal for nearly everybody. That might be the case if every college student were required to actually get some real measure of education before graduating. One student said, “Honestly, you can get by with Wikipedia and pass just about anything.”

We are told in the media that U.S. students rank very low when compared with students from several other countries. It is not difficult to determine why. We have in this country an educational system that insists on rewarding every student for just showing up. It is like one of those “competitive” tournaments for young children in which every single participant gets a trophy. If a student does not demonstrate he has achieved any degree of mastery of his current coursework, he is promoted to the next level, anyway.

And our high-school students who have learned very little in their current course do not just pass and get promoted; they pass with flying colors. About 37% of high-school seniors graduate with an “A” average. Do we really believe that many of our students are doing excellent work and have done so through four years of high school? An “A” is supposed to denote excellent, but our teachers give them out like potato chips. I have heard many students say “she gave me an “A”!” Nobody ever gave me an “A” or a paycheck. I earned every one of them.

These young people did very little in high school and they enter college and continue the process. A college diploma should be a mark of achievement. Instead they have become printed pieces of paper that are handed out to everybody who paid their fees (and their parking tickets; you cannot graduate until those are paid).


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