Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A comment on the state of college education ...

A recently published book on lower-division education in American colleges, Academically Adrift, reveals some pretty startling stuff about what students do in college and what they are getting out of the experience.  In a typical seven-day week, students on average spend only 7% of their time studying and 9% of their time in class.  Since college is expensive, one might jump to conclude they spend so little time on studies because they are working, but in fact they only spend 9% of their time working.  The bulk of their time is spent socializing (51%) and sleeping (24%).  Truly, this represents the pathetic state of lower-division college education, and my 30+ years of college teaching reflect it.

I began teaching at the college level in 1971. Students read four to five books per quarter in my general education history classes. I gave three to four essay examinations (blue book and take home). Occasionally some complained, but in the end they worked very hard and I'm sure learned a lot. Thirty years later, general education itself was generally gutted of serious requirements in the liberal arts, students refused to read the books assigned and complained bitterly when they received poor grades on essay exams. They sought out other faculty who gave objective tests and didn't require reading. The deans, espousing "success for all students," jumped on me because I gave more C's, D's and F's or had more student drops than other faculty. I'm glad I had tenure, or I would have been pushed to enter the faculty popularity contest.

We live in a society where parents indulge their children, where children rarely are allowed to experience failure, where students think they are owed success in classes and are largely allowed to take only classes they want to take, where college deans don't support faculty who seek work from their students, where faculty in response seek to be popular with their students, where politicians and political parties refuse to take responsibility for their own actions, where corporate leaders indulge themselves with no sense of propriety, and the list goes on ad nauseum.

And in poll after poll, John Q. Public says education is among the most important issues facing our society, if not number one. Duh?


Blogger GW said...

James, I could not agree with you more. It's a sad state. Very sad.

On one hand we have folks saying that education is vital and on the other hand we have an education system that is can barely qualify as 'an education' - at least in the traditional sense.

I wish there were a way to do something about it, but I'm not too optimistic if someone like you can't fix it! :)

2:41 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

“A comment on the state of college education” is a good article. In this book Academically Adrift explained which is recently published in American college about student activities and their getting experience. The teacher shares his experience getting a work of a student and student ‘s condition . So I highly appreciate this article as a student.

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1:39 AM  
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