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The Chronicle: Students are failing to learn at college

Posted by iusbvision on January 20, 2011

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a piece about a new an extensive study that measured students ability to think critically and express complex ideas in an essay. The results are not inspiring. The results of the study appear in a book titled Academically Adrift.

As my regular readers know, I am currently authoring a book on public education. I am sorry to say that much of what I see presented in this article is not a surprise. I have questions about the study, but I guess I will have to wait for the book to get those answers.

 

I will comment in the article in red.  The Chronicle:

A book released today makes a damning indictment of the American higher-education system: For many students, it says, four years of undergraduate classes make little difference in their ability to synthesize knowledge and put complex ideas on paper.

The stark message from the authors of Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (University of Chicago Press) is that more than a third of American college seniors are no better at crucial types of writing and reasoning tasks than they were in their first semester of college (see excerpt).

Growing numbers of students are sent to college at increasingly higher costs, but for a large proportion of them the gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and written communication are either exceedingly small or empirically nonexistent. At least 45 percent of students in our sample did not demonstrate any statistically significant improvement in Collegiate Learning Assessment [CLA] performance during the first two years of college. [Further study has indicated that 36 percent of students did not show any significant improvement over four years.] While these students may have developed subject-specific skills that were not tested for by the CLA, in terms of general analytical competencies assessed, large numbers of U.S. college students can be accurately described as academically adrift. They might graduate, but they are failing to develop the higher-order cognitive skills that it is widely assumed college students should master. These findings are sobering and should be a cause for concern.

[This begs the question; the 64% that did show an improvement that could be statistically measured, what was the average gain, or how about giving is a pie chart showing the various gains? One could say based on this tiny excerpt from the book that “64% showed improvement so what is the problem?”. The obvious answer is that the 64% that showed improvement that could be statistically measured was also quite low, disturbingly low enough to publish this book. If 64% had showed a significant improvement there would have been no reason to publish the book.  Of course, a little critical thinking led me to that rather obvious conclusion. Ironically when you examine the comment section at The Chronical you see several comments saying “64% showed improvement so what’s the problem”; thus showing that some didn’t think that question through before posting.  – IUSB Vision Editor]

“We didn’t know what to expect when we began this study,” said Richard Arum, a professor of sociology at New York University who is one of the book’s two authors. “We didn’t walk into this with any axes to grind. But now that we’ve seen the data, we’re very concerned about American higher education and the extent to which undergraduate learning seems to have been neglected.”

According to The Chronicle, and an articles in USA Today and McClatchy the book outlines several conclusions. Conclusions which I am sure are incomplete in this reporting and will be spelled out in much greater detail in the book.

1 – Schools are relying on the reputation of public education to be the source of enlightenment and have become complacent.

2 – Students are spending nearly 50% less time studying [Granted information technology is responsible for at least a portion of this decline]

3 – There are more students enrolled in college who perhaps should not be.

4 – Students are reading less and are required to write much less than a decade ago.

5 – Universities have focused on graduate studies and research to the expense of undergraduate education.

 

This excerpt from McClatchy I found to be most validating:

An unprecedented study that followed several thousand undergraduates through four years of college found that large numbers didn’t learn the critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication skills that are widely assumed to be at the core of a college education.

Many of the students graduated without knowing how to sift fact from opinion, make a clear written argument or objectively review conflicting reports of a situation or event, according to New York University sociologist Richard Arum, lead author of the study. The students, for example, couldn’t determine the cause of an increase in neighborhood crime or how best to respond without being swayed by emotional testimony and political spin.

It has been my experience that this is not only a problem with students, but with a great many professors as well. The simple truth is that a majority of professors I encountered were creatures of emotionalism. They would use their education to validate their own biases and would simply become hostile and/or frustrated when confronted with inconvenient facts. Many also confused the sting of an inconvenient fact or argument with a nasty personal attack. This confusion went both ways and many students and professors would make a sweeping personal attacks and believe it was a substantive argument.

Editor’s Note – I would like to give a detailed example of just the kind of confusion I am referring to:A good example of this is in The Atlantic where Jeff Goldberg picks a handful of Marxists/leviathan state progressives  who happen to be of Jewish ethnicity and essentially says that Beck pro-ports to support Israel, but these are the people he criticizes and most of them are Jewish so he must be antisemitic.

Beck has done shows on Soros and Piven etc. He quotes their books, their speeches and many sources. Does Jeff Goldberg try to refute what Glenn says about them point for point? Of course he doesn’t because he cant.

I have written about Israel for years. Quite frankly, my friend of Israel status is beyond reproach. With that said, I have massive problems with most of the people on Goldberg’s list. I have problems with them because what some of them have said/done/written is nothing short of evil. If anyone likes I can start posting statements and video’s from the people on that list and dare anyone to defend what they say. Most people wouldn’t dare because they are just that bad. Jeff Goldberg can’t post serious refutation, so he falls back on the oldest canard in the book, if you disagree with the left your a racist. By the way, this is exactly how Walter Lippmann told the left to behave against those who resisted “progress” towards a leviathan state. https://iusbvision.wordpress.com/walter-lippmann-media-bias/

Goldberg at the Atlantic leaves out many people Beck has reported on and critiqued, such as the head of ACORN, who is not Jewish, Van Jones, who is not Jewish, Anita Dunn, Bob Gibbs, Eric Holder, George W. Bush, Herbert Hoover, Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, Al Gore (Big time on Al), The UN, Hugo Chavez, that Mumia cop killer fellow, heads of a couple of teachers unions, pinheads at MSNBC, much of OPEC, Islamic radicals such as Hamas and Hezbollah, the Iranian Mullahs, the president of Iran.

The bottom line is this, 35 people of Jewish ethnicity are in top positions in the Obama Administration, so in the eyes of the Atlantic if you go after the administration for what they say, do , advocate or write it must mean your a Jew hater…. gimme a break. That is like saying that if you oppose Obama policy it means you hate blacks.

 

I have some observations to add to the list above:

1 – Colleges are spending too much time teaching nuts and trendy intellectual light weights such as Marxist Lesbian Conflict Theorist Judith Butler.

2 – Colleges do not spend much time at all teaching philosophy, American History, and the great thinkers like Aristotle, John Locke, Cicero, Thomas Aquinas etc. Without a good classical education students do not learn how to think logically and objectively.

3 – The education at most universities is grossly over ideological with the Marxist point of view often taught as the only academic truth. Without both sides and regular exposure to different ideological approaches critical thinking skills will continue to wain. Conservative  and traditionalist academics are often persecuted and that includes IUSB.

4 – High schools by and large are not preparing our students for college level work. Many high schools, including those in South Bend, routinely use open book quizzes and tests. Students critical thinking skills are not nurtured well in public school. The influence of over-reaching teachers unions also transfers the purpose of the public school away from creating thinking and effective young minds to the purpose of enriching teachers unions and administrators.

I am looking forward to reading Academically Adrift.

 

Related:

Heather Wilson: Our superficial scholars

The Chronicle: Students are failing to learn at college

Top Colleges Rank Lowest on Civics Exams

The “DUH” Generation

One Response to “The Chronicle: Students are failing to learn at college”

  1. Lee said

    Wow…..that was a lengthy article! perhaps you should not use such long articles, especially without Pics! Too much to read and is a Time waster. You could have made the same point with 1/2 the amount of text/words!

    I mean, I am sure you would not stand for anyone leaving equally lengthy remarks on here, right?

    [Oh come on I am covering a book with one page! Besides it wasn’t just my point. I had to cover theirs too ~~~ – Editor]

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