INMATES RUNNING ASYLUMS

This item made its way around the interwebs on Tuesday, revealing the shocking assertion that American college students aren't learning much during their four to seven years of undergraduate binge drinking. A new book entitled Academically Adrift asserts that college students in their sample (approximately 2000) show little to no improvement in knowledge and critical thinking skills after two and four years. As these brief news items do not say much about the methodology of this study I can't say how seriously these findings should be taken. Nonetheless this conclusion seems like it has been common knowledge for quite some time now – especially among those of us on the Inside – and we may be safe assuming that there is some kernel of truth to it.

Look, this is not a revelation. We know that American universities are plagued with grade inflation, pitifully low standards, rampant senses of entitlement among the students, and a general lack of interest in scholarly activity on campus. We know that students want to do as little work as possible and whine for higher grades. We know that some meaningful portion of academics give out high grades and demand almost nothing of students in pursuit of higher student evaluations and teaching awards. We know that demands from parents, state legislators, and taxpayers play a role as well. We know that a lot of people in college right now are nowhere near ready to do college-level work. We know that the economic state of higher education means that less experienced, lower paid people are doing the majority of the teaching in many places. None of this is news and to discuss it here would be to repeat ourselves at great length to no effect.

Of the many news sites that carried this story on Tuesday, the Gawker link ended up being the most interesting to me. Not because the hack of a writer did a good job summarizing the book (he didn't) but because of the comment thread. While it is lengthy, it is interesting to thumb through. As usual when the state of academia is opened up for debate, current or recent undergraduates gravitate toward institutional factors as sources of blame, e.g.:

My Genetics degree was tough to get but I didn't have the time to fuck around and not study. But I also recall the first two years of my college being mostly fluff courses that we were required to take in order to make us 'well rounded'. Stuff like fulfilling certain multicultural, western, eastern, foreign language and history courses, regardless of major.

As an instructor of a giant, state legislatively mandated Intro to American Government course in which students generally have not one shred of interest, I encounter this attitude often. I am only here because the state is forcing me to be here. I do not want to take (math / English / foreign languages / history / politics / etc). I only want to take the courses in my major (which is inevitably journalism, business, or something equally full of people who think they know everything). Because why would a journalist or someone in "business" need to know anything about how American government works?

What it reveals, I believe, is the disturbing trend of treating students as customers in universities run like businesses, and we know that the customer is always right. They come into college with the attitude that they will tell us what they want to be taught, not the other way around. Despite the fact that colleges already offer students a substantial amount of discretion in choosing their course of study, they are increasingly vocal in their anger toward the minimal trappings of a well rounded, liberal arts education that most states have in place.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough that this is not how the system is intended to work. You do not walk into college, 18 years old and brimming with all the worldly knowledge concomitant with that age, and tell us what we should be teaching you. If the students already know what knowledge and skills they need, then why are they in college? Ah. At last we reach the heart of the matter – they fundamentally believe that the educational aspect of college is little more than a tedious requirement. We are just gatekeepers standing between them and the fabulous, high-paying careers that await them on the other side. "I don't give a crap about Literature or history or the rules of grammar; just give me my B so I can start making $500,000 per year in advertising or writing Golden Globes fashion articles for Vogue."

You see, college isn't about learning anything. It's merely a multiyear party with a bunch of hoops to jump through, a set of obstacles between each Special Snowflake and the Good Life. And the more they whine about states' efforts to impose some semblance of a well-rounded education, the more we change things to accommodate them. The customer is always right. I am not the world's strongest proponent of "knowledge for the sake of knowledge" education, but the idea that students aren't learning because we're boring them by subjecting them to math, English, history, foreign languages, and political science is beyond the pale. If anything, a far stronger argument could be made that students learn so little in college because their curricula are composed so heavily of narrow elective courses lacking in breadth and of dubious educational value. We know you want to spend all of your time taking elective crap and "business" classes, kids. But here's the thing: you can't. Our job, at least for now, is to develop your critical thinking skills and expose you to a broad range of ideas and intellectual traditions. But fear not; over time I'm sure that state legislatures will turn college into the four year drunken vocational school our customers so desperately want.

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66 Responses to “INMATES RUNNING ASYLUMS”

  1. John Says:

    "What it reveals, I believe, is the disturbing trend of treating students as customers in universities run like businesses, and we know that the customer is always right."

    This is at the heart of the matter. Modern universities are not run as institutions of higher learning. They are run as businesses.

    Fortunately, I was brought up to appreciate the value of having a good education, and my four years of study to get my bachelor's in CompSci came at a time when breadth still mattered, and I took the required government and chemistry and english lit courses. Didn't particularly enjoy them, but I understood and appreciated the point of them.

    Every semester, I went in for curriculum planning, a brief sit-down with someone in the college of computing who knew precisely the requirements for graduation with my chosen degree under the four-year plan. This was only required the first two years, but I did it every semester to ensure I was always on track.

    And every time, it felt like a fuggin' sales pitch.

    They kept trying to get me to ease up off of the schedule and do it in five years instead of four. This, despite my above-3.0 GPA (I would go on to graduate with honors). The concept that I saw a four-year plan laid out before me and intended to complete it in four years, dedicating myself further to my studies if need be, seemed completely alien to them.

    And of course it would, because their job was to sell me another year of college, for another year's worth of tuition fees.

    This is also why schools faced with "tough decisions" invariably cut the educational programs LONG before the sports programs. Because they are a business, and the sports programs generate more revenue than the educational programs, and revenue is what matters. This, even in public universities.

    And it is also why some universities (such as mine) require you to live on campus for the first one or two years, even if you currently live only twenty miles from campus already. Because a student paying a dorm fee is a source of revenue, while a student commuting is not.

    And, just like everything else in this nation that has become commercialized and monetized, the university system is slowly decaying into a pathetic mass of congealed shit. The students (customers) don't care, much of the staff doesn't care, the only people that *do* care are the ones watching the bottom line.

  2. Alvin Brinson Says:

    I believe the problem stems partly from the fact we're forcing many people into college who shouldn't be there in the first place. Since many students are unprepared for the courses they encounter, and don't have a desire to be learners, but to merely qualify for certain jobs, they do not welcome the challenges a college education presents, or are not up to it.

    I wrote about this about 8 years ago when I was still a student, on another blog. The topic was how college isn't for everyone – and here is my quite detailed reply: http://hnn.us/comments/17567.html

    I believe now, as I did then, that the atmosphere in the modern job market makes it such that a college degree represents the bare minimum of literacy for many employers. Often job requirements are very low, but to ensure quality workers, those with degrees are preferred or demanded. This puts pressure on everyone to go to college. When you send everyone to college, you get what programmers call "GIGO".. Garbage in, Garbage out.

    The solution, of course, would be to continue to have colleges in the traditional liberal education sense, but have separate trade schools with certifications – not BA/BS/MA/MS whatever. These trade schools would be public and fully funded just like colleges, but they would give career-seekers what they want. More importantly, incentives would need to be in place to motivate employers to recognize and hire those from these trade schools when applicable. Those who want an education and not a career ticket could continue to go to universities, who could afford to be more selective in admissions without leaving a bunch of students with no options.

    And, my apologies for the bad grammar in this post. My English degree is curling up in protest.

  3. AT Says:

    Something about one's ability to lead horses to a location but an inability to force them to hydrate?

    We've got to accept that there's a small portion of people who intend to acquire knowledge for, if not its own sake in the abstract, then because learning is a satisfying activity and it's rewarding to understand things. The rest pursue education as a certifying activity, the same way you get your driver's license, except you're not supposed to drink and drive.

    Let them. There's no way to magically endow your average person on the street with the sense that learning is a worth it for its own sake, without reference to a Career or whatever. There's no real life after-school specials– kids have seen those movies and they'll know what you're trying to do. So either make your peace with the fact that the average person is a cretin, or find a way to make a buck from it. Lord knows the colleges and legislatures have.

  4. jj Says:

    I went CalTech and I like equashuns. I felt sorry for our humanities perfessers. There job be unpossible.

  5. VALIS Says:

    Ed, you're spot on once again.
    For me teaching general ed writing classes is especially frustrating, because so many students suck so hard at writing and writing is so important – not just as a subject, but as an approach, a way of thinking, a way of living (for me). For many students, even the most basic tools needed for success are 'too hard', 'not worth it', unattainable etc. And yet everybody buys into the notion that college will allow you to pass threshold from lower class to upper middle class.

    Reminds me of the idea that every America – matter their personal circumstances – should own a home as this is an important part of the American dream – look how that turned out.

  6. Nick Says:

    I think the problem is in some ways due to our high school system as well. We've created a system in which students are constantly told that if they do not attend college, they'll wind up jobless and homeless and either starve to death or succumb to the effects of regularly chugging entire bottles of Listerine.

    I'm exaggerating, of course, but not by much. Particularly in middle-class areas, students in high schools have it drilled into their heads that nobody ever gets a job or has a successful career or a happy life without a college education. This winds up being the root of all the problems that Ed describes, as high school students graduate and attend college despite having no real interest in learning, simply because they've been told their whole lives that it's the only way they'll ever amount to anything. Even those that do enjoy learning become disillusioned, as I did after graduating with a degree in Political Science and quickly discovering that I am apparently unqualified (at least in the current job market) to work in a warehouse or make any more than $10/hour in an office.

    We need to convince high schools to drop this teaching that all students, regardless of interest or potential or ability, should go to college. Many nations have vocational schools that are just as respected as universities, or at least offer job skills of equivalent value. There's nothing wrong with learning a trade, but in the eyes of the American educational system a skilled mechanic isn't nearly as valuable as a middle manager. That needs to change before we can change the way that we approach general education credits in colleges.

  7. Neal Deesit Says:

    As an undergraduate, I swam upstream toward uselessness, majoring first in Chemistry, then switching to English, and finally, to Philosophy, a semester of which was required each year of each student, regardless of major. My obligatory sophomore course , Proofs of The Existence of God, introduced me to the world of ancient, medieval, and modern abstract reasoning. They had me at "being none greater than which can be conceived." Of course, my pragmatic daddy weighed in: "Philosophy? What the hell you gonna do with that?"

    I went to graduate school in Philosophy, of course. At Monstrous Southern State University, where I was a TA for a philosophy class, chosen by some students because it fulfilled an area requirement and it was just after, and proximate to a ROTC or chemistry class. None seemed to give gave a rat's ass about philosophy qua philosophy.

    I also became acquainted with older philosophy grad students looking for teaching jobs as they completed their Ph.D. theses. Returning from an APA meeting/academic meat market, they were thrilled to have gotten an interview, but forget about a job. In its way, a doctoral program in philosophy is a trade school whose graduates either teach philosophy or don't use their degree professionally.

    To a group of grad students discussing our professional prospects, one faculty logician said that more Ph.D.s in philosophy were granted in in one year in the late 60s than in the entire decade of the 30s. "So we're producing them at a far greater than replacement rate," he giggled.

    So why was MSSU's philosophy department spewing Doctors of Philosophy in Philosophy into an already flooded academic job market? Because its tenured professors preferred to teach graduate seminars, some undergraduate classes, but please, no lower division courses. They needed grad students both for their menial labor handling freshmen and sophomores, and for the professor's exalted labor of spending a semester on a few pages of Wittgenstein.

    This was all in the very early 70's, but by then it was clear to me that the academia was being dumbed down and the great run of undergraduates cared very little about learning for its own sake. Forty years later, many times worse.

  8. Natalie Says:

    Ed, although I get where you're coming from (and have a degree from the same Giant Public Institution you teach at) I find it really problematic to take that GIANT brush you just took and paint every college student and recent graduate as an entitled prick who just wants to get it over and done with. I dare say that 18 year-olds have been that way for far longer than I've been alive. Sure. We're happy to take advantage when the system has congealed into that steaming mass of shit the other commenter talked about. But it's hardly our fault when we get away with it. I for one loved learning and many of the classes I took in college. Even some of the ones I didn't have to take. Art History was a blast, but I was in the class because I needed 3 more hours to be full time, not because it was required for my major. I enjoyed it for the sake of the learning. I'm probably not in the majority. But I'd say I belong to a healthy minority who is being ignored in your argument.

  9. Arslan Amirkhanov Says:

    I would favor the vocational/trade school approach. In general I believe that people should have a thirst for knowledge and try to round out their knowledge in various fields(throughout one's entire life), but realistically most people just aren't going to do this. I for one got fed up of being looked at sideways for not having a college education, while on the other hand constantly encountering university graduates who espoused the most idiotic ideas, and were totally ignorant of the most basic facts about virtually everything. Perhaps if someone wants to be yet another suit, they should be able to go to a trade school geared toward turning out more suits. Let's be honest, people like that don't really think critically anyway("sup-prime mortgages? Sounds like a GREAT IDEA!!!). Why force them to pretend they care about philosophy, history, and what-not?

    There are a number of other requirments for degrees which have no business together. Why the hell does one need advanced algebra or calculus to obtain a degree in history? Hell, that's one field where numbers often count for nothing.

    Anyway, that's just my two cents. Despite my lack of a degree I managed to find a great job, live abroad, and travel throughout the world. I'd probably be far more bitter were I stuck in the rapidly declining USA.

  10. Southern Beale Says:

    They come into college with the attitude that they will tell us what they want to be taught, not the other way around.

    Meh. I graduated from one of those small, private liberal arts colleges we elites like to attend — in 1983, so I'm certainly not a recent college grad — and the college I attended did not have course requirements other than for your major. And that is exactly why I chose that school. I did not want to take college level Math. I don't do math. I will NOT do math. And praise the lord I did not HAVE to do math.

    That said, I worked my ass off. My first three months of freshman year I realized "whoa. This ain't high school." I did not see myself as an entitled prick who just wanted to get it over with. I loved learning, I loved where I went to school, I loved the freedom of choosing what classes I wanted to take. Heck, I made my own major! And I didn't have to waste time or energy struggling through a discipline I will never, ever master and never ever have an interest in.

  11. Arslan Amirkhanov Says:

    @Southern Beale – Can you give me the contact information for that school? My big aversion to going back to school, aside from the price, is college level math, math being my Achilles heel. When I played with the idea of going back to school in the past, I was and to some degree still am interested in a history degree. I really see no practical reason why someone who is already good in history should be required to take college level math for a major in a field where numbers often prove meaningless.

  12. HoosierPoli Says:

    Grade inflation is one of the most miserable things to deal with as a university instructor. I have been a TA for exactly one semester, and I've already given out more throwaway Bs than I care to think about.

    Of course, a B in a class is now the new C, and a B- is basically failing. But the real bitch of it is that one teacher grading like a hardass isn't going to change anything. Students are already being judged on the assumption that anything below a 3.0 is borderline retarded. Being the one professor who actually gives D students Ds is going to piss off students and do little else.

    All that said, this is an area where American mediocrity is at least mirrored in the rest of the world. For example, grade inflation is unheard of in Germany, but most of the instructors are sub-adjunct incompetents, and the administration is full of nepotism, abuse, and harassment. We Americans may be making a royal screw-job of it, but at least everyone else is fucking it up as well.

  13. Seth Says:

    Although I agree, writ large, with the institutional-level argument getting made here, I want to take the side of the students momentarily just for the sake of argument. And yes, I'm momentarily painting with the same broad brush, Natalie—I know.

    There's almost nothing in our mainstream culture that cultivates a sense that learning and knowledge are good. You (and I, and lots of other people) have written extensively about the rampant anti-intellecutalism that pervades our culture, enabling somebody as dumb as Sarah Palin to become a "serious" figure in our national politics. Given that, why would we *expect* students to come to college as the neophyte eggheads we were? And on what grounds are we *disappointed* when they don't?

    I see it as a huge part of my job to address the problem of motivation, which is what we're really talking about here, head on. It's not OK for me to presume that everybody cares about my classes as much as I do, and to see it as a flaw when somebody doesn't. It's my job to make them, or help them, care enough to learn what they're supposed to learn. Even when I teach majors in upper-division courses, I still have to push buttons of various kinds to motivate them (although I teach mostly gen-ed writing courses, by choice, and would agree that the issue you're raising is much more prominent in those lower-division courses).

    And one final point there–you, and I, and other people have written plenty about the culture of platitudes in which we live… All of which is to say that the simple answers to "Why should I care about your class?" are often insufficient. I find my students to be more resistant to those platitudes than you'd probably expect, and while it makes me work harder to answer the question, it heartens to me know that they're not the passive slogan-suckers too many of us think they are.

  14. Southern Beale Says:

    Arslan Amirkhanov:

    Here's my Alma Mater. Good luck. I'm sure this isn't the only school in America that doesn't have course requirements. I happen to think it's one of the best. They put the "liberal" in Liberal Arts.

  15. Hazy Davy Says:

    I was ready to argue that, no, a fair number of students actually choose schools because of their broad-academic program.

    And then I realized that wasn't your point…students who chose my alma mater (coincidentally in the same consortium of schools as SB's, borders it, actually…and I took some great lit courses at Pitzer)…

    Many of the students at my (science, math, and engineering-focused school) chose it because students must take 1/3 of their courses in the humanities.

    And that's still consistent with Ed's point…it just reflects that we found a better match for the coursework we demanded.

    Still, I have to wonder—if many of these students Ed's complaining about were instead given their topic-of-choice courses, wouldn't they still find something to object to, and something/someone else to blame for any failings they have?

  16. Morbo Says:

    As an instructor of a giant, state legislatively mandated Intro to American Government course in which students generally have not one shred of interest, I encounter this attitude often. I am only here because the state is forcing me to be here. I do not want to take (math / English / foreign languages / history / politics / etc). I only want to take the courses in my major (which is inevitably journalism, business, or something equally full of people who think they know everything). Because why would a journalist or someone in "business" need to know anything about how American government works?

    Don't forget engineers! At my large state university the amount of whining from my fellow BSE students about having to take 16 credits of social sciences/humanities, minimum of 8 humanities was practically endless. It's a really odd phenomenon: people who sneer derisively at the ease of the liberal arts curriculum complaining about having to take those easy classes. Is it really that hard to find something you might enjoy or, heaven forbid, learn something from? Apparently so.

  17. Anonymouse Says:

    John:>>This is also why schools faced with "tough decisions" invariably cut the educational programs LONG before the sports programs. Because they are a business, and the sports programs generate more revenue than the educational programs, and revenue is what matters. This, even in public universities.>>

    Not so fast, my good friend! The big lie is that sports programs pay for themselves. Not true (at least, not universally so). Even in schools where the entire focus is to be used as a farm team to enrich the wealthy professional team owners, sports are not the cash cow they're purported to be. For example, the University of Maryland is in a panic because they spent a bajillion dollars worth of student tuition fees on a sparkly new stadium, and the football program is not coming even CLOSE to earning anywhere near that much money back.

    And sports are way more than the stadium. You've got to include the cost to buy the "student" athletes (aka scholarships), the locker rooms, the countless support staff to pamper and massage them and tape them up and work with them, the coaches, the uniforms, the special perks the atheltes get…sports are very, very expensive for the college, and the money to grow some free players for the professional leagues comes right out of the funds that could be paying the professors a living wage to, you know, TEACH the students (what a novel approach for a university, to spend it's money on knowledge!).

  18. Ed Says:

    The NCAA released a report a couple of years ago (2002ish) that of the 250-300 programs with Division I or I-AA sports, 7 made money.

    Seven.

  19. xynzee Says:

    I probably came in somewhere just as the wave crested of universities = education v. universities = $$$ and then started the down hill slide.

    I'm also part of that generation that was brought up on "Animal House", and "Revenge of the Nerds". Study?? What do you mean study? I'm here to study the effects of copious amounts of alcohol can have on someone. Now a days even the girls openly behave as bad if not worse than the frat boys. Given what one can see in soft core porn (Girls Gone Wild), hard core porn (there's something called College F— Fest) and the actions and behaviours of many of the girls I work with at a pub. All I can think is *man* have I gotten old. Either that or it's merely a case of people who have no business being in uni in the first place being in uni: http://arcticchick.multiply.com/journal/item/453

    There are problems with the educational process full stop. First of all the requirement to be a teacher seems to be breathing, and won't touch the children in bad ways (no teachers I'm not having a go at you personally, just how the system views, values, treats and pays you). Another part is how most subjects are taught, in a complete vacuum with no connection to anything else being taught. The solution in my mind is to teach certain things in an *explicitly* overlapped way. Eg. teaching english grammar in conjunction with teaching a foreign language. I was all at sea when the French teachers would start talking about future past imperfect tenses, because I was out to lunch when they were teaching that part of english grammar (I'm probably the last group that was taught grammar too), cause I was who cares. When I started learning French, I was kicking myself for not paying attention because I now realised I could have used that right about now.

    I've got me a BA from a small SoCal liberal arts school. I felt that some of the "requirement" things were a bit of a waste of time, but others could be quite enriching.
    I had one lecturer for sadistics (stats) come in first day of class and summed up the course this way: "'Allo! I am Dr Ali Akbari! I want to be your friend! BUT!!! I will not 'esitate to ***fail*** you!!!"
    Damn, did I ever work hard! Like Arslan and Southern maths and I aren't the best of mates. I got my D so it was a pass and didn't have to do it again. I took some very valuable lessons from that class to this day. Personally, in retrospect I think that that BUT!!! should really be a therefore, as that's what true friends do, not let you get away with shit.

    What really pissed me off though, was that despite all the money that I'd spent, I didn't come out with the skills necessary to get my sorry arse a job.

    I also have what's called a Grad. Dip. Ed. (teaching cert.) from an Aus. uni. In the 10yrs that I'd been out of school things had changed, and probably the differences in education and probably the uni I was at and the type of student it attracted or a combination. Because the first lecture went something like this : "Hel… lo and good morn…ing. Wel…come to …."
    You get the idea.
    I did not earn myself any favours as I became *that* mature age student, by speaking up during one of these long pauses and said, "Excuse me, but I really do have things to do, would you mind at least cutting to the chase and speak in bullet points. Tell me what you want me to know and to take away from this subject…."

    Currently, I'm studying at TAFE which is the tech school. So far I'd say the standard of teaching is in some ways better than uni, but that may be that it's geared towards getting a job and therefore practical and I'm an old man. Because it's about spatial data we had to about the surveying portion of the area. This means maths :-/ trig to be exact, lots and lots of trig. However, because it's a tech school and they're geared to teaching the not so academically inclined, *and* it's being taught in conjunction with how to use surveying equipment this stuff made sense to me for the first time.

    But as Hoosier says, yup the higher ed system is going down the world over.

  20. jeneria Says:

    Things are going to get worse now that the Federal Fin Aid standards have been changed. Starting Jan 1, if after two grading cycles, a student does not have a 2.0 gpa, their funding is suspened. Considering that the current mandate from on high is that all Americans need a college education and we are already at a saturation point of 70%, schools are going to be dragging in the remaining 30% of Americans who are not equipped or don't want to be in college. Financial Aid is the carrot dangled in front of them. So the universities enroll the students, the gov't gives them a sweet fin aid package, and after two semesters they will be left high and dry.

    We are going to be expected to teach tough courses that no one can fail because the universities need the bodies to bring in the money. We will be pulled in diametrically opposite ways.

    Additionally, you are correct that as the business mentality continues to infiltrate higher education, students are no longer participants in their education but consumers of it. Customer service will be more important than actual learning. And everyone will be demanding numbers laying out the "value of the degree." See Texas A&M for a prototype of this.

    Luckily, I'm a private engineering college so I'm buffered from some of this.

  21. Da Moose Says:

    I can't say I didn't do my fair share of boozing at Beloit during the 90s. Hell, what else are you going to do in WI during the winter? I definitely did not learn even remotely as much as I should have or could have. But, I will say that Beloit did one thing for me which I will always be appreciative of and that is, as a significant part of the cirriculum approach, Beloit emphasized student presentations. On average, I must of had about two presentations per semester, each one averaging about an hour. About a half hour was devoted to the actual presentation and the other half was devoted to class Q&A. It was nerve racking but this approach did a multitude of things for me from an intellectual standpoint: forced me to master the material so I didn't look foolish, forced me hone my speaking skills, forced me to anticipate possible questions from the class, etc. In sum, giving presentations forced me to dig deep intellectually, which, in turn, taught me how to think critically about the topic, about my own interpretations of the topic, and about what others thought about the topic. After the presentaitons, more often than not, the class collectively came to interesting conclusions that were not realized prior to digging into the material. It was an immense pain and often stressful but I always came away with an appreciation of the material and a better sense of my own abilities and a general increased level of intellectual curiosity and self-confidence. It seems like this method is not being used much in a lot of academic environments if it is determined that many students aren't learning anything these days.

  22. Grumpygradstudent Says:

    Ths situation reminds me a lot of that old communist saying, "we pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us." Except here, it's "we pretend to teach, they pretend to learn."

    I'm just wondering when the labor market will catch up and start realizing that an undergraduate degree in just about anything is pretty useless. It's quickly becoming simply an expensive, alcohol-drenched gate through which one must pass to get to grad school.

    I also strongly support the notion that high schools are over-selling the value of college. When are they going to wake up and realize that a skilled tradesman can make as much or more than some white collar middle-management job? And certainly more than an $10/hr office job. We have to stop promoting an education system that was designed for an economy that no longer exists.

  23. Jimcat Says:

    I can't really say much here. I was one of those students who was more interested in partying than studying. I did learn a lot at college, some things from my classes, some in spite of them, and some instead of them. I never completed my degree, but if it hadn't been for my experiences at college, I wouldn't be where I am today.

    It may be a cliche but I still think that it's true that you can get out of school what you put into it.

  24. Anonymouse Says:

    Ed:>>The NCAA released a report a couple of years ago (2002ish) that of the 250-300 programs with Division I or I-AA sports, 7 made money.

    Seven>>

    And yet, huge portions of every student's tuition dollars are being sucked down into the black hole of sports, where a fraction of the team will go on to be recruited and become very rich in professional sports. That's just wrong.

  25. Nan Says:

    You want to hear some real whining? It's when the poor saps who are in debt for $30K, $40K, $50K, maybe $100K, discover their pieces of paper don't mean a whole lot in our over-credentialed society. About a year ago the Atlanta Journal Constitution ran an article about college students and the high cost of education. One poor sucker profiled was a young woman taking out $30K per year in student loans so she could attend Spelman to earn a degree in psychology. She's going to emerge from school with a a BA and over $100,000 in debt. You know what a 4-year degree in psychology gets you? Maybe, if you're lucky, you get to be a night attendant in a group home for troubled youth — a job that pays barely above minimum wage and any semi-sentient high school dropout could do equally well.

    So when the degree is meaningless, why not just say, yep, you paid for it, you're the customer, here's your A?

  26. jeneria Says:

    I guess, Nan, the reason we don't do that is because then the person who is a night attendant at a group home for troubled youth has no idea what they're doing, no formal training to do it, and no ability to learn how to do it on the fly. We don't give out A's because by doing so, we wouldn't be able to get the few who we do reach to engage in analytical or critical thinking, skills they need to survive as an adult. Sure, it'd be a hell of a lot easier to just hand out A's and get my meager paycheck. As an assistant prof, I make 50k-60k and I'm easily 70+k in student loan debt, I guess I should give up.

  27. Anonymouse Says:

    Nan: >>You want to hear some real whining? It's when the poor saps who are in debt for $30K, $40K, $50K, maybe $100K, discover their pieces of paper don't mean a whole lot in our over-credentialed society.>>

    I can't believe I'm saying this, but…maybe this is a lesson for the student to go to a school they can afford? There's no Constitutional right to go to a school the student and the parents can't possibly afford. I say this as someone who's relative went to a $50k/year private school and 5 years later came out with a major in…dance. Was that really the best use of a quarter of a million dollars? Wouldn't community college have worked in that case?

  28. sluggo Says:

    @Grumpygradstudent:

    I don't think that the market will ever realize that a college degree is not worth it; the people doing the hiring are the idiots taking up space in class who now think their degrees make them special.

    While I am glad that I got my education, I would have been better off financially to go to work in the trades.

  29. Clams Casino Says:

    I learned next to nothing as an undergraduate. My situation was unusual (I entered college immediately after sustaining a debilitating head injury), but I don't feel that my state of mind was particularly rare. A 17-year-old with a cracked skull doesn't behave a whole lot differently from a 17-year-old with an intact skull. Most of us at that age are confused zombies, unprepared and unequipped for a fulfiling academic life. I admire the teenager who is able to rise to the challenge, but I failed miserabley, as did many of classmates.

    My point isn't to offer the zombies an excuse, but it's difficult to remember how dense that post-adolescent fog really was once you've emerged from it. Me, I should have taken a 15 year break before enrolling. But the system doesn't work that way.

  30. DS Says:

    As someone who has done a fair bit of marking in large first or second year history courses, I can say without a doubt that the worst students – that is to say, those who receive the worst grades and generally seem ill-prepared for university level courses in the humanities which involve basic skills like reading and writing – are almost uniformly business and education students. And what degrees are people promoting these days? Business and education. God help us all. Tony Judt remarked a while ago that undergraduate degrees in business should be abolished, and while I thought that was fairly harsh at the time, as I move further along in my academic career I have to say that I agree with him. I love how people who trash the humanities and social sciences as "worthless" promote degrees where basic skills in literacy, writing and critical thinking don't seem to be that important.

  31. Quixotic Says:

    Unfortunately, and as you implied in your post, this is not a problem that starts at the college level. It's inconceivable that colleges and universities everywhere would decide to be oases in the vast desert of American anti-intellectualism. 18 years of being programmed with bogus, half-ass information, a priority of sports over education, and an emphasis of "memorize this and pick it correctly out of 3 other possible answers" would be mind-fuckingly e-braked by an institution which valued education and wanted to transmit those values to you. Not as a means-to-an-end, not for their financial benefit nor for yours, just to educate you as best as possible.

    Does my college actually HAVE a stance other than a broad, nonsensical, Sophistic stance on what is valuable about an education?

    The answer of any administrators to this question would be drowned out by "KA-CHING, KA-CHING, KA-CHING" as they oogled at me with dollar-sign eyes and I appeared to them as a number. Maybe colleges are in a position to take a stand against the societal norm of anti-intellectualism, and this will fall to the people running the college. Students who value education can speak up all they want, but they ultimately end up at universities which already demonstrate a valuable educational standard.

  32. cromartie Says:

    As for those after an Education degree, those students, demographically, are often the first in their family to go to college, with the intent of teaching a specific course or specific grade level. As such, they have the least amount of understanding of the difference between a trade/vocational school and a university.

    Part of the problem, at least in my region, is one of the unintended consequences of shipping out all of the decent paying industrial jobs courtesy of NAFTA and the like. There are no employment options without a college degree that pay. As such, you get a host of people more suited for either the no college education track or the vocational track in an open admissions public university that have no business being there. But they feel they need to be there because the other decent employment options were shipped overseas. Colleges have a needed product, people believe they need it just to keep their head above water in a shrinking employment pool, so everyone kicks along unhappily ever after while the university, whose state funding gets cut year after year as the tax base shrinks, forces it's employees to put up with it.

    The situation may "improve" a bit as the years go on, however. Trade and vocational schools are big business, and getting bigger (one of the very few trends the W administration actually recognized and tried horribly clumsily to encourage), while the online scam schools siphon off the least capable of the bunch. As those grow at a faster rate than four year institutions, some equilibrium is likely to return.

  33. Paul W. Luscher Says:

    Well, yer hittin' on something I've thought about a while. That is, there's an attitude that a "higher education" is really all about filling up the right boxes with the right numbers, to ensure getting a job that'll make you a pile–never mind whether you actually know anything or not.

    As my dad said, higher education in this country is quite often nothing more than glorified vocational training. Really, what many people mean when they go on about the "value" of a higher education is simply the belief that having one will lead to you making a lot of of money. Nothing about one becoming a more rounded human being, or learning to think for yourself (in fact God forbid you do–you might stop thinking like a Republican…)

    This "narrow and shallow" approach to education is probably one reason for such wonders as the Bush Administration, and the Great Meltdown of 2008…

  34. mothra Says:

    What? College isn't a giant multiyear party? Shit. Wish someone had told me that when I went to school. Of course, I expected crappy grades when I didn't study and partied all the time. Kids was diff'rent back in them days…

  35. Keifus Says:

    As a science and engineering guy, I fear the tyranny of humanities majors who can't assess technical data at least as much as I do the inhumanity of technical people. I cringe a little when people shrug off math, which seems as much a human responsibility as anything else. The ability to process numbers in making an evaluation or the development of an evidence-based outlook is important.

    Back in the old undergrad, they had us take humanities and social science too, and yeah, lots of us acted aloof. Some were fluff, some failed to impress me with their claims to science (also, some didn't) but some, frankly, were engaging and well put together and well worth the time. I like to think I gave them the substantial attention and respect they deserved. (I also thought it was great that there were classes where I could read and discuss books for a grade.) My school also had (still has) a significant management program, which in those days I may have occasionally disregarded as a repository of fuck-ups and hockey players. Little did I know.

  36. elly Says:

    My own experience in college has convinced me that it's wasted on the young.

    Sure, there are undoubtedly some very mature, driven young people who enter the system immediately upon their graduation from high school, but I sure as hell wasn't one of them. I went to college because I was deemed "smart;" and college is where smart young people are supposed to go. And because I liked being thought of as "smart" by all the relevant adults in my life, it never occurred to me to consider doing anything else. In fairness, if I had delayed or expressed a desire to work for a few years first, my parents would have freaked.

    But it was a mistake. I was bored and generally indifferent to my classes… no surprise, since I'd never really asked myself what I wanted, and allowed myself to believe that I wanted the same things that my parents and HS teachers wanted for me. I started getting panicky in my 3rd year, since I was getting closer to graduation, and realized I still didn't know how to do anything. By this point, I hated classes anyway, so I walked out… right before finals, in fact.

    Best. Decision. Ever.

    I worked as a restaurant cook for nearly three years, before I decided to go back (same school) and try again. I still didn't know what I wanted to do, but by that point, sitting in a classroom was a much more attractive prospect vs. flipping eggs and grilling steaks. I figured that – with a degree – I could at least sit while I worked, and (hopefully) earn better money.

    Interestingly enough: I quickly discovered that I wasn't bored at all… in fact, I was engaged in all my classes! And I could make a direct comparison: I had skipped out on an upper division Biochem class when I left, so I had to make it up when I re-entered. And it was just my luck to get the same professor. I steeled myself for the inevitable… but the man whom I'd considered an insufferable, condescending ass turned out to be a dignified and knowledgeable man, with a dry wit that I quite enjoyed. The first time I – literally – walked out of his class, I took an "F." The second time around, I walked out with an "A" and I enjoyed (nearly) every minute of it.

    Funny how people can change in such a brief period of time. ;-) At any rate, I finished my BS with a GPA good enough to get into grad school, despite the mediocre-to-poor grades littering my transcript from those earlier years.

    The story doesn't end there: I worked as a TA while in grad school; helping to teach an upper-division class that I considered to be a walk in the park. Seriously: it was a core course for the major, but totally straightforward; no trick questions, no overwhelming work load, etc. I was completely blown away by the number of students who appeared during my office hours before the midterms/final, hopelessly confused by the simple problems on the practice tests the professor made available in the library.

    But I couldn't deny that they looked familiar… I had been one of them, once. The difference was that I took the time to grow the f**k up.

  37. Xynzee Says:

    Is it 'Secret of my Success' where the HR guy answers MJFox's Q abt why he went to college, "You had fun didn't you?"

    A friend posted this on wastebook today: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2013970538_collegejobs19.html

    Though what has to happen as already is that employers see Tech School eg Comm/Jnr College qualifications on par as a uni one.

    A TAFE instructors tells how he did his TAFE and then went to uni for surveying. In TAFE he learned hands on how to use the surveying equipment. At uni they only had 1 or 2 of each piece of equipment. They had to follow the instructor around who would demonstrate how to do things, and go to lectures on theory of surveying. Of course these guys w no understanding of what happens on the ground would either go into "management" or thought they would. But of course they didn't have the skills to get that 1st job would struggle.

  38. Sarah Says:

    A few things: regarding the math thing, years ago in high school algebra the teacher was listening to us kids whine about how we were never going to need that crap so why should we have to learn it, and he said rather sharply that he should point out that every doctor, before receiving his/her medical degree, must pass calculus. When does a doctor need to use calculus? S/he doesn't. But, if you have someone taking care of you, you want them to be able to think that way. Another high school math teacher said (causing a major ah-ha! moment for me) that all of math is just adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. That's all it is, up to and including calculus. I may take higher math in the future (the highest I've gone is college algebra and elementary statistics, no trig or calc) because while I wouldn't want to make a living crunching numbers, working math problems for class was kind of fun and good exercise for the brain.

  39. Georgia Jeff Says:

    Well said Ed. I have a 25 year-old daughter who went away to the University of Georgia with a Hope Scholarship, a strong work ethic, good study habits, and, I thought, a bright future. She graduated Magna in Comparative Literature three years ago. She has done absolutely nothin with the degree. She sat around her mother's house for a year, unemployed and not really looking for work. Then she flopped after she moved away and tryied to make a living witha telecom service re-seller. The experience really crushed her. She now works as a part-time rock-climbing gym 'assistant manager' for $10.00 an hour. And has not clue as to how to move forward or what she wants to do with the rest of her life. I suspect, and I empathize, that she may be really intimidated with the world in which she is living. A state university education has not seemed to serve her well. Or maybe she hasn't served it well. I love her dearly but at her age it will be up to her to pick it up and move it on, I guess. Harrassment only allienates us.

  40. Hobbes Says:

    The NCAA released a report a couple of years ago (2002ish) that of the 250-300 programs with Division I or I-AA sports, 7 made money.

    Seven.

    Actually last year it was 14, not 7, according to this.

    Money quote:

    If college sports don’t make money, why do schools sponsor them?
    College sports provide tangible learning and character-building opportunities for student-athletes. They also bring an intrinsic value to the campus and surrounding community that is difficult to measure.

  41. DS Says:

    @ Keifus. I have a friend who graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering from a very good school. He does not know what a contraction is. He does not know there is an apostrophe in "doesn't". He typically uses the word "gonna" instead of "going to" in papers and reports. He has no idea what a semi-colon is used for. He now works at a Nuclear Power Plant. In short, you say potato, I say potato.

  42. Southern Beale Says:

    Georgia Jeff:

    It's the economy. Totally sucks for recent college grads. Just like when I graduated in '83, the last big Republican Recession.

  43. Kaleberg Says:

    Sarah –

    Doctors need calculus more than a lot of them realize. If you want to figure out a drug dosage, how a disease or treatment is progressing, or what a test result means, it really helps to know how things change in response to time and other things as they change. That's what calculus is about. Sure, they don't do integrals while chatting with a patient, but they know enough about what is going on to make intelligent decisions.

    Doctors also need a solid grasp of statistics, because everything they do with patients involves Bayesian statistics. Medicine isn't based on the fundamental biology of the individual. It is based on a statistical understanding of populations. Once again, they aren't going to be doing the algebra of it at your bedside, but they are going to be applying the rules, and your chances are a hell of a lot better if they have a solid grasp of the underlying mathematics.

    e.g. I have a great doctor now. I recently had an A1C test for blood sugar, so I asked him how this was different from the usual blood glucose test. He started by describing the life span of a red blood cell and how the A1C measures its overall exposure to sugar. Knowing calculus, I understood. The A1C is a time decay weighted integral of my blood sugar level, not a snapshot. It's a bit more expensive, but it can be much more useful as a followup. My doctor was able to explain it clearly, because he understood calculus.

  44. Entomologista Says:

    College sports provide tangible learning and character-building opportunities for student-athletes. They also bring an intrinsic value to the campus and surrounding community that is difficult to measure.

    Look, I played college hockey at my D3 private liberal arts school. It's one thing to have sports as an extracurricular because they are fun and being active is healthy. At the Big 12 university I attended for graduate school, I learned that college sports mean something else entirely at that level. It means having 10,000 people camped outside your apartment building all weekend. It means being woken up at 8 am on Saturday because the goddamn pep band is playing across the street. It means drunken fans pissing in your yard. It means that you can't leave your apartment because traffic is terrible. It means that a new coach is hired on at a huge salary but I can't take a graduate seminar class because of budget cuts. It means my student fees are increased to pay for a new stadium. I hate college sports and wish they were all eliminated.

  45. Chris Says:

    I think education is a great, fulfilling endeavor (it was for me). But, let's not be naive and take a look at the whole picture: education is a huge money maker. Landlords make money off of students. Restaurants, the bookstore, and many other businesses make money off of students. Professors earn nice livelihoods from students, and college support staffs earn livelihoods from them as well. Government and private lenders make boatloads off of student loans. Credit card companies make boatloads off of students. Everybody makes money off of students except, well, students.

    It just kind of comes across to me as naive and unfair to think that academic excellence is the only goal of college when making money appears to be the bigger goal. It shouldn't surprise you when some students don't care about academics, either: they are just following the lead of the people making money off of them.

    Quite frankly, maybe partying and providing a great social scene is the only thing college offers anymore: it sure as hell doesn't lead to a monetary reward anymore. Learning a lot in college is great, but it isn't worth most price tags that accompany it. Students not reaching their academic potential would be a shame if education was the only goal: it isn't, however, the only goal.

  46. ladiesbane Says:

    Who says college can or should be only one thing? My alma mater was a breeding ground for future politicians, a babysitting service for legacies, a free-for-all for Greeks, a halfway house for Hawaiians moving to the contiguous 48, and a dating pool for Oregonians who didn't attend UofO or OSU, like a very expensive eHarmony. There were some brilliant profs and some frauds, but almost any student who wanted to learn was enabled in this obscure endeavor.

  47. nate Says:

    When I was a wee frosh, my roommate bitched bitterly about being forced to take English classes (we were both engineering students). It was a waste of his time and money, he opined. I loved my English classes, and history classes, and theater, etc. I couldn't understand where he was coming from. I mentioned this to a friend of mine, who replied, "He's here to learn a trade. You're here to get an education."

    Is there any other time in life we're lucky enough to be exposed to so many different disciplines and ways of thinking? I cherished my four (okay, five) years of liberal arts education, and the grinding sameness of staring at code day in and day out for decades seems thin gruel, indeed, in comparison.

  48. Xynzee Says:

    @ladies: did U P on the Bluff?

  49. Nunya Says:

    Ed et al:

    As much as I enjoy the intelligent dialogue I read not only in the blog posts but the comments section I would be remiss if I didn't point out the utter arrogance of the educated people of the United States.

    I live in Seattle whichis one of the most over-educated places in the country. I can assume that my barista has a degree. I am pretty sure the guy that cuts my grass was a psychology major, and I have had it with the presumption that going to college makes you better than those who haven't.

    I managed to scrape together two bachelor degrees in the early nineties while holding down a full time job. I busted my hump in order to complete the step necessary to begin my life as a non-peon. It turns out that I loved academia and realizing that I was not particularly bright in spite of what I had been told while attending LA County public schools.

    That being said, with a decent education from a quasi-respectable public school, I have encountered more self-obsessed people that asume that sitting in a classroom for four to six years makes them superior to anyone that didn't. Let's be frank – college is fucking easy. You know what is expected, have advanced notice of tests, papers, presentations, etc. The working world presents endless pitfalls that can, is not properly dealt with, end up with you penniless on the street.

    Forgive me when I comment about the highly educated people who disregard the tradesmen or experiences non-degree holder but I submit that they had a much tougher go at it that the educated did. You either succeed inthe working world or you are inceremoniously shitcanned. There is no grade infalation inthe workplace; ther is no room for self expression. You either fit in or fuck off.

    The last 20 years that I have spent among the increasingly over-credentialed has given me more cause to worry than the sad state of higher education. The fact that people with multiple B.A.s, M.As MBA's and a JD added in for good measure can't find a job doesn't particularly worry me. These poor saps were too scared to join the real world without the leisure afforded to students. Anytime I see a person applying for a job with more education that the president of the company has, I assume that they have led a charmed life involving their parents' funding at every turn. For the most part, I have been correct in this assumption.

    So maybe a college degree is the new high school diploma. Who would voluntarily urge their less than academically gifted child to jon that rat race? I am much more likely to send them into a trade that values experience over borderline qualifications.

    Education can be obtained a number of ways. A University education may be rapidly coming the least profitable and, ultimately, respectable of these options.

  50. ladiesbane Says:

    @Xynzee: I wish! Willamette U, across the street from the Capitol, home of the Mark O. Hatfield Library (and the Bob Packwood lavatory.)

  51. Xynzee Says:

    Will U? As in: How do you get a Willamette girl into bed? Just ask, Will U sleep w/ me?
    Bwahaha!!

  52. ladiesbane Says:

    "We laugh because it's funny, and we laugh because it's true."

  53. Xynzee Says:

    @Nunya: that's abt sums up half the point. The issue is is that America seems to have very little respect for tradies. The first time I ever heard the word in context was w a friend of the family who's Irish. She was describing how her son has a trade. The way she used it, was with an absolute sense of pride. There was something about that European sense and use of the word that gives honor. Americans have an attitude towards the trades that's BS. Ever notice how "oh so you're a mechanic, electrician, etc." Is always said w a sneer?

    In Aus the kids who aren't academically inclined are allowed to leave school as a sophomore. For some reason there was a gap in the system where they were allowed to just go do whatever. Because of youth unemployment issues they now either have to be doing some kind of work, or learning a trade. Why they were allowed to just quit school and not be learning a trade is Anyone's guess, but it's been closed now.

  54. Hobbes Says:

    Entomologista, I am in exactly the same boat. I'm at a Big 10 university (I believe we're a "Leader", not a "Legend", or whatever the fuck they're calling that now) and I have a fantastically located apartment. Or at least it's fantastic when there isn't a home football, hockey or basketball game – then I have difficulty walking and forget driving entirely.

    I quoted that particular section,

    College sports provide tangible learning and character-building opportunities for student-athletes. They also bring an intrinsic value to the campus and surrounding community that is difficult to measure.

    for the part that I've bolded here. It provides great learning and character building opportunities for the student-athletes, I'm sure, but those of us who aren't in varsity sports have our opportunities massively diminished. My department has record enrollment in its intro classes, requiring more grad students to lecture than ever before – but there's no funding to pay them, so the department is overworking the few lecturers it can afford rather than hiring new ones (I volunteered to take a lecture but was told they couldn't afford to pay me even quarter-time).

    That's not just robbing grad students of the opportunity to teach, it's shorting the undergrads who actually want to take the class (it's an elective, not a general education requirement).

  55. beergoggles Says:

    I never had the pleasure of American high school. I grew up in England, did my Ordinary level exams (10 subjects) and then for the next 2 years studied 4 subjects (biology, chemistry, math and physics) for my Advanced level exams.

    Then I ended up getting a full scholarship to a top 10 American university so I migrated here. Sadly, it wasn't until junior year that I actually had the pre-requisite classes out of the way to study anything new and advanced. So 2 years of college were spent re-hashing everything I had studied in English 'high school'.

    It was a good thing it was free, because if I had to pay for it, I definitely would not have been happy about that waste of 2 years of my life.

  56. jack Says:

    The gist of the post and comments here seems to be:

    1) College students, despite being forced to attend history/english/humanties/sciences/whatever classes for the past decade, have learned very little from these classes, and have no wish to take any more classes in these things.

    2) The solution to this is to make them do more classes in subjects they have no interest, because doing a subject you have absolutely no intrinsic motivation for long after years upon years upon years of teachers have crushed all possible interest in it is a good idea which totally won't lead to cramming and night before essay writing.

    3) The idea that 18 year olds might be better off learning about subjects that they have an intrinsic motivation for, and expanding their interest from there is a hollow lie made by goddamn hippies. 18 year olds are stupid and feeble-minded, and cannot even be trusted to know which subjects they would like to study.

    Over in the UK we get to specialise in four subjects at the age of 16, and you know what? It's great. We love not having to put up with subjects that aren't suited to us. I didn't want to have to spend three hours a week reading vastly overrated and pretentious poetry, so I spent those hours studying chemistry instead.

    You know what's even better? We get to weed out the idiots. Going to school past 16 is opt in, so people who truly have no interest in education other than fucking up everyone elses' leave to work in shops, learn trades or join the armed forces. Even the borderline cases who are cocks but just smart enough to get in are weeded out for the most part, because they take business and media studies plus geography/sociology. If you don't take those classes you barely need to even see them.

    We pick our major before we even arrive at uni, and vocational courses like law and medicine don't need postgrads (you can do them if you wish, but they're very competitive), and only have three years for most courses. A little more choice in electives would be nice, I'm finding that a decent grip of calculus would help with neurobiology and some models of cognition, but there's a massive 24/7 library on every campus full of every possible book you would need to learn just about any topic in existence.

    It's a good system. Being treated like an adult who actually gives a fuck about their subjects at 16 makes you vastly more motivated to learn. If I'd had to put up with the same 'wear these shitty uniforms, do this utterly pointless stretched out busywork, get shat on by massive twats' bullshit for another 2 years there's no chance I would have got decent grades at A level. Forcing people to choose their major before uni weeds out a lot of people who just kinda like the idea of not doing manual labor.

    TL;DR: Treating kids with some respect makes them like education more than they will if you treat them like little shits who know nothing and should learn about your awesome interests instead of their obviously stupid ones.

  57. Anonymouse Says:

    @entomologista: you forgot the ever-present danger of physical and sexual assaults by drunken "student" athletes and the special athlete-only dining halls, paid for by actual students' tuition.

    Entomologista wrote:>>Look, I played college hockey at my D3 private liberal arts school. It's one thing to have sports as an extracurricular because they are fun and being active is healthy. At the Big 12 university I attended for graduate school, I learned that college sports mean something else entirely at that level. It means having 10,000 people camped outside your apartment building all weekend. It means being woken up at 8 am on Saturday because the goddamn pep band is playing across the street. It means drunken fans pissing in your yard. It means that you can't leave your apartment because traffic is terrible. It means that a new coach is hired on at a huge salary but I can't take a graduate seminar class because of budget cuts. It means my student fees are increased to pay for a new stadium. I hate college sports and wish they were all eliminated.>>

  58. Redleg Says:

    Although I agree with much you said about the current student, I am somewhat bothered by your gibes about "business." I get the impression that you don't think highly of the study of business. Oddly enough, some of my business students express a similar attitude when they have to take my management-organizational behavior course. They think the subject is simply common sense and not necessary for their development into super-business-heroes. I just laugh at the end of the semester when very few earn As and most earn Bs and Cs with a few Ds and Fs scattered in to make the grade distribution interesting.

  59. Jado Says:

    "They come into college with the attitude that they will tell us what they want to be taught, not the other way around."

    Umm, yes. To a certain extent. I would prefer NOT to pay an exorbitant sum of money to learn the history of WWII, dumbed down sufficiently that the entire conflict can be "taught" over the course of 12 weeks, and consisting of the exact same information I learned in 6th grade…and then again in junior year of high school.

    As an engineering student, I honestly have no problem with "well-rounded" class requirements – I have a problem with specific classes being required, with no substitutions allowed because these classes are on the curriculum.

    I need a history class in order to graduate? Excellent, maybe I can learn something I don't know. I need to take THIS SPECIFIC class, which is a waste of my time and money? Hey, thanks. I'll be sure to keep this in mind when you call for alumni donations.

  60. Tosh Says:

    I made it clear to my students that I was here to teach them to think and learn for themselves and on an individual level, I would make the maze more difficult, depending on the student. This si why you are required to take classes you dont think you are interested in; to teach you HOW TO THINK AND LEARN. They didn't like it and no one got out unscathed. This brings me to @Beergoggles: You got the critical part out of the way with the compulsory ed in your country of origin; merkin HS DO NOT even come close to anything like that

    The situation is getting much worse; H Barbour want to fundamentally privatise MS high school by shifting those responsibilities and student to (wait for it…) COMMUNITY COLLEGES!!! You/we pay to learn what should have been learned.
    Barbour is a BIG FAN of community colleges..

  61. Townsend Harris Says:

    I've written this before:
    "You pretend to teach me, I'll pretend to learn" is the offer of corrupt undergraduates everywhere.
    "They pretend to pay us, we pretend to work" was the Soviet industrial worker's comment on the value of the ruble.

  62. Tosh Says:

    @Sarah: ANY science requires higher math; and most grad program requires stats (take the GRE). Math/number is the most logical, pure field of study and most definately will teach one to think. Any thing that make you think differently inherently makes you smarter; it uses different parts of the brain and opens one up to a different way of looking a things. You see the possibility…

  63. Tosh Says:

    @Sarah: Modern medicine is nothing more than a statistical analysis