Monday, June 06, 2011

Is college too EZ?

Joanne Jacobs and Darren from Right on the Left Coast (both daily reads of mine and on the blogroll) came across an article in the Los Angeles Times with an interesting thesis.  College is too easy.

Colleges have abandoned responsibility for shaping students' academic development and instead have come to embrace a service model that caters to satisfying students' expressed desires.

That’s a pretty scathing remark for an institution that seems to have gotten off light in the world of EduReform.  The authors of the article found that most students were not being academically challenged in reading, writing, and did not seem to have a real need to study for the classes they had.  In short, students were not being prepared for the “real world” and not being introduced to the concept of rigor. 

Eh, I don’t know.  I’ve seen both sides of the equation and I’ve watched a large population of students go to school and do wonderful things and I’ve seen plenty go to four-year institutions and waste vast amounts of money.  In fact, I think that it’s the money that allows many students to underachieve and still remain at an institute of “higher learning”.  Let’s face it, there are private schools that just about anyone can get into when you pony up tens-of-thousands a semester.  A student attends, you string them on while they underachieve, and eventually you might have to let them go or they transfer down to a “lower level” school because they weren’t prepared for the “rigor”. 

I say plenty of rigor while attending Chico State, and I keep trying to tell my students that it is a misconception that you need to go to a U.C. or Stanford to get a great education.  Most of my professors at Chico were rigorous and excellent.  Some sucked, but I figure that’s the same for every school.  I learned a ton while in college and I wasn’t allowed into the Teacher Credential program until I passed a verbal examination in front of two professors of the History Department and got a letter of recommendation from of advisor (also a history professor).  I wrote a ton.  I read a ton.  My final “Capstone” paper was explored the motivations of Constantine the Great in bringing Christianity to the Roman Empire.  Was it political or was did he honestly see a sign from God?  I ended up loving researching and writing the paper which ended up nearly sixty pages long. 

I think a lot of this revolves around society’s hypocrisy about what is perceived as important  (self-esteem, creativity) replacing things that are still vital (hard work, focus, follow through).  For some reason we shy away from discussing integrating all these things and insist that when everyone can tap their creative potential, all the world’s problems will be solved.  College seemed like the last bastion of rigor.  And while I think that it most colleges still try to push out the best, Darren is correct that if this lackadaisical attitude takes root in our upper echelon institutions, we are screwed.    

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