Saturday, May 2, 2015

College “Turning” Into Grade 12.5…at Best.

By Professor Doom

    Absolutely there are legitimate institutions of higher education (most states have a “flagship” university that is allowed to be legitimate). Outside of these special places, however, standards went into freefall years ago. This has led to many community colleges being unhinged, with what actually goes on in the classroom unrelated to what, on paper, is claimed is going on in a college education.

     I’m hardly alone in such observations, but I concede that most of what I hear in this regard is coming from other mathematical colleagues; we’re pretty good about quantitative, objective measurements that what we’re doing in our classes today is far below what we used to be doing…and what we claim to accreditation we are doing.
      A post from an English professor confirms that it isn’t just the “hard” fields like mathematics that know something has changed:

--in much the same way that I used to teach community college courses, but noticed that it dropped to high school…then secondary school…then primary school, the professor here has looked up and realized that he is part of a fraud.

     It’s simple enough to understand what happened. Social promotion in schools led students to come to college thinking that “just show up” was all there was to education. Social promotion is coming to college now, and one can only guess what the end result of that will be.

       Every semester many students in my freshman English classes submit work that is inadequate in almost every respect.

--the same thing happened in my classes. I’d ask questions like “what is 1/3 + 1/3?” and get answers like “2/6”, or “3” or “8”, and only seldom get a correct answer.

         As students poured into classes without the slightest clue how to do anything, or how to learn anything, and without any interest in learning how to do or learn anything, the professor has a choice: fail everyone, or reduce standards. Administration in higher education quickly got rid of faculty that took the “fail everyone” route.

     Truth telling in my profession can also be hazardous to the pursuit of tenure, so that was an added incentive to keep my head down. 

     I’ve certainly met more than my share of professors that simply want to keep their head down, thinking that they’ll somehow get tenure. That’s a faint hope, but the fact still remains that speaking out about what’s going on in higher education is a bad idea.
     So, faculty have no choice but to take the standards down, down, down.

     What have standards been reduced to in the college where this professor has spoken out?

Early in the semester we must first assess their ability to identify a complete sentence ― that is, one with a subject and a verb.  After that, somewhere around week five, we find out if they can identify a topic sentence ― the thing that controls the content of a paragraph.

     Think this through for a bit. The professor has a month to teach the skill of “identify a complete sentence.” That means he spends time talking about verbs, and subjects, and how to identify those as well.

     Yes, that’s right, in college, the first month of college English includes much discussion on “how to find the subject and verb in a sentence.” After the first month, these nigh-adults will learn how to look at a paragraph and identify a “topic sentence”. I’m not an English expert, but this really seems below high school level.

     A college semester is 4 months long, any hope of learning any, well, college level work here? Nope. Much as many “college” math courses are 6th to 8th grade, so it is in English as well.

       I can’t make this stuff up, and it’s fairly comparable to what I’ve seen in my own field.

      I really feel the professor is being too kind here. Is “identify the verb” really a college level, or even high school level, question? It really seems like that was the kind of thing I learned a few years before high school. I know, the public schools are failing badly, but, please, let’s think about this.

       We’re spending a month teaching college students how to find the verb, and subject, in a sentence, so they can communicate in a basic level in the English language. A month. (See what I did there?) Please, gentle readers with children, attempt to teach this to your child (one old enough to read), and see with your own eyes, this really, really, shouldn’t take a month, not if your child has even the slightest interest in learning anything. 

     And our highly educated professionals are spending a month to teach an adult this concept? It’s no different from when I was spending a month or more trying to teach adults how to add fractions…and failing easily as often as not.

     What’s really going on here is massive numbers of people are flowing onto campuses, and soaking up massive amounts of tax and student loan money. Yes, these people get some of the money, but the bulk of it flows into administrators’ profits…administrators that have no problem robbing taxpayers, and extorting faculty into reducing standards to a level that would be laughable if it were not so pathetic.

     Interestingly enough, another professor actually responded to the referenced complaint:

      Wow, what planet is this guy from? “Accept his contention”? Seriously? I receive many e-mails of near gibberish on a regular basis, I’m more than willing to accept an English professor would get the same. Allow me to present a couple of e-mails from students:


Please i dnt know how to solve the questions under unit three, there is no graph work derived to solve the questions.Please help me

          Are the above incomprehensible? I suppose not, barely, but I trust the gentle reader will concede that the above are not exactly college level writing. Is it really grade 12 ½ work? I don’t think so.

     While being a bit reluctant to take a claim at face value, the response has some things of merit to say, though he mostly just blames public education. 

“Hey man, can you help me read the lunch menu?”

--even in the 8th grade, I had friends who couldn’t read “very well”. So I’d read the menu for them.

      There have always been terrible students in public schools, students that just get socially promoted up through the grades. Now they’re in college, and social promotion has come to college…this won’t help them in the slightest.

      Still the professor has one thing I can’t argue with:

I know teachers whose student load approaches 200 students. Let’s go back to those good old days when people had teachers who wrote careful, thoughtful comments on their weekly-assigned essays…Try that with 200 students every week. Give a teacher a modest 10 minutes to spend on each of 200 students’ essays, and you’ve got 2,000 minutes a week just spent grading essays.

That’s 33 hours spent each week outside class grading papers. This figure does not take into account additional time spent on daily record-keeping, helping kids before and after school, doing lunch duty, addressing discipline problems, and doing other things that conscientious teachers do.

Nor does it take into account the new demands placed on teachers for collecting data that may or may not serve a purpose.

--we collect plenty of data for no purpose in higher education, too.

      He’s talking about public schools here, but keep in mind, these massive class loads are now common in higher education as well, even in writing courses.

       Still, it’s nice that at least for writing, college is still arguably high school. It’s easy enough to show that for most other subjects, college is below high school, often far below.

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