Saturday, March 5, 2011

Our Mediocre Middle Class Colleges

If you think our public school system is mediocre then a new book out called Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses certainly puts the nail in the coffin of American education. Americans have been told ever since the GI Bill came around after WWII and sent all those middle class kids to college for the first time that if you went to college then you had better opportunity or to to put it more directly, you could get a job. Now if you watch Waiting For Superman, the documentary, the message is that our public schools are not good and they are not good because our teachers are not good. But now there is the thought that maybe our colleges aren't so good or that the students going there aren't so motivated or equipped.

Makes sense. You could also make a case that ever since the school of business appeared on college campuses vocational training pushed out Liberal Arts and students have been the lesser for it. In Academically Adrift the case is made that students are able to get good grades in college and learn very little. That in fact they are finding the current crop of graduates unable to articulate their thoughts or possess a critical intelligence, synthesize information into a thesis or write a coherent sentence. In other words it would seem the mediocrity of our middle class learning institutions extends all the way through college.

It really started with the whole go to college to get a job mentality. The fact is that is not even true anymore as the current unemployment rate of 17 percent among college graduates bitterly proves the point. The fact is our graduates are victims of a mediocre culture that does not value critical thinking nor does it see the need. I myself tumbled out of a State College with a Masters then sat down to read F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side Of Paradise and I had to keep a notebook because there were so many words I didn't know. This is not a heavy duty novel  by any stretch, but there I was basically unable to decipher a literary novel.

Of course the obvious remedy is to move Liberal Arts back to the front of college curriculums. The people who lead the country and who make the money and who are in the power band are able to think, formulate a thesis, and they do have a critical intelligence and are able to understand literature. The people who go to college to get a job should re evaluate if college is for them. Coming out with a hundred thousand dollars on your head is high price to pay for something that is no longer guaranteed.
Rocket Man will blast off April 26th

Books by William Hazelgrove