Tuesday, May 22, 2012

We Have Met The Enemy and He Is Us


My department chair (Darrell Walden) sent out the following link to an article from The Washington Post. You may have to register to read it but it is well worth your time. (If the link doesn’t work, just go to www.washingtonpost.com and search for “Is college too easy” as of May 21, 2012.)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/is-college-too-easy-as-study-time-falls-debate-rises/2012/05/21/gIQAp7uUgU_story.html

Darrell summarizes the story quite well in just a few words. “Over the past half-century, the amount of time college students actually study — read, write and otherwise prepare for class — has dwindled from 24 hours a week to about 15, survey data show. And that invites a question: Has college become too easy?”

As I travel around the country talking about teaching, I very frequently hear faculty members complain that “college students are not like they used to be.” My feeling (after 41 years in this job) has always been that college students really do not change much over time. However, as this article pretty well documents, what we ask our students to do to get a good grade has become less and less demanding. For many students, college is barely a part-time job. The students have not changed but a college education has.

Two words say it all: grade inflation.

If you don't demand much, don't be surprised when students give you exactly that much.  

I have even heard the speculation that the heavy student drinking that is prevalent on so many college campuses today is partially a result of the boredom that comes from being under challenged.

Okay, I have lived long enough to already know the response to my rant here.
---Polls will tell you that most people believe public education is falling apart nationally but that their own local school does a pretty good job.
---Polls will also tell you (at least I’ve been told this) that most people will argue that Congress is completely incompetent but their own member of Congress does a pretty decent job.

So, my guess is that a lot of college faculty members are going to read The Washington Post and respond “Yes, most students don’t work very hard these days but my class is the exception. If every class was as difficult as mine, college education would be much better.”

Hmm, that always reminds me of Lake Wobegon where all the children are above average.

Is the problem that our students are lazy or is the problem that we do not push our students enough?

Either way, are we willing to allow our students to "earn" a college degree with so much less work?

I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

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