20 January 2006

Edumacation, Schmedumacation

In the MOST DISTURBING NEWS ITEM of the DAY column:

Study: Most College Students Lack Skills [Breit Bart]

Nearing a diploma, most college students cannot handle many complex but common tasks, from understanding credit card offers to comparing the cost per ounce of food.

And someone got paid to do a study proving that? What did that study consist of doing, spending a day in the life of a frat boy?

...More than 50 percent of students at four-year schools and more than 75 percent at two-year colleges lacked the skills to perform complex literacy tasks.

That means they could not interpret a table about exercise and blood pressure, understand the arguments of newspaper editorials, compare credit card offers with different interest rates and annual fees or summarize results of a survey about parental involvement in school.

My father sent me to college because he believed I'd never get a good job without a degree. So much for good ol' fashioned Americanism.

...Most students at community colleges and four-year schools showed intermediate skills, meaning they could perform moderately challenging tasks. Examples include identifying a location on a map, calculating the cost of ordering office supplies or consulting a reference guide to figure out which foods contain a particular vitamin.

So, that means they can find their way to the office where they'll be required to do a lot of filing, ordering of supplies, and buying of lunches for their boss. If that doesn't smack of being "qualified for success in life," what does?

...There was brighter news.

Overall, the average literacy of college students is significantly higher than that of adults across the nation. Study leaders said that was encouraging but not surprising, given that the spectrum of adults includes those with much less education.

I'm sorry, was that a researcher's idea of a punchline, or did the reporter craft that witty bit?

Also, compared with all adults with similar levels of education, college students had superior skills in searching and using information from texts and documents.

"I don't know, but I know someone who does!" That's called Wise Guy speak. It's the educated way of saying, "I know someone who's got a cousin..." Hm. Really doesn't make you wonder why so many colleges have such aggressive anti-plagarism policies, does it?

...Almost 20 percent of students pursuing four-year degrees had only basic quantitative skills. For example, the students could not estimate if their car had enough gas to get to the service station. About 30 percent of two-year students had only basic math skills.

In some palace in the middle of a desert, that Iranian Presidential nutjob is reading this article and re-estimating the power of his threats regarding the world's oil supply. "Hmm," he's thinking, "that scientific committee had better come through with evidence denying the Holocaust pretty quick. That's our wildcard!"

...The survey showed a strong relationship between analytic coursework and literacy. Students in two-year and four-year schools scored higher when they took classes that challenged them to apply theories to practical problems or weigh competing arguments.

What the study failed to mention was the complete lack of classes requiring students to apply the theories they were learning to real life issues. That's not really the professors' fault, though. I mean, if Marx couldn't accurately apply the principles of communism to solve real problems, how can his disciples be expected to do so?

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