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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Dumbing Down of America Continues..

While surfing the net today, I checked out the latest installment from one of my favorite columnists, economist Walter E. Williams. I knew that America's universities were going downhill but I never imagined that it was at such breakneck speed.


"a record 91 percent of Harvard University students were awarded honors during the spring graduation. The newspaper called Harvard's grading practices "the laughing stock of the Ivy League." Harvard is by no means unique. For example, 80 percent of the grades given at the University of Illinois are A's and B's. Fifty percent of students at Columbia University are on the Dean's list. At Stanford University, where F grades used to be banned, only 6 percent of student grades were as low as a C. In the 1930s, the average GPA at American colleges and universities was 2.35, about a C plus; today the national average GPA is 3.2, more than a B. Today's college students are generally dumber than their predecessors. An article in the Wall Street Journal (1/30/97) reported that a "bachelor of Arts degree in 1997 may not be the equal of a graduation certificate from an academic high school in 1947." The American Council on Education found that only 15 percent of universities require tests for general knowledge; only 17 percent for critical thinking; and only 19 percent for minimum competency. According a recent National Assessment of Adult Literacy, the percentage of college graduates proficient in prose literacy has declined from 40 percent to 31 percent within the past decade. Employers report that many college graduates lack the basic skills of critical thinking, writing and problem-solving and some employers find they must hire English and math teachers to teach them how to write memos and perform simple computations."

All of this comes as no suprise to me. I learned quite a bit after I finished school, when I had the opportunity to read books on subjects that I was unfamiliar with and basically taught myself. Only then did I realize that there's alot more out there to learn than what is taught behind classroom walls. Remember the above stats when someone starts fawning about how so-and-so is so well "educated", because after all, they have a college degree and all.

7 comments:

Tracy said...

Wow, this is disheartening.

Especially since I have 2 more who will be attending college within the next few years. But I guess, like most things in life, a lot of what one experiences is based on what one puts into it.

I've thought about the whole experience & reading vrs formal education thing a lot. I've told my sons, when they make jokes about people who have a liberal arts type BA; that I felt like the experiences I had in college helped me experience, and come in contact with a wide spread group of knowledge and thought processes that most likely would have taken me many more than 4 years on my own. That college helped me learn how to critically look at situations and recognize my own bias.

Having said that, of course I know that during the many years since I gradated from a UC (back in 1983) I've learned way more by the books I've read, people I've met and life experiences. I think both are valid.

Although, in my own experience, I have hired college graduates, even Master's level folks, who had incredibly poor critical thinking skills, and were not particularly quick to pick up on writing related job tasks. But I just always put that down to the individual, never thought it might be that colleges themselves are failing.

JD Curtis said...

I know that during the many years since I gradated from a UC (back in 1983) I've learned way more by the books I've read, people I've met and life experiences. I think both are valid.

Agreed. The only problem is, over the last couple of years I've wanted to expand my knowledge on so many different topics that I've developed, practically, a book FETISH for crying out loud. The Mrs is going to STRANGLE me if I keep bringing home book after book. We're running out of room.

feeno said...

That's the least of the problems at most universities. But true all the same. But Tracey is right, it's what you put in it. I never went to college but my oldest daughter is in her Sr. year and doing very well. I used to tell everyone how she's on the Dean's list, but maybe that's not a big deal anymore?

deuces, feeno

JD Curtis said...

Feeno, I just left you a question over at Hugo's temp-blog.

Tracy said...

Gee JD, haven't you ever heard of the public library?! In our area they are interconnected in the county; so even though our little local library may not have the book I'm looking for, may times there's a copy somewhere in the county and they'll send it on over to our local library.

JD Curtis said...

The thing is Tracy, usually the books I buy can be considered sources of reference. Often times I get involved in internet argumentation and it's a good thing to have the book close by t reference shoud I need a source when making a claim.

The personal enrichment stuff? Yeah, I should probably consider the local library. Christianbook.com is LOVING me lately. Case in point, I'm waiting the arrival of this book from them and should receive it today.

Tracy said...

Yeah, I'm a major CBD purchaser too. But I've really tried to do the library whenever possible lately. John would love that specific book; he's really into the intelligent design stuff.