So college students can’t think critically, eh?

Via McClatchy:

An unprecedented study that followed several thousand undergraduates through four years of college found that large numbers didn’t learn the critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication skills that are widely assumed to be at the core of a college education.
Point of evidence #1, from a Columbia grad:
I actually had to Google what the meaning of “blue bloods” was, although I could surmise that it was some kind of knock against education and coming from a family of some success.
Point of evidence #2, critical thinking from the same grad: 
Everyone chose both interesting and [year] poignant candidates.
* [The said grad’s editors got ahold of this one and deleted the original, “year poignant,” whatever the heck that’s supposed to mean].
From the study:

Many of the students graduated without knowing how to sift fact from opinion, make a clear written argument or objectively review conflicting reports of a situation or event, according to New York University sociologist Richard Arum, lead author of the study. The students, for example, couldn’t determine the cause of an increase in neighborhood crime or how best to respond without being swayed by emotional testimony and political spin.

Just a thought: how do you expect college students to graduate with the ability to “make a clear written argument or objectively review conflicting reports of a situation” sans “being swayed by emotional testimony and political spin” when that’s all they get from their overwhelmingly liberal professors who cannot do the same themselves?

More evidence that an Ivy League education ain’t what it used to be, or why she voted for Mark Zuckerberg as Time’s “Man of the Year”:

In 2010 Facebook hit its five hundred millionth member. A feat no social network has ever achieved. David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s The Social Network was also released to both commercial and critical acclaim. Mark Zuckerberg has become the first true millenial rockstar, and he is ushering in a completely new era.
Oooh! A commercially and critically acclaimed movie about him! Surely that makes him worthy.  Maybe not so convincing, eh?
If you don’t believe me, trust a brilliantly written review of said Columbia grad’s book:

After all, it is clear to everyone who has read Meghan McCain’s twitter feed, her “articles” on The Daily Beast, or her ill-fated campaign blog that Meghan is not a paragon of clear reasoning, exemplar of familiarity with facts, nor a model of English language expertise.  And after subjecting myself to 194 continuous pages of her “writing,” it became clear that none of the above-described works truly plumbed the depths of mental vacuity in which Ms. McCain aimlessly and cluelessly drifts.This presented a dilemma.

It is impossible to read Dirty, Sexy Politics and come away with the impression that you have read anything other than the completely unedited ramblings of an idiot.  This being a professional website for which I have a great deal of respect, I searched for a more eloquent or gentle way to accurately phrase the previous sentence – but could not find one. 

Why college kids fail to matriculate with any real mad skilz:

Arum, whose book “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses” (University of Chicago Press) comes out this month, followed 2,322 traditional-age students from the fall of 2005 to the spring of 2009 and examined testing data and student surveys at a broad range of 24 U.S. colleges and universities, from the highly selective to the less selective.

Forty-five percent of students made no significant improvement in their critical thinking, reasoning or writing skills during the first two years of college, according to the study. After four years, 36 percent showed no significant gains in these so-called “higher order” thinking skills.

Combining the hours spent studying and in class, students devoted less than a fifth of their time each week to academic pursuits. By contrast, students spent 51 percent of their time — or 85 hours a week — socializing or in extracurricular activities.

How much time on Mr. Year Poignant’s website did said students spend?   
Just sayin’.
UPDATE:  Not sure how I missed this gem from the study:
 Students majoring in business, education, social work and communications showed the least gains in learning. However, the authors note that their findings don’t preclude the possibility that such students “are developing subject-specific or occupationally relevant skills.”
Emphasis mine.  It’s comforting, isn’t it, that the teachers of tomorrow show the least gains in learning, critical thinking or complex reasoning.

UPDATE 2: a thread at Potluck

UPDATE 3: Allahpundit hits it:

If you think false media narratives are easily absorbed now, wait until the Leaders of Tomorrow graduate and take their place in society. I keep thinking that the combination of a poor economy and ludicrous higher-education costs will solve this problem to some degree by re-normalizing the idea of entering the labor force after high school. If you’re a kid who’s unenthused about incurring a mountain of debt for the privilege of four more years of study with no guarantee of finding a job afterward to fund the repayment, why not pound the pavement for an entry-level/trainee position somewhere instead? The pay will be rotten to start and the lack of a diploma will make some future employers think twice, but in the meantime you’re debt-free and building skills — and if I’m right about re-normalization, the “no diploma” stigma will fade a bit culturally over time. The one flaw in my theory: Er, there are no entry-level jobs out there for kids, are there?


8 Responses

  1. […] in education. Only the cream of the crop in Finland are allowed to teach. How egalitarian, no?  What a stark contrast to our own teachers of tomorrow, who show the smallest gains in learning, cri…. Teachers’ unions exist to protect the weak and incompetent. That problem doesn’t exist […]

  2. […] So college students can’t think critically, eh? Eco World Content From Across The Internet. Featured on EcoPressed The cleantech graveyard […]

  3. pjMom,
    Thank you for your kind words. I was in Anthropology. My undergrad major was History.

  4. I’m hear via No One of Any Import.
    I’m a grad school drop out, and have tones of anecdotes about Berkeley. Grad students were of the opinion that Berkeley undergrads are not nearly as smart as they think they are; they just know how to get their A pluses. (I don’t think grad students are nearly as interesting as they think they are, but that’s a different story.)
    My late adviser, who taught an introductory course to a class of 700 every year, had enough of seeing “its” and “it’s” mixed up. Every year he announced that he’ll have a question on the final about when to put an apostrophe after “it”. Every year he warned the class that half of the students give the wrong answer. We graded the finals, and, sure enough, 50% got it wrong.

    • I actually started reading your blog last night, also via NOoAI. Fascinating. Hope to read more tonight after toddler bedtime.

      Laughing re the its and it’s. I used to teach Brians’ common errors to my high school kids. I had my top ten grammar pet peeves. They knew that I would refuse to grade papers or tests with the top three. They’re/their/there was one. Its/It’s another. And the top prize went to “I wish I was.” Worse than nails on chalkboard for me.

      That said, I was always reminded that grading grammar was inherently racist.


    • I meant to ask, English major grad school drop out? I saw a tidbit of lovely analysis on the blog last night.

  5. “Students majoring in business, education, social work and communications showed the least gains in learning. However, the authors note that their findings don’t preclude the possibility that such students “are developing subject-specific or occupationally relevant skills.”

    It’s not much of a comfort to hear that future teachers and social workers are learning subject-related “skills” but still can’t think through what they are doing. Arghh. And that’s supposed to be an example of the high-level functioning of the authors of this study? Double arghh!

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