A study of more than 2,300 undergraduates found 45 percent of students show no significant improvement in the key measures of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by the end of their sophomore years.
Not much is asked of students, either. Half did not take a single course requiring 20 pages of writing during their prior semester, and one-third did not take a single course requiring even 40 pages of reading per week.
The findings are in a new book, "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses," by sociologists Richard Arum of New York University and Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia. An accompanying report argues against federal mandates holding schools accountable, a prospect long feared in American higher education.
I always love persons academic turning into Sargent Shultz when anyone points out that most children enter college with no measurable intellectual skills, and exit with nothing added but debt. Why is our children dum? Beats me. They certainly get very matter-of-fact if anyone suggests teaching children important objective things in a serious setting and testing them to see if their teachers suck pond water. Accountability smells like the great unwashed to them. Can't have the peasants demanding results for their quarter mil. Devotees of the modern approach to learning don't like it when you point out that critical thinking requires knowing things, hard factual things, so you can tell if someone's pulling your leg or not. They'd rather that critical thinking consist of half-remembering the prejudices of your teacher on cue. But they can't even get the kids to remember those. Taking that word out of Huckleberry Finn and another hundred billion in school loans oughta do it.
What exactly does the study observe before ruling out the Conclusion That Dare Not Speak Its Name? Here's a couple things:
-Students who studied alone, read and wrote more, attended more selective schools and majored in traditional arts and sciences majors posted greater learning gains.
-Social engagement generally does not help student performance. Students who spent more time studying with peers showed diminishing growth and students who spent more time in the Greek system had decreased rates of learning, while activities such as working off campus, participating in campus clubs and volunteering did not impact learning.
I know some kids who study alone, read and write more than other students, have more rigorous and traditional course material, and restrict socializing to social engagements instead of robbing it from educational time. They work inside and outside the home and help their neighbors, too, but it doesn't interfere with their education.
But remember, don't mention the homeschooling approach to education. Maybe we should call it KinderCollege or something, and avoid some of the sneering. We're already mailing in the money for the school system and not sending the kids. Not much more we can do on our end.