Finished grading


I finally finished grading all my papers and submitting final grades this afternoon. It takes a while when you require your students to write, rather than assigning multiple-choice exams. As always, there is at least one student who questions why they did not do as well as they thought they should. In most cases the answer is obvious, a failure to do the work at a college level.

Unfortunately, some of my students are unable to write a cohesive paragraph of sentence, let alone identify an author’s thesis or the evidence an author uses to support her thesis. I wonder how these students were even accepted. Have standards declined that much?

I am not a product of elite education. I attended public schools, community college and state college. It took me longer than four years to receive my B.A. and I worked (part-time or full-time) to support myself during my graduate studies. But throughout my higher education there was a requirement that students be able to communicate in standard written English. What happened?

Part of this is due to the societal expectation that every individual should attend college. There is also the fact that jobs which did not require college degrees in the past do require them today. There is an excellent article by “Professor X” (“In the Basement of the Ivory Tower”) in the June Atlantic (not available online yet) which addressed many of the issues I deal with on a daily basis. Here is a bit:

There seems, as is often the case in colleges, to be a huge gulf between academia and reality. No one is thinking about the larger implications, let alone the morality, of admitting so many students to classes they cannot possibly pass. The colleges and the students and I are bobbing up and down in a great wave of societal forces–social optimism on a large scale, the sense of college as both a universal right and a need, financial necessity on the part of the colleges and the students alike, the desire to maintain high academic standards while admitting marginal students–that have coalesced into a mini-tsunami of difficulty.

I’ll post a link to the article when it is available.

One response »

  1. College has certainly gotten easier and less valuable now that everyone is expected to go to one. Schools are not necessarily interested in the quality of their graduates, because the waves of students entering school don’t seem to pay attention to the fact that those leaving are not terribly competent. Everyone has been told that a college degree is the ticket into the good life, and that’s rather regrettable.

    It surely doesn’t help that many entry level jobs require a college diploma for some god-forsaken reason. I can only hope there is a swing away from this mindset, but it doesn’t look like it will come anytime soon.

    My siblings have all opted out of going to college (after taking some classes here and there at junior college), and I think they made the right decision by getting a trade and not accumulating needless debt. When I talk to teenagers considering college, I ask them if their idea of a good time is sitting in a library, reading lots of books, and discussing the ideas you get form them. If that doesn’t sound like an ideal Friday evening to them, I recommend going to trade school, the military, or just getting a shop job while they consider what it is they want in life. For a kid to spend thousands getting a liberal arts degree, when they have no interest in the basic tenets of the curriculum, is not in anyone’s best interests.

    Most folks just don’t seem to understand what a liberal arts degree is, and that has lead so many to college needlessly. As you know, it isn’t intended to train you for an explicit job, or give you a specific skill that you can put on your resume. It is intended to give the student the ability to reason and communicate properly, and the college experience should theoretically expose them to ideas they would not have. Unfortunately, the modern university system fails its students in both those areas, but the buying public doesn’t seem to recognize this yet.

    Victor Hanson wrote a great book a few years back called “Who Killed Homer?” that made my point better than I could. Worth a read if you have not already.

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