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.