Saturday, January 21, 2006

Study: Most College Students Lack Skills

Jan 19 2:43 PM US/Eastern


Nearing a diploma, most college students cannot handle many complex but common tasks, from understanding credit card offers to comparing the cost per ounce of food.

Those are the sobering findings of a study of literacy on college campuses, the first to target the skills of students as they approach the start of their careers.

More than 50 percent of students at four-year schools and more than 75 percent at two-year colleges lacked the skills to perform complex literacy tasks.

That means they could not interpret a table about exercise and blood pressure, understand the arguments of newspaper editorials, compare credit card offers with different interest rates and annual fees or summarize results of a survey about parental involvement in school.

The results cut across three types of literacy: analyzing news stories and other prose, understanding documents and having math skills needed for checkbooks or restaurant tips.

"It is kind of disturbing that a lot of folks are graduating with a degree and they're not going to be able to do those things," said Stephane Baldi, the study's director at the American Institutes for Research, a behavioral and social science research organization...

Heck, I can do those things, and I am a college drop out. I used to joke that people with college degrees could still be "educated idiots". But nowadays, it seems that study after study is showing it to be demonstratably true.

I was lucky to have a good High School education. One of the reasons I was so disappointed with my college experience, was that much of the coursework was less challenging than what I had already learned in Highschool, and taught by incompetent teachers.

My college "Science" teacher would ramble on a bunch of disjointed facts; my class notes looked like the ravings of a deranged street person. The "professor" actually fell asleep in front of the class one day, and everyone left class early. I was angry, because I was paying a lot of money to attend this school, and expected more. One of the other students laughed and told me "Don't worry - EVERYONE gets a passing grade in THIS class!" Yeah, that made it all OK, didn't it...

You can read the entire article HERE.

Hat tip to Tammy Bruce, who has her own excellent post on this topic HERE.


juanitagf said...

That they cannot "understand the arguments of newspaper editorials" is really scary. To take opinion at face value for truth and fact is very dangerous. Scary.

~from another college dropout

Chas said...

Yes, scary indeed. The idea of voters who can't understand editorials is unnerving.

In San Francisco, I was surrounded by people with multiple college degrees. There was a lot of snobbery about being educated. Yet I would be appalled at the huge gaps in the knowlege of these people, and their inabillity to cope with some things and situations that needed only very basic knowlege or skills.

These folks were better paid than me, because they were supposed to be more educated. I dropped out of college, but I have always read a lot. I could only wonder, what DID they learn in school?

David said...

Yeh... "back in the day" when less than 70% was an "F" I had a music history prof who insulted me (well, I took it that way) by offering "extra credit" points on every one of his lame exams. I knew I was wasting time in his class, so I only went for the exams, walked up at the end (usually the first one finished) and handed him the test with a "Here's your key" and walked out. Four weeks from the end of the course, he took me aside and infoemed me that since I had missed more than 25% of his lectures, he could fail me for the course (required for my major, last semester senior year), even though I had a perfect score on the only grades in the class--the tests. He offered me a deal: come to the rest of the classes and he wouldn't fail me.

I went, continued to hand in "the key" to his exams, ended the course with a perfect grade PLUS 15 points... and got a "C".

Didn't matter. I aced his TA/grader out on the GRE. Knew the material, just didn't learn any of it from the prof.

Hated classes like that. Western Civ, a 16-hour course spread over two semesters. Interesting enough, but I had read all the source material in high school. Heck, had it all in the library I brought with me as a freshman. Bought no books. Slept in class. Wrote the papers and took the tests. Read OTHER, additional material on my own.

But there were classes that really stretched me. My maths classes were a blur that I only really grasped years later. My p-sych classes (taken for fun, usually w/o the qualifying pre-reqs cos I had the department chairman fooled) were really a blast. The poly-sci, philosophy and history classes I "visited" (with the profs' approvals) while I was skipping out on required courses where I felt I already knew what I wanted to know were a lot of fun, too.

It's a shame that college has become a place for certification rather than learning. Just a darned shame, especially since a college diploma today may only certify that one has been remanufacured into stupor.

Chas said...

I did have some good courses and professors... but most were not worth it to me.

I tried to be philosophical about it, tell myself "It's an easy grade, I'll get the credit, just do it." But I was working full time in the summer, and two part time jobs in the day and night to pay for all this. Once when I had exams, I went three days without sleeping.

If it wasn't costing so much I might have stuck it out. But to PAY a kings ransom for a substandard education just irked me to no end.

When I dropped out, I could work full time, libraries were free and I could read and study anything that interested me.

I used to wonder about, how if I had just stuck it out, and gotten my degree, if my life would have been any easier, if I would have gotten better jobs, etc.

But I don't wonder anymore, because it's impossible to know about "If...".

For all I know, I could have gone through all four years, graduated, then been run over by a bus or one of those crazy Boston drivers the next day.

As it is, the life I got has turned out pretty good! I've enjoyed years of reading and studying things that really interested me. And now with the internet too, there are such incredible resources available, I feel I haven't missed out on anything; I've had and am having the education I always wanted.

For some things college certification is necessary, so depending on what one wants to do with ones life, it might be necessary. I guess it wasn't for me.

If I had to do it over again, I would have chosen a community or junior college for my first two years to take requirment courses, then transfer to a Univeristy or college for the final two years. It would have been a better option (financially) for a boy like I was with no money.

But, no regrets here - I'm better off than I ever imagined I could be. I hope your decisions worked out well for you too.