As noted here, the ability of higher education to provide anything of real value is mostly nil. While there are a few good colleges—Hillsdale comes to mind, as do others, and then there’s great departments like political science/government at CMC—for the most part, higher education over promises in terms of its delivering what it claims it can deliver. Again, there are great exceptions to that generalized comment.
The article linked notes,
I see ample evidence of this at upei. In one course I co-taught with several other faculty members, the readings were posted online, which allowed us to map access patterns. In that course, readings were accessed—not necessarily read—by 5 to 15 percent of the enrolled students. The same pattern was confirmed by textbook sales in a course from the previous year. I was teaching George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, and I had ordered 230 copies based on enrolment numbers. At the end of term, the bookstore had sold only eighteen copies, a hit rate of about 8 percent.
It may be that some students already had the book or had purchased it from another source. But the quality of the essays and mid-term exams suggested a different story, as did students’ own explanations of their actions. Remove your professor hat for a moment and students will speak frankly. They will tell you that they don’t read because they don’t have to. They can get an A without ever opening a book.
I hate to say this, but this is rampant at WLCC. I cannot tell you the hundreds of times I have heard form students that they can’t understand why they don’t deserve an A in the class. When I ask why they cannot answer a question that remotely reflects the readings in an exam, they say, “because I did not buy the book.”
Why don’t they buy books for class? Because apparently, there are an untold number of professors who seem to hand out As and Bs to students regardless. Not surprisingly, these students also cannot write and they have little grasp of topics a college student should be able to converse. Hundreds of other students have told me that they are taught in writing courses to “write for effect” and “write outlandishly to stand out.” How banal. If everything is sensationalized, then everything is a trite selfie in incomplete sentence form. And yes, incomplete sentences abound at WLCC.
Degrees at these colleges are worthless. The grades are also worthless. As a couple of business people form the valley told me recently, they have stopped hiring students who graduate because the hires have come to them woefully unprepared, and illiterate. Most profs at WLCC are complicit in all of this:
If you had a light-bulb manufacturing company and your staff members were permitted to remain ignorant of filament oxidization, you would produce bad light bulbs, and you’d soon be out of business. If you teach ancient Greek history and allow your students to remain ignorant of Thucydides, Herodotus, and Xenophon, not only will they write terrible papers, but they won’t know anything about how the ancient Greeks lived and fought and loved, and what that might teach them about their own lives.
But don’t worry—you won’t go bust because of this failure, not in the modern university. So long as your class is popular and fun, you’ll be favoured by the administration and probably receive a teaching award. This, even though your students will leave your class in worse condition than they entered it, because you will have pandered to their basest inclinations while leaving their real intellectual and moral needs unmet.
It’s sad. We tried to change the curriculum at WLCC to reflect a shared liberal core, and the faculty almost to a person had zero interest. Truth is relative don’t you know, and Ancient readings are so yesterday. Readings in the Founding are passe. Concepts like justice, virtue, equality (rightly understood) are negotiable.
Students demand an easy ride and As for D/F work. I remind my students that if they were at a good college they would have to work harder. I also tell them the story of Harvey Mansfield who makes the point of the problem of inflated grades by giving his students two grades–one of them, the lower grade, is the one they deserve. They are not usually amused. One had the audacity to tell me, “but we aren’t at a good college so I deserve an A.” It’s nice that even they know how bad it is, but what they don’t understand is that potential employers will not be amused with the fraud perpetrated not only by them, but by the institution.
This is a systemic problem. It is not the fault of one college or school. Yet they all send press releases claiming how wonderful things are. The numbers don’t even add up as people with an ACT of 18 are getting a four point. It happens so often as to be unbelievable.
Its unfortunate, but students are only performing as they are because they have no gains. There are no professors, or too few, who demand ganas–there are no professors at many colleges who have the inkling to demand more. As one person wrote to me recently: “I think the faculty at WLCC are just, plain lazy. They have no desire to do more than show up, teach from the same notes from which they’ve taught for years, and collect their paycheck. If they had anymore motivation, they would go somewhere else. I think the ones that are leaving are doing so because they don’t want to work with lazy people, especially when there is no reward for working harder.”
The good professors at WLCC bailed the last two years in such numbers that it resembles Exodus from the Old Testament. As to the quote about lazy faculty above: that’s certainly part of it, but its more. At root, there is no belief that the liberal arts has anything to teach; there is no belief that the arts have anything to reveal to us about life, our life, and how we all might be better at living life.