Idiocracy Report

I swear, my soul dies a little every week when I have to grade discussion questions.  From the complete and total lack of grammar, misuse of preposition, subject verb disagreement, spelling errors, not to mention the actual lack of understanding of the material and the obvious plagiarism–it just hurts my heart.  American education is lagging behind much of the developed world, and that’s just ludicrous and sad.

The entrance requirements to get in to public universities seem to be dropped every year. In fact, here, if you graduated from a Mississippi high school (a dubious achievement these days), you can get in to one of the state universities without even having to TAKE the ACT.    And the actual required ACT score is, I’m fairly sure, possible to achieve merely by going through the entire test and marking at random.

Since we’ve exported a great many lower level jobs in industry and other vocational type fields, there is now an expectation that everyone should get a college education.  Which, I’m sorry, is just bullshit.  At least 50% of my students have no business being in college.  And a program that lowers requirements, lowers expectations, in order that this segment can graduate, produces students that are still unprepared for the job market and devalues the degree for everyone else, such that then larger numbers are going on to get advanced degrees.  And so on and so forth.  Until having a degree is all but useless on a practical scale in terms of getting a better job–and yet you still have to have one to compete with the scores of other people who also have that useless degree.

I don’t have any answers.  At least not any that are currently legal or politically popular.   I just want to get out of all of this and go hide in my fictional world.

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14 comments

  1. I 100% agree with you. It’s a travesty. There is the notion in society that every child coming out of high school should go to college. Yet at the same time, college is more and more inaccessible due to skyrocketing tuition and fees that so far outstrip interest rates that no amount of investment and planning on the part of the middle class can possibly be sufficient. The result is kids who are ready for neither college nor the blue collar work place.

    More than that, this attitude devalues the necessary blue collar jobs that keep us functioning. Policemen, plumbers, mechanics, hairdressers, etc. are all respectable people who deserve our appreciation and admiration when they do their jobs well. With the attitude that every child must be ready for college when the reality is that at least half if not most of the students have no business or calling in college, it leaves little respect for these blue collar paths that are every bit as important as teaching, engineering and medicine.

    It would be far more realistic and respectful to return to preparing those who choose for blue collar jobs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with those students, and they deserve better than to be shoved through the college cookie press that does not honor their real talents and the contributions they can make.

  2. For what it’s worth, I agree with you. I went to a difficult university, its most competitive year (at the time; record might’ve been broken), and frankly, it was a breeze if you actually knew how to study and manage your time. More focus on comprehension and application than busy work. It was great.

    But my history class, many of my fellow students freaked out upon learning that the test would be short answer. (And that the university was moving to a regular MWF/TR class schedule, rather than the 5 days per week it was on at the time.) My classmates stared at me when I started detailing benefits of those things—and when I commented that I’d been doing short answer and essay history tests since high school.

    Really. It’s downright sad how few people know how to best study or attack homework, based on their learning styles.

    I’ve been called a “genius” because I happen to be able to learn quickly and do well on tests.

    Well, I’ve met geniuses. I’m not a genius. I just have an advantage because my primary learning style (monochromatic visual from typed words) is good for the way many classes are set up (teaching from the book). That means I comprehend things well from reading a book on them.

    If you make me try to learn something by listening to a lecture or watching a video, I have a very hard time. However, I’m aware of that, so I’ve figured out ways to self-adjust. (I also sometimes make myself listen to an audiobook or watch a movie without subtitles on, to force myself to work on those things.)

    But a genius? No. I just know how I learn.

    1. YES. It’s absolutely a skill and one that is no longer taught. I have students come to me wanting to know how to get better grades. Um, do more than just read it once with a cursory level of attention. STUDY. And–gasp–turn assignments IN on time.

  3. It will change when students see that the annual cost of even a state university is in the tens of thousands of dollars and that they will graduate $100,000 or more in debt and decide that it isn’t worth it, or when parents turn to their kids and say, “we saved enough money for you to go to college for one semester. You probably can think of things you’d rather do with the money, so here it is.” High schools are trying too hard to prepare everyone for college; what they need to do is prepare them to become responsible adults. College is great if you want to be a doctor or an engineer, and maybe ten percent of kids graduating from high school want to do those things, but every high school graduate needs to know how to get and keep a job and how to develop skills that ensure their quality of life.

    1. I have to disagree with you John. High schools are NOT preparing students for college in the least. They get to me and don’t know what plagiarism is. They don’t know how to write a standard 5 paragraph essay (I learned this in the 3rd grade). All high schools are doing is trying to stay afloat in the climate of the ludicrousness of No Child Left Behind–which leaves students unprepared for ANYTHING–life OR college.

      1. Oh, yeah, there is that. School anymore is just somewhere to warehouse the kids so their parents (or parent) can go to work or have a few hours off. Mom, who taught in Chicago for 37 years, ended up feeling that way.

  4. As a high school teacher, I can tell you we are desperately trying to get kids prepped for college, state high stakes tests, and the fact that they come in as 9th graders woefully behind because they just got SOCIALLY PROMOTED for the past 3 years.

    1. Absolutely. You have so much other BS you have to cope with that you don’t have the TIME to actually address things to the extent they need to be addressed and the social promotion is killing everybody.

    2. Absolutely! I am teaching middle school math to students who have failed at math for multiple years. Now this year my evaluation as a competent teacher is based on whether or not these students learn the content and retain it. It doesn’t matter that they come to school, do homework, or even try. If they are doing poorly it is because, (according to my administrator), I am not presenting ‘engaging lessons’. Sorry, school is for learning, not entertainment. While I try to teach my content in a real-world and engaging manner, with minimal use of ‘worksheets’, most students are frankly too lazy to ‘engage’ in anything beyond socializing with their peers. They cannot even ‘read directions’ or ‘listen to directions’ without becoming distracted. Imagine when I ask them to respond in writing to a question in a ‘complete sentence’! Most are unable to do that by eighth grade. Social Promotion is the reason many of these kids are failing. If they actually HELD THEM ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR OWN LEARNING and did not promote them until the learned, sort of like in college, then they might decide to work a bit harder to learn the material.

  5. I so sympathize with this, Kait. I’ve spent the last 4 years as a teaching assistant in the University of California system, and the number of students who are woefully unprepared for college are horrifying. With our class sizes expanding (lecture courses are usually capped around 70, but they’ve started raising enrollment to 80+) and only 1 TA to a course (unless there are discussion sections), trying to actually work with students to improve their skills is impossible. And it makes it all the harder when I have to work with professors who say things like, “Don’t grade the students on their writing, just focus on the content.”

    I keep trying to think of ways that I can weave remedial writing skills into lectures for the day when I’m teaching my own courses, but it’s such an uphill battle, and really disheartening. One thing you might find interesting is this article, “Why American Students Can’t Write.” It’s been going around on my department listserv.

    http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/just-visiting/why-american-students-cant-write-responding-atlantic

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