RE: What Can We Do About Adrift Students?

George Leef

  • Article
  • February 15, 2011

Jason Fertig has written a thought-provoking piece for NAS on the problem identified by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa in Academically Adrift. He quotes from their conclusion:

A renewed commitment to improving undergraduate education is unlikely to occur without changes to the organizational cultures of colleges and universities that reestablish the institutional primacy of these functions -- instilling in the next generation of young adults a lifelong love of learning, an ability to think critically and communicate effectively, and a willingness to embrace and assume adult responsibilities.

The trouble is that after 12 years of educational mush where the focus is not on learning but trying to ensure that the student has high self-esteem and is not "oppressed" by teachers who demand correct spelling, punctuation, etc. and insist that there are right and wrong answers, many college students don't want any of that. Colleges can indeed do better for those students who actually want to learn and are willing to accept criticism, but for the large (I suspect larger) numbers who have come to believe that "education" is just about going through the motions of attending class (sometimes) and taking tests (unless a good excuse presents itself), academic rigor will be an insuperable barrier. A lot of colleges won't be able to survive if they lose that part of their customer base.

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