Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.
We accept students who are college-eligible, but that doesn’t mean they’re college-ready.
– Statement by a California State University department chairman, quoted in the Modesto Bee.
No kidding. Nearly 60 percent of freshmen in the CSU system require remediation in English or math. Commenting on this, Steve Boilard, described by the Bee as “a higher education expert” in the office of the state’s Legislative Analyst, said, “There’s this kind of dissonance where a student is told, ‘Congratulations, you’re in the top third of high school graduates; you’re one of the elite ones.’
“Then the same students take a placement test and are told, ‘… you’re not ready for college level classes,’” said Boilard. “How is a student supposed to reconcile the two?”
Really, there is a simple explanation, and it has very little to do with with kids coming from homes where English is the second language, or homes where there has been no family experience of higher education, or homes where the aggregate income is low.
And in the Golden State, it certainly is unrelated to a lack of racial or cultural diversity.
The problem is, California’s educational establishment has been dominated by idiots for about 50 years. Check that: Make it, the nation’s educational establishment has been dominated by idiots for about 50 years.
Way back when, kids were told what the world of higher education would expect of them. They learned that they would have to pass certain courses with high grades, and they learned that high grades could be earned only through high achievement.
When I was in the eighth grade, my math teacher, Mrs. Hansen, told me I didn’t score well in her class basically because I was lazy.
Dear Mrs. Hansen. She arrived at school an hour early every day to help kids who were struggling in her class. My parents made me attend – until I pulled an “A” on the next test. I certainly was lazy, but not so lazy that I wanted to get up an hour early to attend the remedial sessions.
Today Mrs. Hansen would have to find another line of work. In the classroom she would have to deal with students who believed just showing up merited excellent marks. Then she’d have to cope with angry parents demanding to know why she hated their kids. Finally, she’d be pressured by the school administration to ease up in her grading. Pretty soon, she might simply give up and pass underachieving kids on to the next unlucky pedagogue.
The point is, in her era kids weren’t lied to. They weren’t told they were doing well when actually they were not. Now, youngsters are lied to from kindergarten through the bachelor of arts – and sometimes right into graduate school. I knew a “scholar” at a certain university who was just a couple of steps from her master’s degree in English. This student couldn’t write a coherent English sentence to save her life.
No doubt she has her doctorate by now, is teaching English somewhere and is telling illiterate students they’re doing just fine.
More higher education: There is some evidence of push-back against shoddy educational “standards.” The New York Times reports folks are starting to look for some way to measure learning at the college level.
This could be because people in the real world have noticed that the bachelor’s degree may not be worth the velum on which it is printed. Anyway, there’s a debate going on about measures of learning, with the usual claptrap about the importance of “critical thinking.”
The Times quoted Lehigh University President Alice Gast, who said, “I’m not sure any standardized test can effectively measure what students gain in problem-solving, or the ability to work collaboratively.” (Alas! President Gast’s middle initial is “P.” We wish it were “A.”)
“Collaboration” ranks right up there with “diversity” among the great buzz words of a generation. You’ll find it in The Blind Partisan’s Dictionary:
Collaboration: n. – a process whereby participants in a given project may share praise but diffuse blame.
More diversity: An outfit called The Greenlining Institute is distressed that financial regulators don’t reflect the ethnic and racial makeup of the nation.
Said Orson Aguilar, the organization’s executive director, “If their management more mirrored the workforce, it could have prevented the mortgage fiasco.”
No doubt “diverse” regulators would have prevented banks from making all those bad loans to the “diverse” population.