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By Chelsea O'Brien

I work for a college, it'll remain unnamed. In the office where I work our students are primarily adults. We offer different degree options, and full-time status so that our students qualify for financial aid. On top of my normal office duties, I also tutor students in writing.

I attended a traditional (private) four-year instutition in New York State. I have a BA and I consider myself pretty intelligent. I could probably teach some social studies courses and have a healthy experience teaching high school, if I so desired.

I'm attending graduate school to get my Master's in Educational Leadership, I want to work with college students, specifically (eventually) adult students at a traditional 4-year institution.

Through these experiences I am always amazed at the lack of reading and writing comprhension. Even at the Master-level, students do not read or comprehend the reading. They do not engage with the reading. They have no questions or comments about the reading. It's sad. The students I work with have no idea how to form an academic argument or even write the traditional 5-paragraph essays.

Here on the boards I'm amazed at what is considered fact and reliable. It's not that there are "bad" sources out there (well, there are, but pretend for a moment there aren't any) but what we use to back up our arguments here on the internet (all over the internet) would never be accepted academically. They wouldn't be accepted in the high school curriculum in NYS. But, my main point is, here on the internet are "real" people, those that actually exist in this world without the help of an academic sitting on their shoulder. It amazes me how our education system has failed so many people.


Here's an article that really sums up my feelings, and frustrations, as a student and educational leader (you may or may not be able to read the whole thing, I'm at work so I'm not sure what's private on the site). (and I realize this post might make me sound high-and-mighty, but it's really just about observations I've had through my experiences)

Andrew Erbell

Your frustrations can be traced to the "self-esteem" movement in education. For some time now it has been more important that little johnny and debbie feel good about themselves than to be able to master the material presented. As high schools have been finding out for the past five + years, colleges and the workplace have no such qualms about demanding an individual be judged on his/her real abilities. What a novel concept!

On a related note, I fired a college age employee three years ago for excessive tardiness and absenteeism. His mother actually called me up and asked me to re-consider because I; "hurt her son's feelings". When I declined she became verbally abusive and was still swearing at me as I hung up the phone.

Jul 7, 2009, 6:14pm Permalink
Bea McManis

The author has valid points.
You don't have to be in the field of higher education to see that we are cranking out college students who may carry a sheepskin in their hands but retain very little between the ears.
While understanding the written word is vitally important, I'd like to add that many (not all) college students enter the work force painfully lacking in the skills needed to perform well in their chosen fields.
Who is to blame? There is enough to go around for everyone to pick up their share. Parents; grade school and high school teachers; technology; society as a whole; and the students themselves.
Go beyond that imaginary classroom and enter into a math department. Hand a student a sliderule and see if they even have an inkling as to what it is or how one uses it.
I'm sure Howard can add to how unprepared budding journalists are.
I spent an entire year working on Standard Operation Procedures to be used in Lab trials for a certain R&D pharmaceutical. Every person involved in this project held a doctorate.
Asking them to think in the most simple terms, "Write down, step by step, how you do a procedure.", was an exercise in futility.
One doctor, performing necropsies, got lost half way through this imaginary exercise, leaving pieces and parts strewn about the lab.
Another, handed in his SOP on the care of mice in the lab. One section involved capturing one of these little critters if it escaped from the cage.
As I read the document, I found myself reading about the recapure. Recapture? Did the tiny mouse escape once, and somehow managed to sneak away again?
When I asked about it, I was told, "I got tired of writing the word capture, so I changed to recapture!".
The stories could go on and on.
If I thought it was bad in brick and mortar nothing compared to dealing with people in chat rooms and bulletin boards on the internet. The very thought of grammar; complete sentences; and civility are unknown commodities.
The only difference is that I had the tools to mute or kick someone out of a chat room if they violated terms of service. I had the tools to delete offending posts (offending based on the critera of the various clients - not mine).
There is no easy answer. Perhaps there isn't suppose to be one. I guess each generation has to learn the life skills on their own.
I really wish I could meet up with many of the new hires I've dealt with over the years to discuss what they have learned now that they have traveled down a career path.
I know I can remember believing I knew it all when I was younger. I can, also, remember being shocked at how smart my parents got as the years went by.
Experience is a great teacher.
Every day is a learning experience. If we stop believing that we can't learn something new, on a daily basis, then we have reached a stagnant stage in our lives.

Jul 7, 2009, 6:23pm Permalink
Gabor Deutsch

Technology may account for "lazy education" but u cant stop a jack aster from posting ! If sum one can express dem selves telligently and make a point, dats passing 2-me !

Jul 7, 2009, 6:28pm Permalink
Tyler Hall

Bea....only 19 and I used a sliderule at least a dozen times in the past two years. don't worry education isn't a total failure. and my excuse for all this is, academia has become an indoctrination zone. and multi-billion dollar a year industry. it's just a business.

Jul 7, 2009, 8:45pm Permalink
Katie Elia

Perhaps our methods of measuring success and education need to be examined. Speaking of success, did anyone see the BHS sign a few weeks ago? It read, "Celebration of sucess." I loved the mispelled sign welcoming us into the parking lot of a school. It remained unnoticed for a week. It's a reminder that we all make mistakes, regardless of our education. It will also come in handy when I'm asked if I'm qualified to homeschool my daughter. Everyone here made valid points.

Jul 7, 2009, 11:25pm Permalink
Wayne Speed

A few decades back the academic community convinced us that if we only put more money into the system they could do a much better job of educating our young people.

The school I graduated from has added on to the buildings several times over the last 20-40 years. Yet, the number graduating and the number of total students are about the same (perhaps a little less) than when I graduated 44 years ago.

Good Deal! The track and football field have been improved, there is a myriad of baseball fields that don't get a lot of use but do require a lot of maintenance.

Maybe if we just throw some more money at the education problem we may be able to catch up with India and the other countries that were so far behind a few decades ago but have now surpassed us.

Americans have become a lazy bunch. We want to work less, earn more and have the government take responsibility for our lack of personal and even corporate responsibility. As future generations become more and more dependent on government to solve all their problems - ingenuity and hard work will fall by the wayside. We will all soon be "wards of the state".

Jul 8, 2009, 7:39am Permalink
Peter O'Brien

You know this but, because its broken we need to throw them more money to fix it. Meanwhile home schooled kids usually get a better education cheaper. So do most private school kids.

Here is an excerpt of an essay I wrote for my college class in Spring of 2008.

"In a recent study by Common Core, a non-partisan advocacy group for changing the public education system, twenty-five percent of students were not able to pass a basic exam about history and literature. The thirty-three questions in the survey came from a test administered in 1986 by the federal government and 17,000 seventeen-year-olds were polled. They also found that one out of four students could not identify Hitler as Germany’s leader during the Second World War. This statistic is mind-boggling. Hitler can be regarded as one of the most influential people of the twentieth century and these students do not know when his reign occurred. Common Core also found that more than half of the students polled did not know when the American Civil War took place. There is a rhyme that was created to help students learn when Columbus sailed to the New World. “In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”. But the study found that twenty-five percent of students thought he sailed sometime after 1750.
The Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a group that is funded primarily by conservatives, conducted another exam that tested students’ knowledge of history. 7000 fourth-year students at the university level took the sixty-question multiple-choice exam on American history and culture; the average score was approximately fifty-four percent. First-year students who took the exam received better scores than their senior counterparts."

Those studies are just an example of the inadequacies of the government education system.

Jul 8, 2009, 7:47am Permalink

I don't believe that our education system is failing.

People don't understand and realize the importance of education anymore, and as a result, don't pursue it.

Or coherent sentences, proper spelling and grammar. When I first joined this site, I wanted to scream at so many people here because of their lack of written communication skills.

Jul 8, 2009, 12:25pm Permalink
Tyler Hall

It is failing. Academia has chosen political agendas over facts. They have assaulted the minds of children and young adults. As pointed out before 2 and 2 can equal 5 or anything else, as long as the children feel good :) It is truly failing.

Jul 8, 2009, 5:04pm Permalink

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