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Author Topic: Is a university education really suitable for everyone?
the_Somalian
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Professor X tells it like it is:

quote:
I wonder, sometimes, at the conclusion of a course, when I fail nine out of 15 students, whether the college will send me a note either (1) informing me of a serious bottleneck in the march toward commencement and demanding that I pass more students, or (2) commending me on my fiscal ingenuity—my high failure rate forces students to pay for classes two or three times over.

What actually happens is that nothing happens. I feel no pressure from the colleges in either direction. My department chairpersons, on those rare occasions when I see them, are friendly, even warm. They don’t mention all those students who have failed my courses, and I don’t bring them up. There seems, as is often the case in colleges, to be a huge gulf between academia and reality. No one is thinking about the larger implications, let alone the morality, of admitting so many students to classes they cannot possibly pass. The colleges and the students and I are bobbing up and down in a great wave of societal forces—social optimism on a large scale, the sense of college as both a universal right and a need, financial necessity on the part of the colleges and the students alike, the desire to maintain high academic standards while admitting marginal students—that have coalesced into a mini-tsunami of difficulty. No one has drawn up the flowchart and seen that, although more-widespread college admission is a bonanza for the colleges and nice for the students and makes the entire United States of America feel rather pleased with itself, there is one point of irreconcilable conflict in the system, and that is the moment when the adjunct instructor, who by the nature of his job teaches the worst students, must ink the F on that first writing assignment.


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Samprimary
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A university education is not suitable for everyone, no.

That said the vast majority of people failing their classes probably are doing so due to reasons other than intellectual capacity issues. Usually its executive functioning, priorities, etc

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PSI Teleport
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quote:
Ms. L. had done everything that American culture asked of her. She had gone back to school to better herself, and she expected to be rewarded for it, not slapped down. She had failed not, as some students do, by being absent too often or by blowing off assignments. She simply was not qualified for college.
This feels bogus to me. College entrants have to take placement tests before they can sign up for classes. This woman clearly should have been in a remedial English class. If his students don't have the basic skills to begin undergraduate work, there are ways to receive them. If there is a problem here, it is that the placement tests are not discerning enough. This is a big part of the reason we are counseled before beginning college; each student should have it clearly explained to them what they will need to know before they begin and how they can acquire those skills.

Plus, not everyone is as daft as Mrs. L., who basically refused to acknowledge Professor X's instructions that she get tutored in basic computer literacy. The woman seems like a straw man with a name.


ETA: However, no, university education is not suitable for everyone. But assuming you are driven to succeed (and, I'm sorry, needing to get a raise or promotion would be plenty of motivation for me) there is no reason that a person of average intelligence can't get the skills they need to pass 100 level classes.

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Xaposert
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I think there are at least two mistaken assumptions here... First, failing your first essay in your first college class does not mean that a college education is not suitable for you. The question that needs to be asked is: Did that same student keep failing in every essay after that? Or did she, over the course of her classes, end up learning how to write better? If a student goes into a university failing every essay and comes out getting an A on every essay, then a university education probably was extremely helpful for them. But this professor is not in the perspective to see that - teaching only 101 or 102 classes, he or she only sees students at the beginning of the process.

Secondly, the author here seems to be assuming that the goal of a college education is to produce scholars, and that if someone doesn't end up as a scholar then the education was not suitable for them. I don't think that is correct. For someone who is taking college in order to become a more effective police officer, failing to appreciate Writing About Literature doesn't necessarily mean their college experience was a waste of time. It is entirely possible to graduate from college without high grades and without an appreciation for the inherent value of knowledge, but still gaining skills that can greatly improve one's everyday or career life. A college education is definitely suitable for such people - just not in the same way as the professor might hope.

I think a better way to put the conclusion would be this: A university education serves different purposes for students who enter it with different goals in mind, and depending on what the student intends to get out of it, it is only going to be productive if the student enters into it with certain prequisite skills and attitudes.

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ketchupqueen
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quote:
there is no reason that a person of average intelligence can't get the skills they need to pass 100 level classes.
There are some people with higher than average intelligence who have a very difficult time passing some 100 level classes. Some have learning disabilities (many of which have never been diagnosed, and there's almost no way they're going to get diagnosed as an adult, having struggled through with them for years at this point); others just can't seem to overcome anxiety or other difficulties enough to test well even when they KNOW the subject, and when two tests comprise the entire basis for your grade for the class, well... Yes, these problems can be addressed, but the means by which to address them frankly are not in place in most colleges (at least not in a way that is accessible to most students) and so I would not say there is "no reason" for ALL students of average or above intelligence.

My husband gave up on ever getting a degree in science because he simply could not pass chem, no matter how he tried, and he didn't do so hot in higher math, either. Luckily, along the way, he found out that he loves accounting, and found an alternate career path that he is eminently suited to. But he has still just scraped through sometimes because of his extreme difficulty testing; he just does not test well.

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ketchupqueen
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quote:
It is entirely possible to graduate from college without high grades and without an appreciation for the inherent value of knowledge, but still gaining skills that can greatly improve one's everyday or career life. A college education is definitely suitable for such people - just not in the same way as the professor might hope.

Indeed.

My husband had to take Environmental Science to fullfil his science requirements at the end in order to finish his degree. Nothing in the class was new to him and I don't think it really impacted his life at all (well, except the grumbling about writing papers on dim-witted Environmental Science topics that he didn't enjoy.) However, finishing that class meant he got his degree in Accounting, which has meant employability as a tax accountant, which is what he wanted to do, and along the way he DID learn valuable accounting skills in his accounting classes; he just didn't learn all that much in classes unrelated to his major.

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PSI Teleport
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I totally understand what you're saying, kq. I don't think that the methods we use in our educational systems are necessarily the best option for all types of learners. But my assertion was that people of average intelligence should be able to get the skills they need to pass those classes. Remedial courses are one way; they probably have classes (not necessarily at the college, but it would be helpful if the counselor had those resources available to pass along) for people who get nervous while testing, as well. Perhaps "intelligence" wasn't the best term. Obviously, if a person has high "intelligence", but severe enough learning disability to hinder their ability to use that intelligence effectively in a classroom situation, that's a problem. Perhaps I need a broader term that would include the way intelligence and "learning abilities" work together. Unfortunately, everything I come up with would probably be insulting or offensive to someone.

But, at any rate, the point I was making was that the problems are not in the classrooms, they are prior to that. There should be more discerning testing going on to see that students are ready for the classes they are signing up for, and if they are not, either because of learning disabilities or just lack of skill, there should be methods in place to deal with that.

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Teshi
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Perhaps he's just not as good a teacher as he thinks. Perhaps he needs to choose more accessible material than Hamlet and James Joyce. Who teaches Joyce in a remedial English class. Surely the idea is to teach people to write- pick something they actually want to read and understand, like Neil Gaiman's Sandman or Brave New World or the ones he mentions- Animal Farm. It doesn't matter that it's not difficult literature or that some of them have read it before, the point is to get the students thinking about it as literature and able to write about it because they understand it.

As for poor Mrs. L, hasn't this guy heard of a library? It has these old fashioned things in called books and they are absolutely full of research just as good if not better than JSTOR. Honestly. Hardly any internet skills required.

He asks them to come up with their own paper. Darling, give them some guidance. It's first year in a remedial class! Give a list of topics and then if they're still stuck give them some help in figuring out what he's looking for instead of keeping throwing them back out to fail again and again and again in trying to figure out the complicated concept you're clearly failing to convey.

This man doesn't seem like a very good teacher for this class. He doesn't seem to like or support his students, despite his love and support for the subject he attempts to teach. He seems to have picked literature that is more difficult than easy, give little guidance in figuring out exactly what a college level thesis looks like beyond telling struggling students what it is again and sending them off again to fail.

At the end, this gentleman has delusions of grandeur. He's not saying anything new. He's right: not everyone is suited for university.

EDIT: Oh, it's not a remedial class, but it has the *ring* of a remedial class, as it's clearly intended to teach students to write and interpret. Either way, if the curriculum isn't working, the professor is employed to make it accessible while still teaching students to read and write at a decent level. The complexity of the text, provided it upholds some standards, is totally irrelevant. If he can't find a film they've all seen why not show them a film? Get them to read the script? Many film scripts are written like literature and it's a touchstone everyone can get too easily, leaving more time for discussion. We read the play Hedwig and the Angry Inch and watched the film in my first year non-remedial class.

[ October 21, 2008, 10:58 AM: Message edited by: Teshi ]

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TomDavidson
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For my part, I think we've hurt a huge number of students by turning high school into college prep, thus delaying "actual" education until a student is 18 years old, and expecting students to pay $40,000 or more just to obtain a piece of paper that says they're qualified to apply for jobs for which their educations have not actually prepared them.

I think apprenticeships are useful. I think college educations are cheapened by being called useful when, with some exceptions for some specific careers, they are not. For my part, I would greatly prefer a scenario in which less than a tenth of the people currently attending college actually did so.

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Stephan
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Out of 4 years of college studying business, only 2 courses have been helpful to me in life. Business law, and human resources. The rest really felt like a waste when I got out.
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Belle
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Actually I think the article is outstanding. Teshi, I think you're being unfair. He did tell "Mrs. L" to schedule a private conference with the librarian. Not to mention, every university I know of uses online classes, online registration, and other things that absolutely require a person attending college today have adequate computer skills. That woman's inability to do anything with a computer was going to hinder her - letting her get by his class without using technology only to have her come up against a class later on that requires it would have done her no service at all.

He says he DID think about giving her a topic, but that coming up with it on her own is part of the assignment. An adjunct doesn't have much control over how and what he teaches. That is pre-determined, and most likely it says "assign a historical research paper and require students to come up with their own topic." As for the literature, that is also probably pre-determined, and I think "Araby" and "Hamlet" are definitely appropriate for a 102-level lit course. I've seen "Araby" taught in high school - Hamlet too.

Sounds to me like he's done everything I would do, and more if I were teaching 101 as an adjunct.
My husband now teaches at a junior college. The level of performance is so low, it staggers me. When he comes home and tells me tales of what his students say and do and how little they know - I'm saddened and shocked. I've seen it myself when I tutored people in 101 and 102 and sophomore level courses. They can't write. They can't.

We're doing a lot of things wrong, in my opinion, and I think Tom is right about the way we're treating high school now. Honestly, the kids in honors programs in high school are ready for college - they should be taking English 101 and 102 and math 101 and psychology 101 and all those freshman survey-type courses in the last two years of high school. Turn all current universities into institutes of higher education that only teach junior and senior-level courses.

Turn the junior colleges into adult and vocational higher education - train our nurses, our paramedics, our vet techs, our HVAC workers, our plumbers, electricians, etc. in the junior colleges. The junior colleges can also be "gateway" institutions that prepare students who didn't take college coursework in high school for college. So, if you don't graduate from high school with college credit, then you can obtain that and go on to the higher institutions later by using the JUCO system.

There's no reason the honor students should be held back and prevented from taking college coursework they are ready for simply because their classmates aren't ready for it. Conversely, all students do not need to be in college-prep. It sounds very anti-PC to say that we should allow tracking, but we should. Not all students are the same. In Alabama, everyone is now by default on the "Advanced Academic Diploma." Whereas you used to have to request your child be placed on that track, now you have to specifically opt out in writing or it is assumed they will take advanced, pre-college classes in high school. Not all kids need it. Not all kids even want it, but that's the way it is now.

The idea behind it is a noble one and I applaud it. That students shouldn't be prevented from going to college, that students in underprivleged homes may not think college is for them, and that by putting them on this track they may discover that it is - all those are good ideas. But the harsh reality is that some students aren't cut out for it and aren't going to do well. The likliehood they will fail, and drop out is probably going to grow.

I'm doing supervised teaching this semester in a pre-AP class. The school got a huge grant to train AP teachers and have these classes, but there is a minimum quota of students they must maintain. Because of that, they've put students in the classroom that shouldn't be there. My mentor teacher is failing kids, who she says would pass and even possibly excel in her regular class that is not pre-AP. But, the school wants them in there, so their numbers don't drop too low. That's the type of mentality that drives me crazy.

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ketchupqueen
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quote:
they probably have classes (not necessarily at the college, but it would be helpful if the counselor had those resources available to pass along) for people who get nervous while testing, as well.
In KPC's experience, they were not effective. (He took 3.) He has done intensive drilling, rehearsing, and learning of techniques with me and my uncle (an educator with years of experience prepping kids for Catholic high school entrance exams and SATs, ACTs, and other college entrance exams) and that has helped some but not much. The fact remains that if he could skip tests and be evaluated some other way he'd do a lot better... I think that one of the problems with college is it doesn't provide a lot of flexibility in what you can take to fulfill some requirements, leading to situations like his where he switched to a BS program from a BA because he just wasn't going to make it in a BA program but he needed a degree to get the in with the company that he was going to get real experience and work with, and to have access to the classes he really DID need. I think I'm in favor of a lot of certificate programs in highly specialized areas as an option for those who don't WANT a liberal arts education, more like I hear they have in the Netherlands...

In TX, where he grew up, you have to take a placement test to even go to a community college. He got placed in remedial math and English based on it. He is NOT someone who belonged in remedial English (he didn't mind math as much because he actually could use the review at that point.) He was placed so low based on their test that they wanted him to take 3 extra years of English classes. It wasn't until he went to an out of state school and got a B plus in a REGULAR English class and transferred back that they allowed him out of the remedial track. But anyway, I'm derailing the thread... I'll go reply to another point now. [Wink] This is just a real frustration to me because I absorb stuff like a sponge and test so well I put out very little effort in anything I ever studied, while he can know something back and forward and he is SMART and a much harder worker than me, but tests really poorly on most things.

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Teshi
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I guess I find it weird that the University doesn't have some kind of controls over who attends. If it's a community college teaching basic skills, then it should definitely be easier focused more on just learning to read and write. If it's a university, this is obviously a remedial class. If this is the standard class then it's a community college *posing* as a university and so he should be more basic.

Either way, if the students are too far behind what you're teaching the only thing to do is to teach from a lower level or with simpler texts. The best thing about the simpleness of texts is that everyone can get something out of them, even those who can read and write.

And yes, I did Shakespeare all through high school, but I imagine if this is the first time these students are encountering Shakespeare and they're not getting it and it's on the curriculum, there's obviously something that needs fixing at this school.

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ketchupqueen
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quote:
As for the literature, that is also probably pre-determined, and I think "Araby" and "Hamlet" are definitely appropriate for a 102-level lit course. I've seen "Araby" taught in high school - Hamlet too.

Ditto.

quote:
We're doing a lot of things wrong, in my opinion, and I think Tom is right about the way we're treating high school now. Honestly, the kids in honors programs in high school are ready for college - they should be taking English 101 and 102 and math 101 and psychology 101 and all those freshman survey-type courses in the last two years of high school. Turn all current universities into institutes of higher education that only teach junior and senior-level courses.

Turn the junior colleges into adult and vocational higher education - train our nurses, our paramedics, our vet techs, our HVAC workers, our plumbers, electricians, etc. in the junior colleges. The junior colleges can also be "gateway" institutions that prepare students who didn't take college coursework in high school for college. So, if you don't graduate from high school with college credit, then you can obtain that and go on to the higher institutions later by using the JUCO system.

I agree. It goes along with what I said about a lot of vocational certificate (or degree) programs and not having to have a liberal arts education if you don't want it for most fields. (Teachers, etc. would still get those educations. People who would USE them. But the 19th century idea that all educated people should learn art and music is, I think, misplaced. If you WANT that experience, fine. There are plenty of people who love this part of getting a degree, and that's fine. Let it remain available to them. But that is not why everyone goes to college, and I think those who would prefer to skip it should have more ready access to training for their chosen careers that does not involve things that are irrelevant to them.)

quote:
I'm doing supervised teaching this semester in a pre-AP class. The school got a huge grant to train AP teachers and have these classes, but there is a minimum quota of students they must maintain. Because of that, they've put students in the classroom that shouldn't be there. My mentor teacher is failing kids, who she says would pass and even possibly excel in her regular class that is not pre-AP. But, the school wants them in there, so their numbers don't drop too low. That's the type of mentality that drives me crazy.
[Wall Bash] Grrr, me too.
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Darth_Mauve
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This comes close to a problem we've all been recently smacked in the face with.

If you have the money to attend a good private elementary school, this helps gets you into a good Prep-school, under the assumption that those schools only produce better quality students.

If you have the money to then attend one of those good College Prep Schools, then this helps get you into a good University, under the assumption that those schools only produce better quality students.

If you have the money to then go on to a good University, you are more likely to get into their premier MBA program.

If you have the money to get that MBA degree, then you have it made, for you will quickly be hired into one of the great companies, at a great salary, because of the assumption that only those with the educational resume you possess are bright and trained well enough to do good work.

And the motto of that MBA is "Behold the Justice and Power of the Free Market."

Yet that whole structure has market problems. It is not geared to producing all great businessmen. It is geared to producing a few great businessmen to build its reputation, but to create more wealthy alumni who will later feed it all their children, etc, etc through the generations.

The recent Market disaster comes in part due to those with these excellent educational resumes trying to prove their self-proclaimed MBA Wizardry by massing paper-wealth like it was some game of Monopoly.

Why does the CEO of a company make $20 Million a year? Because he's got the resume that says he will do a great job, even if the heart of that resume is a education that is fine, but not 200 times better than the guy stuck in middle management making that much less.

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King of Men
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quote:
ETA: However, no, university education is not suitable for everyone. But assuming you are driven to succeed (and, I'm sorry, needing to get a raise or promotion would be plenty of motivation for me) there is no reason that a person of average intelligence can't get the skills they need to pass 100 level classes.
While this is probably true, keep in mind that

a) Even a bachelor's degree needs more than 100-level classes and
b) Half the population is below average intelligence anyway. (Modulo the usual assumptions about bell curves and whatnot.)

Another point is that perhaps these 100-level classes are unduly dumbed down, if people of average intelligence are indeed passing them. Where I took my undergraduate degree, some of the lower-level courses were explicitly difficult ones to weed out the people who shouldn't be there, thus avoiding the waste of their time. I think that's a useful approach.


And touching Shakespeare, I too read him in high school, along with the inevitable Ibsen and a bunch of more modern lit'rary authors.

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PSI Teleport
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quote:
While this is probably true, keep in mind that

a) Even a bachelor's degree needs more than 100-level classes and
b) Half the population is below average intelligence anyway. (Modulo the usual assumptions about bell curves and whatnot.)

*nod* I may be incorrectly assuming that in most scenarios the 200 and higher level classes would be built upon skills learned in the 100s. In my happy little universe scenario, everyone would receive the education in high school to prepare them for college, and it would progress from level to level.

However, I largely agree with Tom and kq. I was reading "Anne of Green Gables" today and noting how Anne takes a two-year course after her elementary schooling to prepare her for teaching, and is teaching by the time she's 16. At that point she has the opportunity to move on to "university" work to attain her BA. I thought that was a fascinating look at an older system of education. Children either became skilled in a trade, got specific education for a professional career (after testing high enough to prove they already had all the basic knowledge they needed to do so), or went to university. I think that if given those options, most people would choose to be trained in their profession and skip the university-level work altogether. That would remove a lot of stress from young people and young families.

But in our "enlightened" aged, it seems to be believed that everyone must have training in many art-related areas that have nothing to do with their potential careers. My issue is that I think all children should be encouraged to get that kind of education. I just don't think they should have to.

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ketchupqueen
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quote:
My issue is that I think all children should be encouraged to get that kind of education. I just don't think they should have to.
I agree with most of your post. In addition I would say that perhaps all children should get this kind of education in elementary school, and by high school they should be able to choose whether to continue with it or move on to more specific vocational-oriented training. If they choose to continue it they could do so in or out of school, and school could be more oriented to preparing them for a career or college or job training program.

For instance, in my high school, 2 years of fine arts or 2 years of foreign language and one semester of fine arts were required for graduation.

I can't help but think that those kids who struggled would have had to do less of the zero- and seventh-period classes and summer school to get required credits if they had more chances to take their English classes and/or could be on a vocational training track where their practical arts credits would count toward their graduation more (only 1 year of practical arts counted toward graduation, while you HAD to have 2 years of foreign language or fine arts.)

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ketchupqueen
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(In fact, in many European countries this is how it is done. Kids do art and music in elementary school but high school years are spent mostly in academics with maybe one elective. In elementary years all kids are taught 3 or so foreign languages-- I'm counting Latin here-- and then they drop down to one, or none, in high school, the one they are best in, though sometimes it is 2 with English being mandatory. However, since the elementary years are during the time when fluency in a language is naturally acquired, many kids in many European countries retain their fluency in multiple languages into adulthood, while MOST people language trained in U.S. high schools do not gain true fluency or, if they do, do not keep it.)
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Orincoro
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To the OP: in a perfect world, yes. In a practical world, maybe not.

I'm just going to interject that I am sick of it being suggested that university education is not "worth it." We're all different- and patently, for some, it's just the thing.

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TomDavidson
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Sure. But the vast majority of people take it because it's required for a job, not because it's "just the thing."
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TheBlueShadow
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What's a practical art?
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ketchupqueen
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That is very true. If we did not have people who were eminently suited to it we would lose many great thinkers, writers, teachers, and others. And it's awesome for those who are suited to it.

It's when there's no alternative (or the alternative is working a minimum-wage job for the rest of your life or working in a field you despise) that the problem comes up.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:

I think apprenticeships are useful. I think college educations are cheapened by being called useful when, with some exceptions for some specific careers, they are not. For my part, I would greatly prefer a scenario in which less than a tenth of the people currently attending college actually did so.

I am going to take general exception to the notion that a college education is only useful in certian particular circumstances. I think the experience is useful to almost everyone who attends college.

However, I agree with the rest of your point. I met a great many people in college who had little visible interest in education, and who might have benefited from a more focused education. I think a problem with some colleges and unis -certainly mine- is that they are too programmed for people like me, who thrive in an academic environment that encourages self-determination, and too unfocused for people who are trying to follow a more practical course of study, with a particular career or position in mind.

I entered and left college with little idea of my lifelong career, but I don't count that against the experience at all. That's just not something I got in college. People who expect to get it sometimes don't, whereas I had colleagues who were frustrated because they felt they were being too closely controlled.

I'll admit there were instances in which I was acting within the system, to get the degree, but for the most part I attended college with the understanding that I was getting educated, not getting grades. In fact I told my mentor this when I started working with him (which was my second year of five), and following that, we worked together on music for about 4 years without any formal assessments. On paper, I was in the middle of my class (3.4 GPA) but in actual accomplishments, I was near the top.

Now, there were other people he worked with who might have been concerned about grades- but I'd be surprised if he was freer with them than with me, and I know there had never been a student who he had tutored for so long.

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ketchupqueen
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quote:
Originally posted by TheBlueShadow:
What's a practical art?

Wood shop, auto shop, metal shop, Intro to Education (where we went next door to TA in the elementary school), Foods classes, Child Development, Clothing (where offered-- my school discontinued it before I got there although I did have it in jr. high), typing, JROTC could all count as practical arts classes (some could count for different things-- my first 2 years I counted AFJROTC as P.E. credit, the third went for practical arts credit.)
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
Sure. But the vast majority of people take it because it's required for a job, not because it's "just the thing."

And for that, I think we need a more open and diverse system in which high prestige is bestowed upon different disciplines of learning, and we have respect for trades (and within trades) that our society has marginalized. I can't really speak to that, because it was never my situation, but I feel many people do put themselves in an academic environment in which they make themselves and others uncomfortable.
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imogen
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quote:
Originally posted by PSI Teleport:
[QUOTE]
But in our "enlightened" aged, it seems to be believed that everyone must have training in many art-related areas that have nothing to do with their potential careers. My issue is that I think all children should be encouraged to get that kind of education. I just don't think they should have to.

Not here. Or at least, not as much as in the US.

One form of English is compulsory through high school (ESL, English or Lit, usually). But once you get to uni, our degrees are specific - there is no prerequisite for a general undergrad degree. So if you do a BSci, you do 3 years of only science. Engineering, Accounting, Finance etc have no Arts components. Similarly, a BA or a law degree has no science units.

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PSI Teleport
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That's interesting, imogen. I know that several countries have more focused programs like that. I'm also impressed when highly skilled trades are valued more highly than in the US.
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katharina
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I love that people are required to take a wide variety of courses. I think it's marvelous that even engineers need to take English in college, and that even art majors need to pass Math 1050.

I think it is unfortunate that a college degree has become tied to job requirements, but I don't regret that people try to go to college who never would have dreamed of it fifty years.

Even the story of the woman in the article, while it doesn't make me happy, doesn't make me sad that she tried. I think it's wonderful when people try.

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imogen
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It reminded me of a general discussion I was having somewhere else - sake I think - about different models of education.

Australia, in general, seems to have more focus on depth of learning throughout high school and university. The US system seems to have more focus on width/coverage of many subjects. (The example was books at high school - Australian students will do 5 texts a year in their English classes. My impression is that it is not unusual for US students to do many more texts than this in any given year).

I'm not sure either system is better - but I find the different focus (and philosophy behind it) interesting.

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Irami Osei-Frimpong
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I figure that most people think that education in general is good, but since we don't know what we are doing and why in k-12 education, we've passed the buck up to University education. If we improve the conversation about primary education, I think the inflated demand for University education will take care of itself.
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PSI Teleport
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quote:
I love that people are required to take a wide variety of courses. I think it's marvelous that even engineers need to take English in college, and that even art majors need to pass Math 1050.
Depends on where you go. The BFA at BGSU has no math requirement. [Cool]

As far as engineers taking English, I had it explained to me that they actually need that class because they have to write reports. Don't know if that's true or not; it probably depends on the person/position.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by ketchupqueen:
I agree. It goes along with what I said about a lot of vocational certificate (or degree) programs and not having to have a liberal arts education if you don't want it for most fields. (Teachers, etc. would still get those educations. People who would USE them. But the 19th century idea that all educated people should learn art and music is, I think, misplaced. If you WANT that experience, fine. There are plenty of people who love this part of getting a degree, and that's fine. Let it remain available to them. But that is not why everyone goes to college, and I think those who would prefer to skip it should have more ready access to training for their chosen careers that does not involve things that are irrelevant to them.)

Too far. Everyone needs education in arts and music. Everyone. Every. Single. Person. The fact that we have abandoned funding for these programs at earlier levels is, to me, a travesty. The fact that students now enter university with zero background in arts and music, and then these things don't work for many in university is not evidence that they aren't needed, just evidence that they aren't taught.

Not everybody has to be a musician, but music and art should be a vital part of early and middle education, and students should be allowed the chance to find their interest in these fields- not as a career per se, but as a lifelong skill and intellectual tool. I don't have to tell you what musical education does for children, because I suspect you know.


This, by the way, falls under my personal category for general outrage. It's filed right next to requiring one year of a foreign language in a university, where (at least at my uni) the class is well taught and instructive, rather than you know, requiring the effective teaching of a foreign language at an age when this REALLY COUNTS FOR SOMETHING.

It makes me even angrier as I work through this teaching certificate program I'm in. The tools for effective language teaching, especially for children are known around the world by tens of thousands of skilled practitioners. Every day I sit in outrage at the "spanish classes" that I took through middle school and highschool, which left me with a poor grasp of the language even now.

Music's like that too. Just because you can technically live without it, doesn't mean it's expendable, or "extra." For that matter, all the subjects are things that our ancestors lived without, so calling it non-vital or not necessary is a little silly.

[ October 21, 2008, 07:31 PM: Message edited by: Orincoro ]

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by PSI Teleport:

As far as engineers taking English, I had it explained to me that they actually need that class because they have to write reports. Don't know if that's true or not; it probably depends on the person/position.

If you've ever been in a university required writing class, it's easy to see why that's needed. Students of all disciplines slip by for years and years without being able to form a coherent sentence.
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TheBlueShadow
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quote:
Originally posted by ketchupqueen:
quote:
Originally posted by TheBlueShadow:
What's a practical art?

Wood shop, auto shop, metal shop, Intro to Education (where we went next door to TA in the elementary school), Foods classes, Child Development, Clothing (where offered-- my school discontinued it before I got there although I did have it in jr. high), typing, JROTC could all count as practical arts classes (some could count for different things-- my first 2 years I counted AFJROTC as P.E. credit, the third went for practical arts credit.)
Ah. What my school would have considered tech classes whether they be technical or technology based.

You could have either a tech prep diploma or a college prep diploma from my high school. There was a one credit requirement to take either a fine arts class or a tech class. However, they required a concentration of four credits in something other than gym. It could've and was usually in art, tech, or music; however, regular subjects would also work. These four classes couldn't overlap with any of the other graduation requirements. So a kid with a math concentration had to take eight math classes. It wasn't a popular choice, but there's always someone willing to go for it.

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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by katharina:
I love that people are required to take a wide variety of courses. I think it's marvelous that even engineers need to take English in college, and that even art majors need to pass Math 1050.

Although this is possibly a good idea in principle - I am not convinced, mind you, but it might be - its actual application leads to courses like the aforementioned Math 1050, added onto the curriculum purely for the purpose of permitting art majors to pass a math course. Even if it has to be an arithmetic course.
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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
If you've ever been in a university required writing class, it's easy to see why that's needed. Students of all disciplines slip by for years and years without being able to form a coherent sentence.

This is a very reasonable requirement. In most of the world it's taught in high school, except for those parts of the world where it's taught in grade school.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
Too far. Everyone needs education in arts and music. Everyone. Every. Single. Person.
In elementary school, sure. Why, at nineteen years old, should they spend hundreds of dollars and hours of their adult life to encounter a professor's take on what "art" means?
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Teshi
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I don't think Orinoco said they should have to take an arts education in University, but in the elementary and middle years, which is the case here in Canada at least.

I don't count writing as an art. In this highly literate world, it's practically a survival skill like learning how to skin a deer, as is understanding math at least to a mid-high school level. King of Men is right of course, it's shocking that there are children who, even in high school, can't yet write a reasonably coherent sentence. They can speak, they can read- kind of- but they have no idea how to write it down into a more formal language.

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Kettricken
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I think whether the breadth vs depth option is best will vary greatly between individuals. I was really glad I could focus entirely on science from the age of 16. I’ve ended up with a BSc, MSc and PhD and am working in a scientific job. If I had been made to follow a liberal arts course it is unlikely I would have made it through university.

Others are more generalist and feel constricted by having to focus in one direction at an early age.

I’m towards an extreme end of the spectrum, I could understand and was interested in all the sciences (and geography which is in between) but I really struggled with English and foreign languages and was bored by history. I’m also dyslexic which doesn’t help.

My writing reached and acceptable level for the job I do (which involves a lot of writing, but it is factual) but if I was to try to write a piece of fiction I would be just as stuck as I was at 11. Forcing me to do more years of literature would have no benefit and would probably have killed my love of reading for good.

At the other end of the spectrum are people who flourish when they can experience a wide range of subjects for as long as possible. Is it possible to devise a system where both can be available?

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katharina
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Teaching broad (more subjects) rather than deep (intense on a few subjects) puts more responsibility on the student to find a way to do their own intense. I like the "teaching broad" method because it is that first introduction to a completely new topic that is often daunting and the barrier to learning more. The introductory classes, even the bad ones, usually give an idea of where to start.

It's like the shotgun approach to finding your milieu. I like it. There is room for improvement, but as far as an education goes, I think it's a good idea. I have no problems with the general structure of a university education.

I do think it is a shame that it has become a requirement to spend oodles of money in order to get a basic job that doesn't need the training that comes with oodles of money, but that should be addressed by the creation of other avenues of qualifications, not by dismantling the excellent one that we have.

Incidentally, it's why I think that in some cases, you can get a better general education at non-Ivy schools. Ivies tend to specialize, so instead of "American Literature of the Nineteenth Century", you take "Female Sentimental Writers 1830-1890" and then never actually read Moby Dick and Huckleberry Finn at a college level.

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ketchupqueen
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quote:
Too far. Everyone needs education in arts and music. Everyone. Every. Single. Person. The fact that we have abandoned funding for these programs at earlier levels is, to me, a travesty. The fact that students now enter university with zero background in arts and music, and then these things don't work for many in university is not evidence that they aren't needed, just evidence that they aren't taught.

Tom hit it on the head-- as I mentioned in other posts, I DO think art and music are important in elementary education, as are foreign languages.

I just think by the time you hit high school you should have the OPTION to drop them, and by the time you're in college they should not be required for vocational degrees.

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ketchupqueen
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quote:
I do think it is a shame that it has become a requirement to spend oodles of money in order to get a basic job that doesn't need the training that comes with oodles of money, but that should be addressed by the creation of other avenues of qualifications, not by dismantling the excellent one that we have.

I agree completely.

I don't think we should do away with the liberal arts education or its availability at universities. I think we should have more availability of degrees/certificates/qualifications that are NOT part of that system, that should be required in lieu of them for many jobs. The option can remain open, but by not forcing everyone into it, we could stop watering it down and those who DO choose it could have more opportunity for higher-quality experiences, in large part because they WANT that experience.

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katharina
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I think they are important enough and complex enough that people deserve an exposure to them that doesn't depend on their eleven-year-old brains.

I am not remotely musical at all, and I took music classes all through my education. There were things I learned in the college classes that I am grateful for that my brain just wasn't ready for when I was in junior high school.

That's why there should be alternative to going to college, but not change the nature of a university education. It isn't just that elementary education isn't adequate - it's that your brain is developed to learn differently and better in college than when you are ten.

So, if people don't want to go to college they shouldn't have to in order to get a job, but don't bowlderize what getting a university education means.

--

Looks like we agree, KQ.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
I think they are important enough and complex enough that people deserve an exposure to them that doesn't depend on their eleven-year-old brains.
I'm not comfortable mandating the things I think people deserve.
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katharina
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Sure you are. You think that kids, especially, deserve a warm, dry place to live where there are fed regularly and don't get beat up, and they deserve access to education which teaches them the basics their culture thinks they think to know. You think that people in general deserve all sorts of rights, including the ones listed on the Bill of Rights and a bunch of others added. You think people deserve all sorts of things.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
You think that kids, especially, deserve a warm, dry place to live where there are fed regularly and don't get beat up, and they deserve access to education which teaches them the basics their culture thinks they think to know.
No. I think they need those things to become functional adult members of society; I don't merely think they deserve them. I think people deserve lots of things.

In the same way, I think people deserve the opportunity to learn to appreciate classical music. I don't think people need to have that opportunity, however, to be good, useful people.

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PSI Teleport
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quote:
I don't count writing as an art. In this highly literate world, it's practically a survival skill like learning how to skin a deer, as is understanding math at least to a mid-high school level.
I think there should be a clear line between learning writing as a tool for communication, and learning writing as an art form, which largely pertains to literature. My least favorite class in school was always Comp/Lit, not because I didn't like the subject matter, but because the teacher would always focus on whichever half they cared most about, creating huge gaps in my education from grade to grade. I never knew, as I progressed through my early education, if I was going to be more harshly judged by my spelling and syntax, or my literary voice. Some teachers seemed to care little for how interesting my paper was as long as each sentence had punctuation, and some teachers, while they would still circle grammatical mistakes and expect me to fix them, would give a good grade based on the more subjective "artiness" of the thing.

Writing "correctly" and writing "convincingly" will overlap, but I think they should be taught in two different classes for most of our educational career. If the student wants to pursue writing as a career (or major) then that would be the time to get into the intricacies of how they work together. I think we would probably have better writers if we approached it that way.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
Too far. Everyone needs education in arts and music. Everyone. Every. Single. Person.
In elementary school, sure. Why, at nineteen years old, should they spend hundreds of dollars and hours of their adult life to encounter a professor's take on what "art" means?
I think that when they encounter those courses in college, should they (hopefully) choose to, they should have gotten past the preliminary levels. Only that doesn't happen, and it makes college students miserable- either because the courses are dull or inaccessible.

I just see a camp of people saying: art education is useless in college! And I'm saying: at present it may be, so why not get us all to a place where it really does mean something?

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PSI Teleport
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quote:
I just see a camp of people saying: art education is useless in college!
I think what many of us are trying to say is that art education shouldn't be a requirement for people who are just trying to get the education they need to get ahead in a professional career that probably doesn't need the skills gained in those classes. Yeah, it would be cool if everyone had some experience with art in their lives, but a better place for it would be in the earlier grades, unless they want more in-depth study at a later age. I don't think anyone is debating the inclusion of some art in a baccalaureate degree, but I may be missing something. (At any rate, I think it should be a part of a four-year degree.)
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