Illinois Loop
Your guide to education in Illinois
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Education Issues in College

    The Illinois Loop website primarily focuses on Kindergarten through high school. However, many of the issues that are of great concern in K-12 also have been working their way up to becoming issues in colleges and universities as well.

Colleges Try to Cope With The Failures of K-12

    Also see our page about high school academics:
    High Schools and Their Ill-Prepared Graduates

      "What, the colleges moan, has K-12 been doing with the kids all these years?"
    -- Providence Journal

    "Wait a minute. I thought 12 years of taxpayer-provided education were supposed to prepare students for college. Now we have to have courses in college to prepare students for college?"
    -- Thomas Sowell
     

  • Study: Stellar High School Performers Failing College;
    Easy Curriculum Leads To Remedial College Courses

    by Fredreka Schouten, Gannett News Service. (Also available here.) Excerpts:
    "Around the country, students, even those with stellar high school records, have discovered they don't have all the skills to survive in college. ...
       "Today, a whopping 42 percent of college-bound seniors have A averages, but they score no better on the college admissions tests than did "A" students a decade earlier.
       "Some education experts say the trend is a clear sign that high school teachers are handing out high grades for weak work. But many argue the real culprit is the typical high school course load. Students just aren't taking the rigorous math, science and writing classes in high school that they need to succeed in college and the workplace.
        "Only one in three 18-year-olds is even minimally prepared for college, according to a recent report..."

  • "There is a significant problem with preparation for college."
    Remedial U by Malcolm A. Kline, November 02, 2006. "'Over one-third of first- and second-year college students have taken remedial courses,' according to the College Board's Trends in College Pricing. 'Remedial course takers have lower graduation rates and a longer time-to-degree but taking remedial courses increases the chance of graduation,' Sandy Baum of the College Board said at the National Press Club on October 24th. ... Nevertheless, she admits that 'There is a significant problem with preparation for college.' ... Here is the 'percentage of first- and second-year students taking a remedial course by type of course,' according to the College Board:
    English30%
    Math77%
    Reading28%
    Writing35%
    "More recently, according to Dr. Baum, 'The number of remedial courses are up and the number of students taking them are up.' But those are only the courses that colleges and universities bother to label as remedial. Four years ago, the National Association of Scholars compiled a study in which researchers compared this century's college students with high school seniors in the 1950s. 'When given a test covering four areas of general knowledge, American college seniors score at about the same overall level as did high school graduates of fifty years ago,' the NAS report."

  • "These courses are necessary primarily because our public school system is not doing its job."
    About Writing and Writing Skills: Interview with Nan Miller, by Michael F. Shaughnessy, Education News, June 29, 2006. Excerpts: "My observation during the last decade I taught [college] freshmen was that enrollees in English 101 were becoming less and less able to read complex material or to write about it -- because they had not been held to high standards of literacy in our secondary schools. ... The fact that remedial college writing courses even exist makes two statements: one, many high school 'college prep' tracks are woefully deficient, and, two, college admission standards are sometimes lowered to accommodate students who wouldn't qualify otherwise ... The problem is that these courses are necessary primarily because our public school system is not doing its job. ... Reform will come only when parents and taxpayers become aware that students are being shortchanged in their writing classes, then demand a better return on their investment in their sons and daughters' education."

  • "Did you think that by coddling children, by constantly asking their opinions and treating them like natural-born geniuses that you'd make good citizens of them?"
    Welcome Back, Teach, But Learn Self-Defense First by Mary Grabar, April 27, 2008. "On a National Public Radio story about violence against teachers, a male high school teacher who suffered permanent injuries from an attack by a student reflected back on the experience and mused that he should have displayed better 'classroom management.' The host of the program concurred in those oh-so-sympathetic, all-understanding tones that make me want to punch my radio. ... When I had another friend guest teach a couple college classes for me, she too expressed surprise and dismay at the students' lack of manners. I hear such expressions of shock repeatedly ... and want to tell them, well, what did you expect?
         "I want to tell these people who have come of age from the 1960s and on that this is what your ideology has wrought. Did you think that by coddling children, by constantly asking their opinions and treating them like natural-born geniuses that you'd make good citizens of them? Rousseau's notion of the Noble Savage has come true -- only without the adjective appended to it. ...
         "But we inherit what the public schools produce. I can't tell you how many times students have told me when I have corrected them (even gently and by questioning) that what I am saying is only my 'opinion.' Well, they've been told that one opinion is as good as another's: theirs, their professor's, etc. ... And the arrogance of the semi-literates grows."

  • High School Reading Not Challenging Enough, Says ACT; Curriculum Changes Require Action by Policymakers and Educators, American College Testing Program (ACT). "'The research reveals a very serious problem,' said Richard L. Ferguson, ACT's chief executive officer. 'Too few students are developing the level of reading skills they'll need after high school.'"

  • Reading Between the Lines: What the ACT Reveals about College Readiness in Reading, American College Testing Program (ACT). This reports assesses the level of reading preparedness among entering college freshmen. It finds that only 51 percent of 2005 ACT-tested high school graduates were ready to handle the reading requirements of a typical first-year college course -- the lowest level in more than a decade. This may help explain why only 63 percent of college freshmen in our country go on to graduate within 6 years.

  • Of 100 Chicago Public School Freshmen, Six Will Get A College Degree by Jodi S. Cohen and Darnell Little, Chicago Tribune, April 21, 2006: "Of every 100 freshmen entering a Chicago public high school, only about six will earn a bachelor's degree by the time they're in their mid-20s, according to a first-of-its-kind study released Thursday by the Consortium on Chicago School Research. ... Researchers say they're not exactly sure why Chicago schools alumni graduate from college in such low numbers, but that poor preparation during high school and too few resources at the college level contribute to the problem."

  • From the Chicago Tribune, April 21, 2006:
    "... Crystalynn Ortiz, 19, ... started at the Urbana campus in fall 2004 after graduating from Prosser Career Academy in Chicago with a 4.5 GPA. She dropped out of U. of. I. after the first year ... 'I wasn't prepared to go to U. of I. I got my first bad grades and then I wasn't motivated to do well,' she said. 'I felt really unprepared in study habits, how hard it was going to be here.'"

  • From the Chicago Sun-Times, April 21, 2006:
    "University of Illinois at Chicago senior Mary Olowo said she saw widespread apathy about grades when she attended Chicago's Amundsen High. ... Although she graduated with a 3.7 GPA and took an AP literature class, Olowo said she had to take a remedial reading course at UIC because her writing was not up to snuff."

  • I Don't Know How to Read This Book! by Tina Blue, June 16, 2002 "Over the past few years, I have found that more and more students in my freshman-sophomore English classes at the University of Kansas are completely unable to keep up with their college reading assignments. In my English 101 class I now spend a fair amount of time teaching my students how to read their textbooks. One semester a young man ... said, 'My professor doesn't even lecture on what's in the book. He lectures on other stuff and expects us to read the book on our own. But I don't even know how to read this book!' A lot of them tell me they never read their textbooks in high school or middle school, because they didn't have to. They could usually get A's or B's without doing the readings. ... Now all of a sudden they are in college, and their professors expect them to read books outside of class. And far too many of our students can't do that. It would be easy to blame the students for being lazy, for partying when they should be studying, but a lot of the students I work with are not lazy. They're motivated and diligent--but they just don't read well enough to handle the amount and difficulty of reading assignments in college. ... Even many students who read a lot for pleasure are not learning how to read the sort of text they must read in many of their college courses. A geology or ethics textbook, or even a complex, sophisticated work of fiction, will make far more demands on the student reader than a news magazine or a book by John Grisham. Unfortunately, too many of our students have not acquired the reading skills they need to cope with such demands."

  • "... a deep disconnection between what high school teachers think that their students need to know and what professors, even at two-year colleges, expect them to know."
    At 2-Year Colleges, Students Eager but Unready by Diana Jean Schemo, New York Times, September 2, 2006. "As the new school year begins, the nation's 1,200 community colleges are being deluged with hundreds of thousands of students unprepared for college-level work. ... Close to half the students who enter college need remedial courses.
         "73 percent of students entering community colleges hoped to earn four-year degrees, but that only 22 percent had done so after six years. ... Nearly half the 14.7 million undergraduates at two- and four-year institutions never receive degrees. The deficiencies turn up not just in math, science and engineering, areas in which a growing chorus warns of difficulties in the face of global competition, but also in the basics of reading and writing.
         "According to scores on the 2006 ACT college entrance exam, [only] 21 percent of students applying to four-year institutions are ready for college-level work in all four areas tested, reading, writing, math and biology. ... The unyielding statistics showcase a deep disconnection between what high school teachers think that their students need to know and what professors, even at two-year colleges, expect them to know. ... The sheer numbers of enrollees ... who have to take make-up math is overwhelming, with 8,000 last year among the nearly 30,000 degree-seeking students systemwide. ... More than one in four remedial students work on elementary and middle school arithmetic."

  • Don't Teach "Cute"! by Tina Blue, March 30, 2001 "All too often what passes for clever or creative teaching in our schools is irrelevant, self-indulgent, or just plain goofy. Our students come to us with alarming gaps in their knowledge and skills, especially in subjects in the humanities. ... one reason for their ignorance is the fact that when they should have been mastering such material in lower grades, they were instead playing these sorts of silly games."

  • "I still don't understand why 80 percent of students come to us needing remediation"
    From a June 1, 2006 report in the Indianapolis Star:
         "The state's English standards, which are tweaked every six years, have been touted by education leaders in Indiana and elsewhere as among the strongest in the nation. But some members of Indiana's Education Roundtable said Wednesday that even with strong standards, high numbers of students fail to learn what they should know by the time they leave high school. "I still don't understand why 80 percent of students come to us needing remediation," said Carol D'Amico, an Ivy Tech Community College administrator who is on the policy-making panel with 29 other business leaders, educators and politicians. "Where is this disconnect?" Roundtable leaders didn't have an answer ..."

  • I Don't DO Math by Jay C. Odaffer, April 14, 2005. "It's become a sort of sick game for me, trying to guess which of my students it will be. Sometimes after the first test ... at least one student will walk into my office to find out why he or she did so poorly on the exam for one of my science classes and inevitably declare, 'Well, I skipped THOSE questions because I don't DO math.' ...
       She then launched into a sublimely self-confident explanation about why she does not DO math. She wasn't ashamed or apologetic. In fact her tone suggested that she believed that I was the one who was being unreasonable. She informed me that she is getting A's in all of her major course work so my expectations are clearly above and beyond what I should be requiring of "non-science" majors. The thrust of her argument seemed to be that calculators and spreadsheets make arithmetic unnecessary and that she will have no use for anything more advanced in her chosen career. She is going to be a teacher."

  • Colleges Find Many Lacking: Students Fall Short In Math, English and Put In Remedial Courses by Jodi S. Cohen, Tribune higher education reporter, November 20, 2005. Excerpts: "In the lowest-level writing class at Columbia College, freshmen learn about the pitfalls of run-on sentences and the correct places for commas. In basic math, they learn about fractions, decimals and simple geometry. Sarah Rehder didn't expect to start college in either of these courses. A graduate of Curie High School in Chicago, she assumed she was prepared for college. But like many students in the state and nationwide, Rehder learned through a college placement exam that she wasn't ready for college-level coursework. Now she's learning--and paying for--material that she arguably should have mastered in high school. ... At the University of Illinois at Chicago, 16 percent of students took preparatory English and 57 percent took preparatory math in fall 2004. ... The math classes do not count toward graduation."
    We're not at all surprised by the horrible rate at which these students need remedial help in math. Just click to look at how they are being taught math in Illinois' K-12 schools!

  • Many Going to College Are Not Ready, Report Says by Tamar Lewin, New York Times. August 17, 2005. "Only about half of this year's high school graduates have the reading skills they need to succeed in college, and even fewer are prepared for college-level science and math courses, according to a yearly report from ACT, which produces one of the nation's leading college admissions tests. The report, based on scores of the 2005 high school graduates who took the exam, some 1.2 million students in all, also found that fewer than one in four met the college-readiness benchmarks in all four subjects tested: reading comprehension, English, math and science."

  • Answers in the Tool Box: Academic Intensity, Attendance Patterns, and Bachelor's Degree Attainment by Clifford Adelman, Senior Research Analyst, U.S. Department of Education. Much talk about potential for success in college is based on measures developed within high schools, such as grade point averages or class ranks. But thanks to shallow curricula and rampant grade inflation, these are reliable indicators of neither a student's ability to handle college-level work, nor of a student's likely success. This important study adds some important variables to the mix: As input, it looks at the rigor of high school coursework taken rather than merely school-assigned grades. As output, it tracks students to develop a measure of degree completion, rather than much less telling measures such as college acceptance. Among the study's conclusions:
    • Academic rigor in high school is the most important predictor of success, significantly more important than either high school grades or class rank
    • This finding is even more pronounced among African-American and Latino students
    • As a result, the study says, "college admissions formulas that emphasize test scores and (especially) high school grade point average or class rank are likely to result in lower degree completion rates." (bolding added) In other words, high school rigor is paramount!
    • Taking of high school AP classes is more highly correlated with eventual attainment of a degree than it is to college admission.
    A much more detailed report, with copious data charts, is also available.

  • Grade inflation makes all kids above average, college officials find by Ronald Rutti, Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 21, 2000

  • Closing K-12, College Rift, Providence Journal, June 1, 2003. "Nationally, higher education has been bellyaching long and loudly about the poor and deteriorating skill levels of their incoming students. What, the colleges moan, has K-12 been doing with the kids all these years?"

  • Forget Self-Esteem; Set High Educational Standards by J. Martin Rochester And David Rose, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 4, 1999. "Last year, while visiting the University of Michigan, one of us discovered that a well-known international relations scholar required that his undergraduate students buy a pocket manual on grammar and punctuation. When asked why he had assigned such a low-level book, especially at a 'top 25' institution with high admission standards, he responded that he had no alternative since his incoming students were becoming more illiterate by the year.
    "Such anecdotes are becoming commonplace. We have witnessed a similar decline in academic preparation on the part of students entering our own university. If the problem were limited to poor training in core academic skills - the ability to write well, think critically and do basic math - it would be serious enough. But the problem goes far beyond that. Increasingly students exhibit a poor work ethic, an aversion to reading and listening, an ignorance of history, an entitlement mentality regarding good grades and a lack of respect for traditional notions of scholarship and knowledge and for learning itself."

  • Fat in California's Budget by Thomas Sowell, June 21, 2004 Excerpt: "Typical ... political spin is a 'news' story about California in a recent issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, the trade publication of the academic world. The headline says: 'Preparatory programs at universities help low-performing pupils excel, but budget cuts imperil the efforts.' Wait a minute. I thought 12 years of taxpayer-provided education were supposed to prepare students for college. Now we have to have courses in college to prepare students for college? The long, rambling story in The Chronicle of Higher Education, complete with photographs, at no point offers any hard evidence that these programs actually work any better than the public schools, which have obviously failed if you need such remedial programs in college."

  • Calculus of Mediocrity by Cliff F. Mass, professor at the University of Washington, guest column in the Seattle Times, November 06, 2004. Excerpt: "With all the recent discussions regarding the public schools, there is one perspective that has been largely absent: the experiences of those of us in the university community who deal with the end product of K-12 education. ... My sad observation, and one seconded by my colleagues in several other departments, is that competency in math and science has declined from roughly the late 1970s until now. Many of us have been forced to 'dumb down' our classes, particularly those demanding mathematical skills. ... Furthermore, increasing numbers of our students have been forced to take remedial math courses prior to starting the normal college curriculum."

  • Colleges, Districts Battle Bad Learning: 1 of 3 Mich. students graduate without basic skills by Shantee Woodards, Detroit News, August 20, 2002. "Michigan's community colleges, already swamped with students who don't meet basic standards, are teaming up with local school districts to keep more students from failing at higher education. More than a third of the 90,000 Michigan students who graduate each year leave high school without basic skills in reading, writing and math, according to a 2000 study by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

  • Let's Try That Again: Remedial Education in Ohio's Universities, Buckeye Institute. "During the 1998-99 school year, 26 percent of Ohio's recent high school graduates enrolled in math courses classified as 'remedial' at Ohio's public universities."

  • It's Back to Basics For Many in College: Most Freshmen at Community Institutions Need Remedial Classes to Get Up to Speed by Jason Spencer, Houston Chronicle, Sept. 26, 2004. "Nearly two-thirds of 2004's graduating high school seniors now enrolled in Houston-area community colleges are taking remedial classes because they weren't prepared for college. ... 'It's sinful to allow a student to show up at a community college and tell them they'll have to spend the year learning what they should have learned in high school,' said Gene Bottoms, senior vice president of the Southern Regional Education Board, a coalition of states working to improve education. 'It's a problem everywhere.' ... A report released this spring by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board found that half of the state's 2001 high school graduates needed remedial help in college."

  • Few Schools Advertise Their Remedial Courses by Joyce Howard Price, Washington Times, November 8, 1999 "Post-secondary remedial course work is not something most colleges and universities are eager to broadcast ... a senior associate with the Washington-based Institute for Higher Education Policy, says he is convinced remediation is far more prevalent on college campuses than most institutions acknowledge. ... Some question why colleges should be teaching unprepared students.

  • Remediation Program Points To Failures Of Public Schools, Los Angeles Daily News, February 4, 2002. "California State University, Northridge, has no reason to be embarrassed by the disclosure that 60 percent of its freshmen class need remediation in English and/or math. ... The shame here belongs to the state's public-education system."

  • California Appeals Court Backs Professor in Dispute Over His Demanding Approach to Teaching By Scott Smallwood, October 30, 2002. "A finance professor known for being hard on students has won a legal battle against California State University at Chico, which had demoted him because he wouldn't change his teaching style. ... He was known for being demanding, grading severely, and having many of his students withdraw. The professor maintained that the low enrollment and low grades were the result of university policies and 'the general lack of student preparedness for university-level work.'"

  • An Action Agenda for Improving America's High Schools, National Governors Association. "America's high schools are failing to prepare too many of our students for work and higher education. Just ask business leaders and college presidents, who say they must spend billions of dollars annually to provide their employees and students with the skills and knowledge they should have attained in high school. The statistics they cite to support their claim are indeed troubling. On state assessments in English and mathematics, roughly one in three high school students fails to meet standards. ... Nearly a third of high school graduates who go on to college require immediate placement in remedial education courses. ... Not surprisingly, this lack of preparedness is costly to U.S. taxpayers, businesses, colleges and students. Each year taxpayers pay an estimated $1 billion to $2 billion to provide remedial education to students at public universities and community colleges."

  • College Diversity: Fix the Pipeline First by Jay P. Greene and Greg Forster, Washington Post, January 7, 2004. Excerpt: "The primary obstacle to getting more minority students into college is that only one in five of such students graduate from high school with the bare minimum qualifications needed even to apply to four-year colleges. ... We can beef up affirmative action all we like and it won't increase the flow of minority students into college, because the K-12 system just doesn't produce enough college-ready high school graduates. For students to be able to attend virtually any four-year college, they need to graduate from high school, have a set of required courses on their high school transcripts and demonstrate basic literacy. The shocking reality is that fewer than one in five minority students has passed these three hurdles and is thus 'college ready.' ... The only strategy that can meaningfully improve minority representation in higher education is to improve the quality of the K-12 education system so that it produces more college-ready minority students."

  • The value of a class in "World History":
    Finding Who and Where We Are, by Paul Gagnon, American Educator (American Federation of Teachers ), reprinted in Summer 2005 issue, originally printed in Spring 1985 issue. Excerpt: "Many of our freshmen arrive at college, after 12 years of school (presumably in the 'college track'), knowing nothing of the pre-Plymouth past, including the Bible! All too frequently, they have not heard of Aristotle, Aquinas, Luther, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, Burke, or Marx. They often know nothing of the deterioration of Athens and Rome, of Czarist Russia and Weimar Germany, and next to nothing of the history of science, technology, industry, of capitalism and socialism, of fascism and Stalinism, of how we found ourselves in two world wars, or even in Vietnam. They have been asked to read very little and to reflect hardly at all. At 18 or 19, they are unarmed for public discourse, their great energy and idealism at the mercy of pop politics and the seven o'clock news."

  • Welcome to the Real World. Here's a Spot Check by Mark Goldblatt, National Review, May 6, 2005. "You're ready for college ... Not so fast, Poindexter. Here's a pop quiz (answers below) ... Okay, pencils down. Each question is worth ten points. If you scored below 70, you failed. More to the point, your teachers failed. They've failed you, miserably, for twelve years. Those hundreds of hours spent in classrooms with posters of William Shakespeare and Alice Walker on the walls, those hundreds of hours spent as your teachers prattled on about the joys of creative writing -- those hours are worthless, utterly worthless, and you can't have them back. Those A's you received for free-verse poems, those stories you wrote to explore your feelings, those papers returned to you without a single grammatical correction -- they're worthless too. You didn't learn what you should have learned, what you needed to learn. See you in remedial English this September."

Dumbing Down in College

    "In 100 years we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to teaching Remedial English in college."
    -- Joseph Sobran

  • "They are blissfully uneducated. They have not acquired a broad knowledge of language, literature, philosophy, and history."
    Blissfully Uneducated by Victor Davis Hanson, The American, July/August 2007. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Excerpts:
         "Is 'ho' -- the rapper slang for the slur 'whore' -- a bad word? Always, sometimes, or just when an obnoxious white male like Don Imus says it? But not when the equally obnoxious Snoop Dogg serially employs it? Is the Iraq war, as we are often told, the 'greatest mistake' in our nation's history? Because Israel and the United States have a bomb, is it then O.K. for theocratic Iran to have one too? Americans increasingly cannot seem to answer questions like these adequately because they are blissfully uneducated. They have not acquired a broad knowledge of language, literature, philosophy, and history. ...
         "Unfortunately, education is a zero-sum game in which a student has only 120 units of classroom instruction. Not all classes are equal in the quality of knowledge they impart. For each course on rap music or black feminism, one on King Lear or Latin is lost.
         "In the end, education is the ability to make sense of the chaotic present through the prism of the absolute and eternal truths of the ages. But if there are no prisms -- no absolutes, no eternals, no truths, no ages past -- then the present will appear only as nonsense."

  • "Liberal Arts"? What does that mean?
    Read the article "A Liberal School" by Dr. Ken Calvert. Excerpt: "As the Latin word liber means 'free,' this term might best be rendered 'the free arts.' Properly rendered, 'liberal' defines the arts to be mastered, not the politics of the person or persons learning these arts. And these free arts include three elementary fields of study: the trivium or grammar, rhetoric and logic, as well as four higher fields of study, the quadrivium or the study of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy (or physics) and music. The traditional design of the liberal arts education ... provides the student with the knowledge necessary to address any particular question. These seven arts are free of specific application and yet are applicable to any problem or endeavor."

  • "This veneer of structure provides students only superficial guidance."
    Our Compassless Colleges by Peter Berkowitz, Wall Street Journal, September 5, 2007. "At universities and colleges throughout the land, undergraduates and their parents pay large sums of money for -- and federal and state governments contribute sizeable tax exemptions to support -- liberal education. This despite administrators and faculty lacking, or failing to honor, a coherent concept of what constitutes an educated human being. ... Indeed, many professors in the humanities and social sciences proudly promulgate doctrines that mock the very idea of a standard or measure defining an educated person, and so legitimate the compassless curriculum over which they preside. In these circumstances, why should we not conclude that universities are betraying their mission? Many American colleges do adopt general distribution requirements. ... But this veneer of structure provides students only superficial guidance. Or, rather, it reinforces the lesson that our universities have little of substance to say about the essential knowledge possessed by an educated person."

  • Colleges Charge Big for Worthless Curricula by Wendy McElroy, Fox News, November 11, 2003. Excerpt: "Before they send their children onto a college campus in North America, parents should read two new reports. What passes for education at many universities is not merely an intellectual embarrassment; it is also tremendously expensive. ... The first study, Death of the Liberal Arts? ... examined the curricula of the top 10 liberal arts colleges [and] conclude[s], 'Even at the best ... freshmen can't obtain a sound education in history, literature and other fundamentals of civilization.'
    Some of the knowledge freshmen will not find includes a course on Shakespeare at Bowdoin, any overview of American history at Amherst and an overview of any literary period at Swarthmore. Meanwhile, freshmen at William College can explore such esoteric areas as an English course on 'man's desire ... to take, order, idealize and copy nature's bounty while humanizing, plundering and destroying the environment' even though there is no comprehensive course in history.
    Only three colleges offer students 'a course that could roughly be termed Western Civilization.' Only three receive a 'pass': That is, they provide a comprehensive introduction to English, history and political science, which constitute the basics of a liberal arts education."

  • The Hollow Core: Failure of the General Education Curriculum -- A Fifty College Study (PDF), American Council of Trustees and Alumni. "Despite widespread lip service to the importance of a general education, a new survey by ACTA finds that a solid core curriculum in higher education has gone the way of the dodo. At a time when most colleges endorse the importance of a general education -- a set of courses required of all students -- in fact, colleges have virtually abandoned a solid core curriculum in favor of a loose set of distribution requirements. As a consequence, college students are graduating without the basic knowledge that was once considered the hallmark of a liberal education. ACTA's report, entitled The Hollow Core: Failure of the General Education Curriculum, surveys 50 colleges and universities, including all of the Big Eight and Big Ten universities, the Ivy League, and the Seven Sisters Colleges, plus an additional grouping of 13 colleges to provide institutional and geographical breadth. Each school was given a grade from A to F, depending on the number of core subjects it required." (ACTA evaluated two universities in Illinois. They graded Northwestern's core curriculum as F, and University of Illinois' core curriculum as D.)

  • Becoming an Educated Person: Toward a Core Curriculum for College Students (PDF) by George C. Leef, American Council of Trustees and Alumni. "Many parents -- as well as trustees and state officials -- have asked ACTA to define a 'core' curriculum and explain why it is important. ACTA responded to this need, publishing Becoming an Educated Person: Toward a Core Currciulum for College Students. The guide advocates a strong core curriculum and gives examples of core curricula from a number of schools (large and small, public and private) in different parts of the country. It also provides suggestions for trustees who would like to review and strengthen the core requirements at their institutions."

  • Colleges That Don't Require Core Subjects by Herbert I. London, president, Hudson Institute, April 27, 2004. "A recent report ... reveals that most college students can graduate without taking basic subjects such as math, science, composition, literature, economics, government or American history. ... This report surveyed fifty colleges and universities, including all Big Eight and Big Ten universities, the Ivy League, the Seven Sisters Colleges and an additional grouping of 13 colleges to provide institutional and geographical breadth. ... The problem at the moment is that college students know very little and don't know what they don't know. To ask an uneducated student to select a course of study is to suggest the blind should lead the blind. ... We as a society are paying a hefty price to see our students in an uneducated state. Surely it is time for change in the form of real requirements."

  • If the esteemed Harvard University no longer can be trusted to provide a core of education, what can one hope from our country's thousands of other colleges? Here's an excerpt from a recently published book on the decline of Harvard, Excellence Without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education by Harry R. Lewis: "[T]here is absolutely nothing that Harvard can expect students will know after they take three science or three humanities courses freely chosen from across the entire course catalog. The proposed general-education requirement gives up entirely on the idea of shared knowledge, shared values, even shared aspirations. In the absence of any pronouncement that anything is more important than anything else for Harvard students to know, Harvard is declaring that one can be an educated person in the 21st century without knowing anything about genomes, chromosomes, or Shakespeare."

  • J. Crew U. by Kay S. Hymowitz, City Journal, Spring 1996. Headline caption: "Colleges' glitzy advertising brochures promise a curriculum of boundless variety. And that's the problem: without a common body of knowledge, too many students are getting an empty education."

  • Dumbing Down America's Colleges by Alan Caruba, July 7, 2008. "There isn't an employer in the nation who will not tell you how increasingly difficult it is to find a new hire, straight out of college, who is prepared to take on real world responsibilities."

  • "People would be amazed if they knew how easy it is to get a degree ... without really learning anything."
    What Do Students Have to Learn to Graduate From College? by George Leef, John Locke Foundation, September 27, 2004. "A young man I know who attends UNC-Chapel Hill recently told me, 'People would be amazed if they knew how easy it is to get a degree from Chapel Hill without really learning anything.' ... The trouble is that many colleges and universities have so watered down their general education curriculum that it no longer fulfills its function. Students can graduate without getting a well-rounded basic education. ... students can earn their degrees without ever taking courses that used to be regarded as pillars of a college education. ... College degrees are today often little more than credentials that students want to get as cheaply as possible. Watering down the curriculum is one way for colleges and universities to satisfy their customers."

  • Turning Academia into a Cafeteria: Offering students a buffet of bogus 'choices' only undermines intellectual integrity and corrodes academic freedom, commentary by Russell Jacoby, Losd Angeles Times, November 23, 2005.

  • A Classics Dilemma, letter to the editor, Los Angeles Times, November 29, 2005: "Russell Jacoby was right to warn of the damage to public universities from so-called choice in the curriculum. At Cal Poly, where I have taught for 38 years, the history department recently decided to expel the only course in Greek and Roman history in the curriculum. At the same time, it added two new courses: 'Versions of the Past: Novels, Comics and Movies' and 'The Historical Novel in the United States, 1960s to the Present.' I was the only person in the university who tried prevent the elimination of Greek and Roman history from the curriculum. I still have e-mails sent by a history faculty member vilifying me for my efforts. -- George M. Lewis, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo"

  • At Top Ten Liberal Arts Colleges, Liberal Arts Is Dying, Independent Women's Forum (IWF), October 27, 2003. "Parents who send their children to the top ten liberal arts colleges in the country will be surprised to learn that at most of these schools political correctness has killed liberal arts. This is the conclusion of a new report by the Independent Women's Forum (IWF) titled Death of the Liberal Arts?

  • Liberal to the Core , The Wall Street Journal, May 14, 2004. "... We mean 'liberal' as in 'liberal arts.' Recently [Harvard] initiated a review of its curriculum by asking itself what it will mean 'to be an educated woman or man in the first quarter of the 21st century.' Judging from the recommendations that emerged from this review -- the first in three decades -- the answer is a mishmash of more science, more choice and more study abroad. We don't mean to pick on Harvard. According to a study by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, America's leading colleges and universities have largely abandoned the idea that there exists some common body of knowledge and skills that all graduates ought to master. ... The ACTA study notes that most of the 50 universities it surveyed -- from the Ivies and Seven Sisters to the Big 10 -- continue to pay lip service to the idea of a liberal education. But in practice a liberal education has come to be defined by a 'smorgasbord approach' that undercuts that mission. Cornell, it notes, boasts that 'there is no course that students must take, and there are nearly 2,000 from which they may choose.' ... There was a day when a liberal education was thought to be a good inoculation against fads and fuzzy thinking. Perhaps the worst thing we could say about these latest conclusions from Cambridge is that Harvard seems to be jumping on a bandwagon rather than leading it."

  • Full report: The Vanishing Shakespeare (PDF), American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

  • "they were going to be watching episodes of Desperate Housewives and studying Eminem"
    From Herodotus to Hip-Hop by Alex Beam, Columnist, Boston Globe, December 27, 2006. "St. John's College [is] a tiny postage stamp of higher learning clinging to the banks of College Creek in Annapolis, Md. St. John's exists light years away from the mainstream of academic life in America. ... I had lunch with a St. John's College sophomore, back in Cambridge for break. I asked her what it was like to be back with her friends from high school, all of whom were attending colleges that had majors, final exams, and the like. It was hard, she admitted, to talk about St. John's, which is so distinctive that it has to be experienced to be understood. She did mention talking to a friend from Bates, who described a course she was planning to take, in rhetoric. For context, here is a course description at St. John's: 'Plato's Critique of Rhetoric: The Ion, Gorgias.' At Bates, 'they were going to be watching episodes of Desperate Housewives and studying Eminem,' this student said. 'I just had to laugh.' Laugh, or cry. Whichever comes more easily."

  • Hip-Hop University: Course Listings - A listing of courses on hip-hop themes at colleges and universities across the country. We discover such courses as these:
    • DePaul University
      English 309: The Rhetoric of Graffiti

      "An introduction to the study of graffiti (typically, the unauthorized production of text open to public view) as rhetorical (social, symbolic) action, this course will begin with a broad, poststructural interpretation of rhetoric as both the production and interpretation of signification. Thus, one acts rhetorically by producing symbols for others and by producing interpretations of the symbols of others; meaning emerges in the transaction. Dominant interpretations of graffiti typically surface within a matrix of political and economic values that link authorship, authority, and private property. Although on examination graffiti obviously create symbolic exchange, their appearance in unauthorized space marks them within this value matrix as simply 'crime' or 'vandalism' -- a social problem to be managed rather than as communication and cultural production reflective of lived social and cultural circumstances. By suspending (not necessarily altering or decrying) dominant values that reduce all graffiti to a singular, pejorative interpretation, English 309 will consider graffiti as purposeful text that mediates meaning between writer and audience through categories of invention, arrangement, and style."
    • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
      Communications 435: Commodifying Difference

      "An interdisciplinary examination of how racial, ethnic, and gender differences are negotiated through media and popular culture, and how racial, ethnic, and gendered communities use cultural forms to express identity and difference. Among the theroetical questions explored in the course are the politics of respresentation, ethnic/racial authenticity, cultural commodification, and transnational pooular culture. Some of the cultural forms examined are the cultural fesitval/parades, ethnic/race-based beatuy pageants, cinematic and televisual texts and musical forms such as hip-hop and salsa."

  • College Students Can't Write? by Stanley K. Ridgley, February 19, 2003. "The Chronicle of Higher Education recently discovered something that parents have known for at least the past 15 years -- America's universities don't teach college kids how to write ... at least, not how to write very well. ... Hundreds of thousands of recent college graduates today cannot express themselves with the written word. Why? Because universities have shortchanged them, offering strange literary theories, Marxism, feminism, deconstruction, and other oddities in the guise of writing courses. They've offered everything, really, but the basics of clear writing. This higher-education failure has been an open secret among employers and among those of us who have dealt with college writers and their writing over the years. I witnessed this deficiency myself as a college instructor at Duke University. Only now has this gross failure of higher education drawn the attention of the Chronicle.

  • What Fools These Mortals Be? by Suzanne Fields, November 3, 2003. "Just when we think the political culture can't get any more correct, new evidence surfaces of enhanced goofiness at our most expensive universities. ... Traditional introductory literature and history courses, which once provided a freshman with a foundation of basic knowledge and an overview to draw on as a point of reference for more profound analyses in advanced courses, are mostly absent altogether. They've been denounced, denigrated and debunked in a free fall of reinterpretation, and put into academicspeak that would be more appropriate for the Tower of Babel than for an ivy tower. In place of traditional literature, these universities offer trendy, sexy, politicized examinations of Western 'imperialism' and 'exploitation,' victim studies of gender and identity, and parochial ethnic studies with a stultifying point of view that reduces the breadth and depth of information. Amherst's history department, for example, offers 'Race and Nation in the U.S.-Mexican Borderland,' an overview of pre-1600 Japan, the Middle East from 600 to 1800, and 'Women's History, America: 1607-1865.' But there's not a single freshman overview course to examine the fundamental events of Western civilization. ...
    Parents have homework assignments, too. They should check out the big print in the catalogues before they mortgage the home place to pay the tuition at a high status university where true learning has been hijacked by cheap politics."

  • Jacuzzi U.? A Battle of Perks to Lure Students by Greg Winter, New York Times, October 5, 2003. "Ohio State University is spending $140 million to build what its peers enviously refer to as the Taj Mahal, a 657,000-square-foot complex featuring kayaks and canoes, indoor batting cages and ropes courses, massages and a climbing wall big enough for 50 students to scale simultaneously. On the drawing board at the University of Southern Mississippi are plans for a full-fledged water park, complete with water slides, a meandering river and something called a wet deck -- a flat, moving sheet of water so that students can lie back and stay cool while sunbathing."

  • The Modern University Has Become Obsolete by Froma Harrop, November 25, 2005. "...I recently strolled across the ivied campus of Brown University, in Providence, R.I. At the time, maintenance crews were busy removing leaves. Campus officials were still dealing with the aftermath of an especially drunken Saturday night. And most everyone was excited that the football team had taken the Ivy League championship. No doubt, some education was going on, but the question nagged: Is this an efficient setup for improving young minds? ... You wonder whether colleges, stripped of their education function, wouldn't find other lives as spas, professional-sports franchises or perhaps lightly supervised halfway houses for post-adolescents. The infrastructure is already in place. Over at Kenyon College, in Ohio, the students have a new $60 million athletic center. The highlights include a 12,500-square-foot workout area and an indoor track with eight lanes just for sprinting. The pool has 20 short-course and nine long-course lanes. And, like any upscale health club, this one has a cafe. Speaking of sports, colleges spend huge numbers of 'education dollars' on keeping their football coaches happy. For example, the University of Texas is giving Mack Brown a compensation package this year totaling $3.6 million. UT's highest-paid academic, Steven Weinberg, earns about $400,000, and he has a Nobel Prize in physics."

  • Illiterate America by Alan Caruba, February 5, 2001. "In October of last year, my friend Jack O'Dwyer ran an article on his website, O'Dwyer's PR Daily, concerning the problems public relations agencies were having with the college graduates they were hiring to begin their careers in that profession. 'About 40 per cent of college grads take no courses in English or American literature and nearly 31 per cent have never taken a math course. More than 56 per cent can't calculate the change from $3 after buying a bowl of soup for 60 cents and a sandwich for $1.95. Many cannot read and understand a simple set of directions.' The article referenced Beer and Circus, a book by English professor Murray Sperber of Indiana University. The book contends that 'college kids are being fed a junk diet of alcohol, spectator sports and partying.' Even worse news is that the college school year has shrunk from 210 days to about 160. With parents paying an average $20,000 a year and more to send their children to college, that's an average of $125 a day! ... By almost any measurement you can name, we have been turning out students at the elementary, middle, high school and college levels who are manifestly unfit to function effectively in society."

  • College Students Failing U.S. History, Associated Press, June 28, 2000. "Do the words 'Give me liberty or give me death' sound only vaguely familiar? Do you think Thomas Jefferson was the 'Father of the Constitution'? If so, you're not alone. Nearly 80 percent of seniors at 55 top colleges and universities -- including Harvard and Princeton -- received a D or F on a 34-question, high-school level American history test that contained historical references like those. More than a third of the students didn't know the Constitution established the division of power in American government, according to the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut, which administered the test as part of a study to measure the teaching of American history. Students were much more knowledgeable about popular culture. For example, 99 percent of the seniors could identify profane adolescents 'Beavis and Butthead' as 'television cartoon characters.' But only 23 percent identified James Madison as the principal framer of the Constitution. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, lamented the findings. Quoting Jefferson, he said that 'if a nation expects to be ignorant and free it expects what never was and never will be.' 'This nation seems well on its way to testing this proposition,' Lieberman said."

  • Dumb and Dumber? by Mona Charen. "...the NAS [National Association of Scholars] keeps track of just how ignorant a nation we are becoming. It makes for disheartening reading. ... as the NAS demonstrates in study after study, general education is in decline, grade inflation is the order of the day, and in humanities departments, rigorous requirements have gone the way of the typewriter. ... A new report by the NAS exposes what has become of the once noble study of English literature. Surveying the English departments at 25 of the nation's most selective colleges, and comparing today's offerings with those of 35 ago, the NAS concludes that majoring in English no longer guarantees a familiarity with the great works or traditions of literature in the English language. ... 'We rely on our leading colleges to produce the next generation of writers, scholars, critics and educated readers,' NAS president Stephen Balch laments. 'If these gifted young people aren't encouraged to absorb the richness of the English literary tradition, our culture can't help but be diminished.'"

  • The Lowering Of Higher Education by Edward C. Smith, The Washington Times, June 28, 2003. "... there are many troubling areas of campus culture that have surfaced over time and need to be aired and addressed, such as the enormous expansion of student freedoms (only 11 percent of their time is spent in the classroom), their social immaturity (the nearly complete erasure of the concept of 'wait to the weekend' in terms of partying), their severe emotional fragility, and perhaps most importantly -- and certainly most alarming to me -- their rapidly declining interest in reading books. ... Most of my students (many of whom are from very privileged households) do not know how to really read, and therefore they don't like to read."

  • Why Colleges Need Great Books (PDF) by David Mulroy, Wisconsin Interest, 2000, Vol. 9 No. 3

  • The Case for the Core: Particular knowledge, not vague ideas by Simon Chin, American Enterprise Magazine, August 19, 2002. "... At many American universities, the liberal takeover of campuses in the 1960s and pressure to give students more curricular choice led to the weakening or outright elimination of once rigorous core or general education requirements. Harvard's General Education program instituted in the late 1940s evolved into a loose and unwieldy system that delineated only three broad areas of study and, as Kenan Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield says, had become 'corrupted through the admission of courses that professors were ashamed to offer in their own departments.' Any semblance of a common core of knowledge had long since been eviscerated."

  • 52 Card Pick-up By Prof. Henry Edmondson, February 28, 2007. "It has to do with the movement to discard the academic disciplines in favor of teaching students 'what they really need to know' or introducing them to 'the real world.' The disciplines, however imperfect they may be, provide -- well, discipline. They bring organization and accountability to the curriculum. A college education is not like '52 Card Pick-Up', whereby you throw up the deck of cards and let them land where they will. The curriculum must be organized in some reasonable fashion. It's a practical matter. ... But something more is going on in the attempt to reorganize the curriculum. The first clue should be the habitual denigration of traditional disciplines and subject matter, which is often branded 'isolated' and 'self-contained.' The disciplines, it is said, have performed a 'major disservice' by 'dividing problems in little pieces.' Such self-serving 'compartmentalization,' it is said, has exacted a heavy price on society by frustrating human progress. Removing the disciplines, however, also removes accountability. Who is minding the store? We may not like the standards applied but at least we know whom to blame. But how do we assess the merit of a recent interdisciplinary program 'Sex and Sexuality in Contemporary Hip Hop'? Who are the experts? Howard Stern? 2Pac? And from which department is assessment made? Music? Philosophy? Dance?"

  • D'oh! College offers course in Simpsonology, Media Life magazine, Dec. 2001. "As if 'The Simpsons' hasn't had enough influence on America's young, a college in Michigan plans to offer a course based on the iconic series, which is in its 13th season on Fox. Students at Siena Heights University, a Catholic university in Adrian, Mich., have been signing up for 'Animated Philosophy and Religion,' taught by Professors Kimberly Blessing and Anthony Sciglitano. The two-credit course will draw from texts including 'The Gospel According to the Simpsons' by Mark Pinsky and 'The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer' by William Irwin. The course is open to students of all faiths, be they Christian, Jew or miscellaneous."

  • The new Trivial Pursuit by John Leo, U.S. News, August 30, 1999. "Until recently, it wasn't really essential to look that deeply at curriculum [in colleges]. The components of a basic college education were well known and agreed upon. Now they aren't. Colleges are unsure of their mission, buffeted by consumer pressures and ideological forces, and unwilling to say what a sound education might consist of. As a result of this confusion and drift, campuses are increasingly at the mercy of fads and trends. Many universities offer courses on television shows. The University of Wisconsin has one on soap operas, and Purdue offers one called 'The Biology of ER.' Other current or recent courses include 'Issues in Rock Music and Rock Culture' (Columbia University), 'The Physics, History, and Technique of Juggling' (Duke), 'Star Trek' (California State-Chico), 'Film Noir/Hard-Boiled Detective Fiction' (Georgetown), and 'Vampires: The Undead' (University of Pennsylvania), not to be confused with 'The Slavic Vampire' (University of Chicago). Courses on horror movies turn up with titles like 'The Look of the Perverse' or 'Horror and the Historicity of Monstrosity.' Sports-minded males who are disinclined to study can take courses on baseball and the 'Literature of Sports.'"

  • How To Make an Un-Level Playing Field More Un-Level By Larry Elder Thursday, December 20, 2007. "UC's Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) wants to change the admission rules to their 10 schools, including lowering the minimum high school GPA to 2.8 and removing the requirement of two SAT Subject Tests. Current policy makes the top 12.5 percent of each senior class -- based on a minimum 3.0 GPA, their scores on either the SAT Reasoning Test or the ACT with Writing, and their scores on two SAT Subject Tests -- eligible for admission to a UC school. ...
        "Critics of the SAT argue that grades remain the best predictor of success in college. Agreed, provided we take into consideration grade inflation or watered-down standards -- precisely why most colleges, despite no government mandate, still require that applicants take the SAT."

  • No SAT required for admission: Dumbing Down America's Colleges by Alan Caruba, July 7, 2008. "[Now] we have the specter of university and college presidents eliminating one of the most respected tools for measuring a prospective student's ability to qualify for admission. The venerable SAT, the gold standard for measuring readiness for college for nearly 80 years, is slowly being eviscerated by colleges and universities. ... Disparaging the SATs for helping set high academic standards ignores the fact that more than two million students take the SAT every year and that more than 88% percent of America's colleges require it for admission. Those that don't require the SAT for admission often use it for course placement and scholarship consideration. The overwhelming majority of colleges use the SAT because it has acquired a well-deserved reputation for its ability to aid the evaluation process. ... The best way to prepare for college and the SAT is to work hard in high school and take a well rounded curriculum. Cheating qualified students who have taken the time and effort to prepare for this by devaluing and eliminating the SAT is just wrong."

    The Ivy-Covered Con Game by Burt Prelutsky, January 1, 2007. "The truth is, these days a liberal arts education is essentially no education at all. It's a catch-all that can include such feel-good curriculums as black studies, Chicano studies, and even lesbian studies. There are classes devoted to comic books, science fiction, burlesque, and TV shows of the 50s. After four years of goofing around with this stuff, the young grads are prepared to do nothing except become professors themselves and regurgitate this drivel to the next herd of sheep. It's bad enough that all over this country millions of kids who can't write a coherent sentence or do simple math without using a calculator think they're intellectually superior to their parents and their grandparents, but the cost of this indulgence is absolutely obscene."

  • English 101: Prologue to Literacy or Postmodern Moonshine? by Nan Miller, Pope Center for Higher Education, June 19, 2006. Since freshman composition became a required course at Harvard in 1872, it has seen many changes -- but none so radical as the changes brought about in the 1970s, when composition theory became a specialty. Postmodern theories about teaching composition have transformed writing programs nationwide. ... Most striking among the changes is the disappearance of literature and grammar from sourse content. This study exposes six conspicuous fallacies upon which the new system is founded, and shows how postmodern theories and teaching writing have weakened freshman composition, as well as contributed to a decline in the quality of student writing overall.

  • Michael A. Blazey, Ph.D., Professor, Recreation and Leisure Studies (yikes!), California State University, analyzes the video for Paul Simon's song, "Me and Julio".

  • For an interesting historical perspective:
    Rev. Timothy Brosnahan, S.J.: Boston College President, 1894-1898, National Spokesman for Jesuit Liberal Education by Charles F. Donovan S.J., Boston College. Apparently the presidents of Harvard and Boston College were in the public eye over their debates on the dilution of the core curriculum, a trend then known as "electivism."

    English

  • Many English Majors Can Avoid Bard by Dave Newbart, Chicago Sun-Times, April 20, 2007. "The American Council of Trustees and Alumni did a survey and found only 15 of the nation's top 70 universities require English majors take a course on Shakespeare ... The report lists the University of Chicago and Northwestern among those that do not require such a course. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign does require it. 'A degree in English without Shakespeare is like an M.D. without a course in anatomy,' the report declares."

  • Advice To College Students: Don't Major in English by Phyllis Schlafly, October 2, 2007.
         "In the decades before 'progressive' education became the vogue, English majors were required to study Shakespeare, the pre-eminent author of English literature. ... What happened? ... Universities deliberately replaced courses in the great authors of English literature with what professors openly call 'fresh concerns,' 'under-represented cultures,' and 'ethnic or non-Western literature.' When the classics are assigned, they are victims of the academic fad called deconstructionism. That means: pay no mind to what the author wrote or meant; deconstruct him and construct your own interpretation, as in a Vanderbilt University course called 'Shakespearean Sexuality,' or 'Chaucer: Gender and Genre' at Hamilton College. ...
         "Some English department courses are really sociology or politics. Examples are 'Gender and Sociopolitical Activism in 20th Century Feminist Utopias' at Macalester College; 'Of Nags, Bitches and Shrews: Women and Animals in Western Literature' at Dartmouth College; and 'African and Diasporic Ecological Literature' at Bates College. ...
         "Of course, English professors now love to teach about sex. Examples are: 'Shakesqueer' at American University; 'Queer Studies' at Bates College; 'Promiscuity and the Novel' at Columbia University; and 'Sexing the Past' at Georgetown University. ...
    "A degree in English without Shakespeare is like an M.D. without a course in anatomy. It is tantamount to fraud."
         "The classicists were cowed into silence, and it's now clear that the multiculturalists won the canon wars. Shakespeare, Chaucer and Milton have been replaced by living authors who toe the line of multicultural political correctness, i.e., view everything through the lens of race, gender and class based on the assumption that America is a discriminatory and unjust racist and patriarchal society. The only good news is that students seldom read books any more and use Cliffs Notes for books they might be assigned.
         "The American Council of Trustees and Alumni says 'a degree in English without Shakespeare is like an M.D. without a course in anatomy. It is tantamount to fraud.'
         "College students: Don't waste your scarce college dollars on a major in English."

    Journalism

  • "It would make more sense simply to teach them things. Facts, it turns out, are useful."
    Schools for Scribblers: Newspapers Dwindle, But Journalism Graduates Keep Coming by Jonathan V. Last, Weekly Standard, May 26, 2006. "In 2005, newspapers cut 2,000 jobs; this spring more people graduated from journalism schools than ever before. ... There are now some 450 journalism and mass-communications programs across the country, although only 100 or so are accredited. These news-writer factories have contributed mightily to the ranks of America's 116,000 working journalists. According to the forthcoming book The American Journalist in the 21st Century, 36.2 percent of journalists with college degrees were journalism majors. If you include journalism-related "communications" majors, the percentage jumps to 49.5. This far exceeds the percentages of the next most common major, English (14.9 percent). History, political science, math and physical science majors -- combined -- total only 13.7 percent.
         "So what do aspiring journalists learn in school? Undergraduate courses of study vary, but if you survey course catalogs, there's a heavy emphasis on process and theory. At Ohio State, for instance, a student majoring in journalism might [have a] large portion of coursework ... taken up with classes such as Principles of Civic Journalism, Topics in Public Affairs Journalism or Industry Research Methods. An undergraduate at Missouri can take courses such as Cross-Cultural Journalism, The Creative Process, Women and the Media -- there's even a class on High School Journalism. ...
         "The running theme is an emphasis on process and the "craft" of journalism ... Instead of educating future journalists on the nuts and bolts of journalism -- because let's be honest, it isn't rocket science or even carpentry -- it would make more sense simply to teach them things. Facts, it turns out, are useful. ... Comparatively few people can explain, say, econometrics, or fluid dynamics, or the history of the French Revolution. Aspiring journalists don't need trade-craft -- they need a liberal-arts education that gives them a base of mastery in actual academic subjects."

  • Campus Revolutionary By Dirk Johnson, Chicago Magazine, September 2007. "Last year, after taking over as the head of Northwestern University's highly regarded Medill School of Journalism, John Lavine vowed to 'blow up' the curriculum, changing its emphasis to new media and marketing. Students and alumns have responded with anger and charges of betrayal. ... It was a bare-knuckled accusation that seemed suited more for a blue-collar saloon in the bungalow belt than the ivied Evanston campus of Northwestern University. 'You lied to me!' the graduate student angrily told ... the dean of the Medill School of Journalism. 'I came here to learn to be a writer,' the student said, explaining that he had chosen Northwestern -- and forked over more than $40,000 in annual tuition -- because he wanted to hone a flair for writing that would land him at a publication like The New York Times. 'But you're having us do all this video stuff. I didn't come here for that.' ... If postings on the Internet are any measure, plenty of students at Medill are furious about the changes. 'How can I possibly be going to 'the best journalism school in the country' if we don't learn writing,' reads one recent posting."

    Columbia J-School's Existential Crisis by Erica Orden, New York Magazine - Daily Intel, March 11, 2009. "Bill Grueskin, the school¹s new dean of academic affairs, ... wants to make multimedia skills and storytelling mandatory via the school¹s core course, ... 'Reporting and Writing 1,' which has, since its inception in the early seventies, stuck to very traditional lessons in beat reporting and on-deadline news writing ... But the push for modernization has also raised the ire of some professors ... [Ari] Goldman, a former Times reporter and sixteen-year veteran RW1 professor, described new-media training as 'playing with toys,' according to another student, and characterized the digital movement as 'an experimentation in gadgetry.'"

  • Media studies? Do yourself a favour - forget it, The Guardian [UK], September 3, 2001. "... This autumn, students around the country will enroll for undergraduate journalism degrees, probably imagining that their three years of study will place them in the forefront of those students seeking jobs in the media when they graduate. ... many will face disappointment. ... too many colleges and universities are running courses that do not provide students, even after three years, with the skills they need to get a job. Worse, because they need the money the students generate, they fail to identify students who are simply not good enough to work in journalism and warn them of their shortcomings. ... Every editor who takes work experience students has had the same experience: a student in the final year of a journalism degree who will never get a job. I have seen students who, literally, could not string a sentence together. Not one of their tutors had ever sat down with them and explained the bitter facts of life: you can't write, can't sub, can't interview, won't ring round - you're unemployable in journalism."

    Social Work

  • Creating Activists ... by John Leo, September 12, 2007. "The National Association of Scholars ... has just released a six-month study of social work education, examining the ten largest programs at public universities for which information was available. The report, 'The Scandal of Social Work,' says these programs "have lost sight of the difference between instruction and indoctrination to a scandalous extent. They have, for the most part, adopted an official ideological line, closing off debate on many questions that serious students of public policy would admit to be open to the play of contending viewpoints.' Nine of the ten programs, the NAS reports, require students to accept the ideology-saturated NASW code of ethics to get a degree in social work."

  • The Scandal of Social Work Education, National Association of Scholars, September 11, 2007. "We became aware that social work education, even within the ideologically colored environment of the contemporary university, might constitute an especially advanced case of politicization, in which dogma, tendentiousness, and coerced intellectual conformity had become absolutely integral to the definition of the field."

    Ed Schools

    Go to our full page on Schools of Education.

Less Effort Required?

  • "When a student applied to Boston University in 1870, he was expected to be conversant with great works: Milton, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Homer. Candidates for the freshman class took examinations in Latin (on the Aeneid), in Greek (on the Iliad), in mathematics (arithmetic, algebra, geometry), in English (five works of literature, in that year Othello and King John, Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield, Carlisle's Essay on Scott, and The Mill on the Floss), as well as in geography and history. ... Rigorous though these may seem, the faculty and administration found it necessary to raise standards higher -- quite simply, too many people could meet them, and enrollment hit its limit. Thus, examinations were added to test the applicants' abilities in four languages other than English."
    -- Jon Westling, former president of Boston University

  • College Rust Out by George Leef, November 21, 2006. "66 percent of freshmen and 64 percent of seniors say that they devote 15 or fewer hours to class preparation per week ... roughly half the amount that professors think is necessary for adequate progress. ... The decline in the assignment of major papers seems confirmed ... 82 percent of freshmen and 48 percent of seniors say that they never have to write papers of 20 pages or more. Shorter papers are far more common, but more than a third report that they never or less than 5 times a year have to write papers of 5 pages or less. What we don't know is how demanding those papers are -- do they call for a good deal of research, or mostly personal feelings?"

  • "Couldn't you, you know, just tell us the main point?"
    The College Con by George Leef, September 07, 2006.      "A few days earlier, I had handed out copies of a chapter from a book that I wanted the students to read and be prepared to discuss. It was an 8-page assignment. Once the class began and I asked some questions about the assignment, it became evident that few (if any) of the students had done the reading -- or if they had read it, they hadn't bothered to make sure they understood it. After several tries at jump starting a discussion, one student put up his hand and I eagerly called on him. He said, 'Couldn't you, you know, just tell us the main point?' Eventually I found out that a great many college students were (and are) like that fellow. They don't want to trouble themselves with intellectual challenges, but would rather just be told 'the main point.' They have little curiosity and desire to learn and just want a college degree served up to them with as little effort as possible, with a big side order of fun. ...      "With a few exceptions, most colleges and universities are exceedingly money-hungry and will recruit students who have serious academic deficiencies. Once they have those students, they don't want to lose them, and for that reason have relaxed academic standards to the point where, as one student recently said to me, 'People would be amazed if they knew how easy it is to graduate from (a major state university) without learning anything at all.'"

  • Highly recommended:
    Student Anti-Intellectualism and the Dumbing Down of the University by Paul Trout, Ph.D., associate professor, Montana State University-Bozeman. Excerpts:      "For well over a decade, college instructors have been complaining about students who are not only apathetic and unmotivated but who belittle and resist efforts to educate them. Students demonstrate this anti-intellectual mindset in a number of ways: by not reading the assigned works; by not contributing to class discussions; by complaining about course workloads and lobbying for fewer assignments; by skipping class; by giving low evaluations to instructors with high standards or tough requirements; by neglecting to prepare for class and tests and not bothering to do extra-credit work or take make-up exams; by not consulting material placed on reserve or picking up class handouts; by refusing to learn any more than is necessary to get a good grade; by boasting about how little time is spent studying; by ridiculing high achievers; by being impatient with deliberative analysis; by condemning intellectual endeavors as 'boring'; by resenting academic requirements as an intrusion on free time, etc., etc., etc. ...
         "What has changed ... is the number of students who exhibit these attitudes. Nobody can say precisely how many anti-intellectual students now sit in college classrooms, but the number appears to be growing and in some contexts seems to have reached a critical mass. ...
         "American colleges could follow the same path as American high schools and become warehouses of anti-intellectual and anti-educational slackers. ...
         "The psychological tensions and moral compromises entailed by teaching increasing numbers of anti-intellectual students are taking a toll on professors. Confronted with more and more students who are ill-mannered, surly, disrespectful, demanding, whinny, and apathetic, professors are themselves disengaging from students, reallocating their time and energies to professional endeavors that are more fulfilling than trying to stimulate students who resist and resent efforts to remedy their intellectual shortcomings. No wonder so many professors in my discipline [English] now find it more fun to write about Madonna or transgendered dwarves than to teach students who can't and won't read even mildly challenging novels. ...
         "But I do not counsel despair, because the remedies to the problem are so obvious. Of course primary and secondary schools must be made more rigorous, challenging and--therefore--engaging. ... students have become anti-intellectual and disengaged--anti-educational--because primary and secondary classrooms have been stripped of challenging intellectual material and rigorous standards."
  • College Student Devotion To Homework Debated by Ann R. Martin, Chicago Tribune, January 4, 2004. "Banish that image of a solitary college student huddled over a desk laboring into the wee hours of the morning. It may be obsolete. A national survey indicates that the majority of undergraduates are not devoting long hours to doing their homework--at least not as many hours as most educators seem to think they should."

  • Homework? What Homework? Students seem to be spending less time studying than they used to by Jeffrey R. Young, December 6, 2002. "During a recent class session of "Strategies for College Success" [students offered suggestions:] 'Say a prayer -- that's what I do,' said one student. Another suggested eating peanut butter or other brain foods. A third said she unwinds by listening to Enya the night before. The tip given most consistently by professors and college officials is that students should simply do their homework. The most commonly prescribed amount is at least two hours of class preparation for every hour spent in the classroom... The idea is that students should consider college their full-time job, and that class time and preparation should take about 40 hours each week. That's long been the conventional wisdom. But many students across the country say they don't come close to following that study regimen. Results from the latest National Survey of Student Engagement, released last month, found that only 12 percent of last year's freshmen at four-year residential colleges reported spending 26 or more hours per week preparing for classes ... The most striking statistic: Nineteen percent of full-time freshmen say they spend only 1 to 5 hours per week preparing for classes."

  • The Six-Year Plan: How students linger on campus and universities and stiff the taxpayer. by Kate O'Beirne, National Review, April 22, 2002. "The odds are that students heading off to public colleges and universities in the fall will spend six years earning their degrees. On average nowadays, only about 30 percent of students at public institutions graduate in four years. When the NCAA reports graduation rates to compare the performance of athletes with that of other students, it now relies on the six-year rate as the standard. Thus, 43 percent of Indiana University's basketball players graduate in six years (versus 65 percent of all male students). "The four-year graduation rate is scandalous," declares Eugene W. Hickok, who as undersecretary of the Department of Education is the third-ranking official in that federal agency."

Student Evaluations of Teachers (SET)

  • Dr. Mark H. Shapiro reviews a book and reports, "From an analysis of the more than sixty previous studies [the author] shows that a strong relationship exists between expected grades and SET's ... instructors who grade more stringently are likely to have more students give them lower SET ratings than the instructors who grade less stringently, because they feel that it is the instructor's fault that they are earning a lower grade."

College and the Vanishing Male

    Editor's note: When I attended Loyola University in the early 1970's, the ratio of boys to girls was 2:1. Today at Loyola that ratio is 1:2.

    Nationally, girls constitute 60% of college enrollment today and this number is increasing. More and more experts are sounding alarms about what has become of the college prospects for boys, and dissecting the possible reasons for this sea change.

    For more, see our section on Fewer Boys On Campus in our page on Gender Bias in Schools.

Political Bias

    The Illinois Loop does not wish to take political sides, since school reform is embraced by persons of a wide variety of political beliefs. For more on exactly that, see our page on Politics.

    Nonetheless, it is very difficult to discuss the state of colleges without at least acknowledging that many people are highly concerned by political bias shown in the hiring of college faculty and in the material in courses. So, we provide the following links for those who wish more information about this. However, please do not assume that the Illinois Loop necessarily endorses particular views that may be expressed.

  • Declaration of Principles, American Association of University Professors, 1915:
    The university teacher ... should, if he is fit for his position, be a person of a fair and judicial mind; he should, in dealing with such subjects, set forth justly, without suppression or innuendo, the divergent opinions of other investigators ... and he should, above all, remember that his business is not to provide his students with ready-made conclusions, but to train them to think for themselves.
  • Thought Reform 101: The Orwellian Implications of Today's College Orientation by Alan Charles Kors, Reason, March 1, 2000. A MUST READ: This is a thoroughly detailed and chilling account of the pervasiveness of mandatory sessions on conforming to "correct" ways of thinking, particularly as seen in freshman "orientation" programs.

  • On the Sadness of Higher Education by Alan Charles Kors, The Wall Street Journal, May 27, 2008. "Academia also has become a place where professors can achieve the highest rewards, except in the protected fields, for acting out their pathologies. ... One cannot wholly escape these sides of universities even by majoring in the hard sciences; at least a few humanities and social science courses in oppression studies and demystification are generally required for graduation. Even if students escape these phenomena in their choice of study, though, they will meet them in freshmen orientations, residential programming and the very rules and regulations of their campuses. ...
         "Let colleges and universities have the courage, if they truly believe what they say ... to put it on page one of their catalogues, fundraising letters and appeals to the state assembly: 'This University believes that your sons and daughters are the racist, sexist, homophobic, Eurocentric progeny or victims of an oppressive society from which most of them receive unjust privilege. In return for tuition and massive taxpayer subsidy, we shall assign rights on a compensatory basis and undertake by coercion their moral and political enlightenment.' It won't happen."

  • Academe Then and Now by Paul Greenberg, July 23, 2008.

  • Brainwashing 101: This is a lively 46 minute documentary on political bias in colleges which can be viewed immediately, downloaded, or purchased as a DVD.

  • A Gift for the Grad: Protection from Tenured Radicals By Mary Grabar, May 20, 2007. "When I entered the master's program in English at Georgia State University [I] was taken aback by the snarling, vituperation, and the seething contempt most professors felt for the authors I eagerly looked forward to studying. ... Most parents sending their children off to college, while aware of a leftist bias in the college classroom, are not aware of the extent to which most English professors hate literature or how diligently they work to destroy the written word. The defenders of literature remain an increasingly small minority of professors still allowed to teach and such groups as the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, which keeps tabs."

  • What Colleges Forget to Teach Robert P. George, City Journal, Winter 2006. "Higher education could heal itself by teaching civics -- not race, class, and gender."

  • The Hidden Impact Of Political Correctness by Robert Weissberg, Professor of Political Science, Emeritus, at The University of Illinois-Urbana, September 13, 2007. "It's easy to think of Universities as a circus for wacky professors ... Something far more significant overshadows this ranting, namely how PC invisibly sanitizes instruction to avoid 'offending' certain easy-to-anger students. This is the dog that does not bark ... and seldom recognized since it concerns what is not taught, and as such deprives students of a genuine education."

  • Was Cho Taught To Hate? by James Lewis, April 20, 2007. "The websites of Cho's English Department at Virginia Tech [are] a wonder world of PC weirdness. English studies at VT are a post-modern Disney World in which nihilism, moral and sexual boundary breaking, and fantasies of Marxist revolutionary violence are celebrated. They show up in a lot of faculty writing. Not by all the faculty, but probably by more than half. Just check out their websites. ..."

  • Learning To Love The West by John Zmirak, November 06, 2004. "If you have a college bound child and you hope he will be taught about Western civilization, be prepared to choose carefully. Only a few universities will have what you're looking for. At most American colleges -- including, emphatically, almost all the elite institutions -- the curriculum from your undergraduate days has been eviscerated by multiculturalism, careerism, and consumerism." The author goes on to provide a basic outline of how to evaluate potential colleges, and where to look for schools that can provide a resemblance of a traditional core curriculum. He concludes, "Do the same due diligence you'd undertake for any other investment of $20,000-$80,000, when you determine in which atmosphere you want your child to form the mental habits and preconceptions which he will carry through adulthood."

  • An Obituary for Solzhenitsyn's Writing by Mary Grabar, Ph.D., August 14, 2008. "Alexander Solzhenitsyn died on August 3, but if reigning English professors and textbook editors have their way, his writing will soon be disappeared. ... [I]n literary studies, the propagandizing comes under the clever cover of theories that purportedly embrace multiplicity and openness. While the most influential professional group, the Modern Language Association, has been the butt of jokes even by the New York Times for its annual convention, and while many dismiss its journal PMLA (Publications of the Modern Language Association of America) as irrelevant, jargon-laden musings of a priestly caste of academics, we cannot ignore the very real harm they do to intellectual life. ...
          "It is this kind of sophistry that Solzhenitsyn had in mind when he said in his commencement speech at Harvard in 1978, 'Without any censorship, in the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are carefully separated from those which are not fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges.' ...
          "The college student, taught as he has been ... has a very slim chance of fair exposure to the real import of Solzhenitsyn's work. Solzhenitsyn suffered much in order to bring us his testimony about the evils of communism. The communists did not succeed in killing him, but the fashionable tenured academics quietly dispose of his work through their own 'memory holes' of excision and distortion."

  • Coded on Campus: Ivory-tower decay by Michael Barone, October 8, 2007. "America's colleges and universities have become, and have been for some decades, the most closed-minded and intellectually dishonest institutions in our society. ... Colleges and universities today almost universally have speech codes [but] they are enforced unequally ... This is not the only way the colleges and universities fall far short of what were once their standards. Sometime in the 1960s, they abandoned their role as advocates of American values -- critical advocates who tried to advance freedom and equality further than Americans had yet succeeded in doing -- and took on the role of adversaries of society."

  • Links to websites that explore political bias in colleges:

  • Academic Freedom: a useful collection of essays and news reports.

  • Academic Freedom in the Middle and Secondary School Classroom (PDF) by Professors Daniel E. Lee and Jack A. Garrett, July/August 2005. This is a short, excellent presentation on how K-12 teachers can handle controversial issues in the classroom without trampling on individual political or personal perspectives.

Grade Inflation

    "At the University of Illinois, A's constitute more than 40 percent of all grades and outnumber C's by almost three to one."

  • GradeInflation.com: National Trends in Grade Inflation at American Colleges and Universities

  • GradeInflation.com: Grade Inflation at American Colleges and Universities: A rich source of information about college-level grade inflation, including trends, rankings of schools.

  • Fraud in Academia, by Walter E. Williams, May 6, 2009. "Soon college students will come home and present parents with their grades. To avoid delusion, parents should do some serious discounting because of rampant grade inflation. If grade inflation continues, a college bachelor's degree will have just as much credibility as a high school diploma. ... From 1991 to 2007, in public institutions, the average grade point average (GPA) rose, on a four-point scale, from 2.93 to 3.11. In private schools, the average GPA climbed from 3.09 to 3.30. Put within a historical perspective, in the 1930s, the average GPA was 2.35 (about a C-plus); whereby now it's a B-plus.
         "Academic fraud is rife at many of the nation's most prestigious and costliest universities. At Brown University, two-thirds of all letter grades given are A's. At Harvard, 50 percent of all grades were either A or A- (up from 22 percent in 1966); 91 percent of seniors graduated with honors. The Boston Globe called Harvard's grading practices 'the laughing stock of the Ivy League.' Eighty percent of the grades given at the University of Illinois are A's and B's. Fifty percent of students at Columbia University are on the Dean's list. At Stanford University, where F grades used to be banned, only 6 percent of student grades were as low as a C."

  • An Interview with Stuart Rojstaczer About Grade Inflation by Susan Walsh Veronikas and Michael F. Shaughnessy.

  • Where All Grades Are Above Average by Stuart Rojstaczer, Washington Post, January 28, 2003. "How rare is the C in college? The data indicate that not only is C an endangered species but that B, once the most popular grade at universities and colleges, has been supplanted by the former symbol of perfection, the A. For example, at Duke, which all evidence indicates is not a 'leader' in grade inflation -- by a long shot -- C's now make up less than 10 percent of all grades. In 1969 the C was a respectable thing, given more than one-quarter of the time. A's overcame B's to reach the top of the charts in grade popularity in the early 1990s. At Pomona College, C's are now less than 4 percent of all grades. About half of all grades at Pomona, Duke, Harvard and Columbia are in the A range. State schools are not immune to this change. At the University of Illinois, A's constitute more than 40 percent of all grades and outnumber C's by almost three to one. More information on this subject can be found at http://www.gradeinflation.com/"

  • In a review of the book Grade Inflation: A Crisis in College Education by Valen E. Johnson, writer Dr. Mark H. Shapiro notes, "Johnson also raises an issue that few have considered. Namely, that the differential grading patterns between disciplines creates inequities for students. Those students who take more courses from the disciplines with more stringent grading patters will achieve lower overall GPA's than students who take more courses from the easy grading disciplines. As a result we find that premedical students tend to major in departments like psychology rather than in biology or chemistry because they know that they will be at a disadvantage when they apply for medical school if their GPA's are lower -- even though a biology or chemistry major might provide better preparation for medical school. Finally, Johnson makes a number of suggestions for reducing the effects of grade inequity and grade inflation. His most controversial suggestion, and the one least likely to be adopted in today's academic climate, is to weight student grades by a factor that takes into account the average grade in each of the courses that the student takes. Thus, a student who takes mostly courses that are graded stringently would have his or her "effective" GPA raised; while a student who takes mostly courses that are graded easily would see his or her effective GPA lowered."

  • The Phenomenon of Grade Inflation in Higher Education by Bradford P. Wilson, Association of American Educators. "What is the extent of grade inflation in higher education -- what Yale officially refers to as 'upward grade homogenization?' For that matter, does it even exist? I think we all have a sense that grading isn't what it used to be -- that in today's academy, the fear of failing has all but disappeared, and that making the dean's list is no longer a pipe dream for students of the meanest capacities. ... I've been looking at reports on the available data and find that, as the Independent Counsel might say, there is substantial and credible information that grades have been inflating over a thirty-year period at American campuses of every variety."

  • Grade Inflation: It's Time to Face the Facts By Harvey C. Mansfield, professor of government at Harvard University, Chronicle of Higher Education: "... There is something inappropriate -- almost sick -- in the spectacle of mature adults showering young people with unbelievable praise. ..."

  • Just Tell Me I'm Wonderful and Give Me the A! by Tina Blue, April 27, 2006. "How can we teach these kids if they believe, first of all, that we have no right to criticize them, and second of all, that they really deserve all those A's they have been getting despite their decidedly substandard work?"

  • "Hey Kids, Want Some Easy College Credits?": As reported by the Opinion Journal of the Wall Street Journal: "'Hey kids--want some easy college credits?' So asks, with appropriate sarcasm, Boise State University Prof. Peter Wollheim in the Feb. 2 [2005] Boise (Idaho) Weekly. Citing a grade-distribution report that filtered from BSU deans to faculty members, Mr. Wollheim recommends 'enrolling in courses that grant the highest percentages of A's, such as American Sign Language (53.4%)' or 'early childhood studies (56.3%) ... But your overall best bets, by far, are ensemble music (89.8%), radiology (61.3%) and military science (59.7%).' While some teachers are upset by what they call grade inflation, BSU Provost Sona Andrews is not so sure. 'If we do our jobs, correctly, more students actually should get A's,' Mr. Wollheim quotes her saying. 'This is really about making the students as successful as they can be.'"

  • Another Route to Grade Inflation by Tina Blue, August 10, 2003 " I try to maintain standards and to hold the line against grade inflation, I really do. ... What that means is that I can actually be caught marking C's on mediocre essays, even though I am all too uncomfortably aware that many of my colleagues would give the same papers B's or even A's. ... So I checked my final rosters against my grade book. I noticed one thing immediately: there at the end of the semester, my sections were awfully small. ... As I compared my final rosters with the grade book, however, I discovered who it was that had dropped my course. Almost every student who was getting a Cin the course, or in danger of getting a C, had dropped out. Even a few that looked as though they were likely to get B's had dropped the course. No wonder almost everyone who stayed through the entire course got either an Aor a B. Nearly all the Cstudents had abandoned ship."

  • Grade Inflation Rates among Different Ability Students, Controlling for Other Factors by Stephanie McSpirit, Ph.D., and Kirk E. Jones, Ph.D., Eastern Kentucky University, Education Policy Analysis Archives, September 20, 1999.

  • Grade inflation at Harvard:

    MORE: Also see the sections of this web site regarding

Colleges and Money

  • Book: Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much by Richard Vedder. Commentary on this book in the Wall Street Journal, December 13, 2007:
    "Ironically, these government handouts are creating the tuition problem. Tuition has risen about three percentage points faster than inflation every year for the past quarter-century. At the same time, the feds have put more and more money behind student loans and other financial aid. The government is slowly becoming a third-party tuition payer, with all the price distortions one would expect. Every time tuition rises, the government makes up the difference; colleges thus cheerfully raise tuition (and budgets), knowing the government will step in. As a result, 'colleges have little incentive to cut costs,' says economist Richard Vedder, the author of Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much. Mr. Vedder explains that there are now twice as many university administrators per student as there were in the 1970s. Faculty members are paid more to teach fewer hours, and colleges have turned their campuses into 'country clubs.' ...
    "Our financial-aid system also hurts middle-class applicants. Parents who have saved money for their child's tuition quickly find that, by the strange calculus of financial aid, they are charged more for college tuition than if they had blown their savings on a bigger house. Mr. Vedder wonders why universities should get to ask the income of their students before telling them how much they'll be charged. That sounds like price discrimination: If a car dealer tried to make you fill out the form students have to fill out for financial aid, he notes, 'you'd run to a consumer protection agency.'"

  • A Fortune in Tuition: Why Does College Cost So Darn Much? by Richard Vedder, National Review, October 11, 2004. "Rising tuition and enrollments have meant surging college revenues. Real per-student spending rose about 70 percent over the past 20 years. How have the universities used this extra money? Financial data provided to the federal government suggest that remarkably little of the higher spending has gone toward instruction: perhaps 21 cents for each new dollar per student since 1976. Teaching and learning are becoming almost secondary activities at some universities."

  • College Tuition Inflaters by Neal McCluskey, American Spectator, February 8, 2008.
    "There are many cost-driving excesses in higher education -- luxurious dorms, unused classroom space, growing bureaucracies, expensive academic journals, and the list goes on -- that are intermediate causes of the college cost problem. They are all, however, undergirded by a single reality: ...
         "The growth in federal student aid makes this clear. According to data from the College Board, real federal aid -- including grants, loans, and tax credits -- ballooned from $48.7 billion in the 1996-97 academic year to almost $86.3 billion in 2006-07, a 77 percent leap. On a per-pupil basis, aid per full-time equivalent student -- most of which came through Washington -- rose from $6,627 to $9,499, a 43 percent increase. Meanwhile, the per-pupil cost of tuition, fees, room and board rose 29 percent at private four-year schools, from $25,031 to $32,307, and 41 percent at public four-year institutions, from $9,657 to $13,589. In other words, college prices kept rising because aid made sure they could."

  • College Tuitions Rise While Endowments Simply Swell by Lynne Munson, USA Today, October 18, 2007. "Despite the needy profiles they project, colleges and universities are our nation's wealthiest institutions. The top 25 higher education endowments bank at least $11 billion more than their equivalently ranked private foundations. Today, at least 62 schools have endowments of more than $1 billion. ... 26 states boast institutions with billion dollar-plus endowments; one-third of those are at public institutions. ... For too long, the government response to skyrocketing tuition has been to increase the size and number of loans. But making it possible for students and parents to go further into debt only encourages endowment hoarding and runaway tuition. Now the Senate is considering at least one solution that might address the rising tuition problem. ... Most other non-profit foundations are required to pay out at least 5% every year. There is no reason that our colleges and universities cannot do the same to lower tuitions."

  • Book: Tuition Rising: Why College Costs So Much by Ronald G. Ehrenberg. The Library Journal says this book "examines the factors influencing the spiraling tuition costs of the past decade: the need to spend money to have the best facilities, faculties, and learning tools in order to attract the best and brightest students, the need to spend for athletics and other programs to keep alumni support strong, the self-governing nature of university faculty, and the increasing pressure to spend in order to increase ratings in external publications."

  • Meet the Pattersons by Newt Gingrich, August 28, 2006. "The price of a public four-year college education increased by more then 500% from 1981 to 2003. Five hundred percent! All other consumer prices rose by 140% in that same time period. ... The fact is, we now have a system in which colleges and universities aren't accountable for the high prices they charge, and so they have little incentive to keep costs down."

  • By "Higher Education," They Mean the Price by Burt Prelutsky, June 11, 2007. "Countless American families are mortgaging their homes and future solvency so that their kids can attend college. Frankly, I'm not certain just when it became so darn imperative for every 18-year-old to traipse off to some ivy-walled ivory tower. ... I have long-wondered why it costs so much dough to be a student in the humanities. After all, it's not as if novels and books of poetry are terribly pricey items. It's not as if they were cyclotrons or chemistry labs. ... I honestly feel sorry for all those dutiful and loving parents who feel they must hock the silverware in order to finance junior's liberal arts education. Guilt being as ingrained in some people as it is, I know that even if I started screaming from a rooftop that they'd all be better off if they gave the kids $10,000 and a library card my words would fall on deaf ears. ... Seriously, I have no idea why there isn't more of an outcry over this issue. Millions of Americans will go ballistic if the price of gasoline goes up 10 cents-a-gallon, but they barely make a peep over the fact that it can easily run them well over $100,000 to buy their kid a college degree."

  • Fat Cat Universities Don't Need Any More Money by Jason Mattera, January 4, 2007. "Colleges charge outrageous prices knowing that Washington always deflects cost. Consider that qualified students are eligible to receive $4,050 in Pell Grants per year and up to $23,000 per undergrad degree in Stafford Loans (the two main sources of federal student aid). That means there is at least $16,200 in Pell Grants and $23,000 in federal loans currently set aside to offset costs. That's a whole lot of green college administrators can play with -- $39,200 to be exact -- when calculating the sticker price. ... The government's 'helping hand' gives colleges a perverse market incentive to inflate costs. ... At least the extra aid goes toward instruction, right? Wrong! ... From 1977 to 2000 only twenty-one cents out of each increased dollar spent per student actually covered teaching."

  • $500,000 Common Pay For College Chiefs, Chicago Sun-Times, November 20, 2006. "Some 112 of the 853 public and private university presidents surveyed said they had pay and benefits packages of more than half a million dollars, according to an annual report being published today in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The jump was more prominent among public university presidents, rising from 23 last year to 42. The median pay package for those leaders is now $374,846. ... In the Chicago area, the University of Chicago's Don Randel earned $630,000 in total compensation, Northwestern's Henry Bienen earned $774,000, and the University of Illinois at Chicago's Sylvia Manning earned $345,000. The heads of Loyola and DePaul were unpaid."

  • If College Is a Good Investment, Why Should the Government Subsidize It? by Jacob Sullum, January 18, 2007. "Basic economic theory tells us that boosting the demand for a product or service, which is what government loans and grants effectively do, tends to raise its price. ... there is a good deal of evidence suggesting that federal financial assistance has the unintended consequence of increasing tuition for all students. ... One study found public and private four-year colleges increased net tuition (taking internal aid into account) by 68 cents and 60 cents, respectively, for each additional dollar in Pell Grants. Another study found private colleges raised net tuition by 72 cents for each additional dollar of federal loan aid. ... To the extent that rising subsidies since the 1970s have encouraged people to enter college who otherwise would not have, that is not necessarily a good thing. Citing low completion rates, [economist Richard] Vedder argues that 'we probably have over-invested in higher education,' attracting marginal students who never graduate."

  • Over Invested and Over Priced: American Higher Education Today (PDF), Center for Affordability and Productivity, November 19, 2007. "We are over invested in universities, ... too many students attend school, ... much of our invest- ment is wasted. Moreover, the rise in costs -- to society, to taxpayers, and especially to consumers -- is excessive, and has been made more so by well meaning but inappropriate public policies. The law of unintended consequences looms large in any discussion of America's colleges and universities."

  • Why Must College Be So Costly? by Chester E. Finn, Jr.

  • Uncle Sam's Tuition Bill: Breaking the culture of dependency on campus by Brendan Miniter, Wall Street Journal, July 26, 2005. Excerpts: "... The federal government has now become the co-signer on nearly every student loan, even paying the loan's interest while the student is in school, and guaranteeing to lenders at least 98% of their principal should the student default. ... This year the federal government will make more than $70 billion in financial aid available by guaranteeing loans, lending money directly to students, or handing out grants. ... Moreover, the pressure to keep upping the ante is unrelenting from Democrats and Republicans alike, who never tire as posing as the protectors of children against the scourge of rapacious tuition increases. Unfortunately, by footing these bills and turning higher education into an entitlement, Congress itself is primarily responsible for isolating academia from normal consumer pressure by shielding most students (and their parents) from the true cost of higher education. That's why schools can keep ratcheting up tuitions beyond what any middle class family can reasonably afford to pay--because they know taxpayers stand ready to take up the slack."

  • Making College More Expensive: The Unintended Consequences of Federal Tuition Aid by Gary Wolfram, Professor of Political Economy at Hillsdale College, January 25, 2005. "One result of the federal government's student financial aid programs is higher tuition costs at our nation's colleges and universities. Basic economic theory suggests that the increased demand for higher education generated by [reauthorization of the Higher Education Act] will have the effect of increasing tuitions."

  • Colleges Choking On Cash by Malcolm A. Kline, October 01, 2004. "Although the academic community continually cries poor, especially when, alternatively, raising tuitions or seeking government subsidies, some dissident professors point out that the Ivory Tower is not under- but over-funded."

    In New Twist on Tuition Game, Popularity Rises With the Price by Jonathan D. Glater and Alan Finder, New York Times, December 12, 2006, page A1. "John Strassburger, the president of Ursinus College, ... vividly remembers the day that the chairman of the board of trustees told him the college was losing applicants because of its tuition. It was too low. So early in 2000 the board voted to raise tuition and fees 17.6 percent, to $23,460 ... Then it waited to see what would happen. Ursinus received nearly 200 more applications than the year before. Within four years the size of the freshman class had risen 35 percent, to 454 students. Applicants had apparently concluded that if the college cost more, it must be better. 'It's bizarre and it's embarrassing, but it's probably true,' Dr. Strassburger said."

  • Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports Is Crippling Undergraduate Education by Murray Sperber. Book description from Publishers Weekly: "A stunning outline of the contemporary educational landscape, Sperber's book provides a stark analysis of academia's abandonment of its undergraduate students. Alluding to the ancient Roman practice of placating people with cheap bread and ostentatious spectacles, Sperber argues that an ever-growing number of state universities lure undergraduates to their schools with halcyon images of booze-filled parties and prominent sports programs while abandoning their commitment to the students' education. Administrators use the students' sorely needed tuition dollars to fund sports, build research facilities and hire world-class faculty members, who give the school prestige but scarcely give their legions of undergraduate charges the time of day."

  • Exacting Donors Reshape College Giving by Susan Kinzie, Washington Post, September 4, 2007. "Alumni now are far more likely to give to specific projects rather than the operating funds that keep universities running and to expect detailed reports on how the money is spent."

The College Experience Today

  • The Idea of a University by Roger Scruton, Smerican Spectator, September 2010.
    "In the university, according to [Cardinal John Henry] Newman, the pursuit of truth and the active discussion of its meaning are integrated into a wider culture, in which the ideal of the gentleman is acknowledged as the standard. The gentleman does not merely know things; he is receptive to the tone, the meaning, the lived reality of what he knows. ... The university of Newman's day was a place in which men (and it was then an institution for men only) lived for scholarship, and arranged their lives around the sacrifice that scholarship requires. ...
    "[Today's] middle-class father, preparing to meet tuition fees of $40,000 or more, and board and lodging on top of that, will naturally dwell on all the ways in which this represents a good investment. But when his daughter emerges three or four years later with a degree in Women's Studies, the main outward sign of which is a well-honed grievance against men in general and the last one in particular, he is likely to question the wisdom of throwing away a third of a million dollars on such an outcome. Finding that his daughter's ignorance of the classics is as great on leaving university as it was on entering it, that she has graduated from her teenage pop idols only to immerse herself in more 'advanced' forms of rock and heavy metal, and that her attitude to career, marriage, childbearing, and all the other things that he had hoped for her is entirely negative, such a father is sure to regret the use of his money. ...
    "The problem with that argument is that, outside the natural sciences and a few solid humanities like philosophy and Egyptology, academic freedom is a thing of the past. What is expected of the student in many courses in the humanities and social sciences is ideological conformity, rather than critical appraisal, and censorship has become accepted as a legitimate part of the academic way of life. 'No platform' policies, forbidding people of unorthodox or offensive views from addressing audiences on campus, or speech codes that condemn unorthodox statements as 'hate speech' are now widely accepted."

  • Beloit College Mindset List: Every year, Beloit College assembles observations that help to identify the experiences that have shaped the lives‹and formed the mindset‹of students starting their post-secondary education that fall. The Mindset List is not a chronological listing of things that happened in the year they were born. It is instead an effort to identify the worldview of 18 year-olds entering college.

  • The Myth of College by Dave Barry

  • Survival of the Fittest by John Merrow, New York Times, April 24, 2005. Here's the Fordham Foundation's description of this article:
        "The New York Times travels to State U and finds mega-sized classes, disengaged and anonymous students floating through their four (or increasingly four-and-a-half, or five, years of college), and an environment where books and studying have been replaced with beer bongs and "power hours" (a shot of beer every minute for an hour). The Times profiles five students and their experiences at the University of Arizona (one describes passing out on the floor of a vacant fraternity house--although he drinks four nights a week and never attends class, he has still made the dean's list). Professors and students exist in a kind of mutual non-aggression pact: professors offer light material and grade easily, and students don't kick up a fuss. Universities blame a culture of apathy, limited state funding, and poor secondary preparation by high schools. A few states want to stem the astonishingly high dropout rate at big public universities by tying funding to such measures as retention, but this could perversely incentivize colleges to lower standards even further. In the end, the spiraling cost of tuition--even at state schools--might be the only thing that sparks reform. Eventually, parents are going to wonder why a college that costs tens of thousands of dollars per year nets the proud graduate little but overstuffed lecture halls, a degree of questionable value, and a cirrhotic liver."

  • Advice to the Class of 2003 by Ross Douthat, a sophomore at Harvard, August 19, 1999. "Modern American collegiate life is a surreal experience, completely unlike either the high school years that precede it or the adult world for which it ostensibly offers preparation. It resembles a sociological experiment gone wildly awry, in which young people of both sexes are crammed together in small rooms, relieved of adult supervision, and told that this is, somehow, an academic experience. These 'students' inhabit a world of bizarre schedules, peculiar relationships, and frequent drinking, disturbed only by the occasional exam and the looming specter of a senior-year job search."

  • College Drinking: Changing the Culture - a government site that emphasizes informational presentations and making "choices".

  • This Is Their Brains on Drugs by Tina Blue, December 25, 2002. "Well, it's been another frustrating semester of trying to herd cats. ... in our discussions of why a lot of students seem less focused and in so many ways less competent and responsible than students we remember from, say, twenty years ago, we sometimes overlook a significant factor: the impact of heavy drug and alcohol use. Drinking is so widespread and so heavy among undergraduates these days that for partying purposes, many of them think of Thursday evening as the beginning of the weekend. When I walk into my classes on Friday morning, I can actually smell the beer so many of them were sucking down Thursday night. We know a lot of our students drink heavily on weekends, and that many do so even during the week. Why should we be surprised that so many of them can't make it to their morning classes, or that when they do, they can't stay awake."

  • Survival Message for College Students by Phyllis Schlafly, August 29, 2001. "Students starting college this fall need survival instructions to enable them to understand the jargon and prepare for the challenge of strange encounters. The prevailing environment on most college campuses is Political Correctness (P.C.) - in faculty bias, course content, visiting speakers, and organizations and events funded by student fees. Here are the principal tenets of the campus dogma known as Political Correctness ..."

  • "The campus environment can be a parent's worst nightmare"
    First, Do Harm: How Campus Therapists Sabotage Their Patients by Sally Satel, Weekly Standard, February 5, 2007. "According to a 2004 survey ... nearly half of all college students report having felt so depressed at school that they have had trouble functioning. ... nine percent of all students sought help at their college mental health center. ... [But one] psychiatrist who works in the mental health clinic of a large university ... argues that the culture on campus -- and in her profession -- is so steeped in political correctness that it hamstrings the ability of therapists to help college students. The doctor's frustration steams off every page: 'We ask about child abuse, but not last week's hook-ups,' she laments. 'We want to know how many cigarettes and coffees she's had each day, but not how many abortions in her past. We consider the stress caused by parental expectations and rising tuition, but neglect the anguish of herpes, the hazards of promiscuity, and the looming fertility issues for women who put their career first.' ... [She] does a graphic job of showing how the campus environment can be a parent's worst nightmare. ... In training workshops [she] would like to see less focus on sexual experimentation and social oppression in the counseling of young people and more consideration of meaning, hope, and purpose. 'Many would benefit from being less self-absorbed, not more,' she says."

  • Is Promiscuity Obligatory? By Mark Earley, January 10, 2006

  • Heretical Thoughts About Higher Education (PDF) by Thomas C. Reeves, Wisconsin Interest, 2004, Vol. 13 No. 1

  • The Killing of History: Why Relativism Is Wrong

  • See our page on gender issues for information and links regarding the growing gender imbalance in colleges.

  • Independent Women's Forum -- On Campus

  • Independent Women's Forum -- Special Reports

  • Are Colleges Training Rapists? by Judith Reisman, December 20, 2005

  • What's Up, Doc? The Prestige of Honorary Degrees Falls to Record Lows by Joseph Epstein, Weekly Standard, May 26, 2008. "A cultural historian may one day be able to measure the fall from seriousness of American universities by tracking the people to whom they chose to award honorary degrees. The first step in this descent I noted was the awarding of such degrees to television journalists ... From there these degrees went to movie stars and television comedians."

    Making the Most of College

  • College: More than Just a Four-Year Party by Jenna Ashley Robinson, June 22, 2009. "To take advantage of the opportunities that await you, you should have two goals in mind while in college. Yes, you should prepare yourself for future employment ... by getting good grades, working in your field, and learning specific skills for employment. But you should also strive to become an educated person, with an understanding of literature, history, and the sciences. College should fulfill your curiosity and satisfy your need for intellectual stimulation. Avoid the temptation to just 'get by' with easy A's in fluff courses. ... Here are a few guidelines to help you achieve both job and personal goals ..."

College For All?

  • What's Wrong With Vocational School? Too Many Americans Are Going To College by Charles Murray, Wall Street Journal, January 17, 2007.

  • The Costs of Failure Factories in American Higher Education by Mark Schneider, American Enterprise Institute, October 30, 2008. "American higher education absorbs a larger share of GDP than that of other countries, but it has not produced a particularly high proportion of college graduates. College graduation rates are actually worse than the very low benchmark of high school graduation rates ..."
    The bulk of the article provides extensive insight and analysis on college graduation rates.

  • Is it Fair to Call Them "Failure Factories"? A higher education leader has harsh words for many colleges by George Leef, The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, November 19, 2008. Excerpts:
         "It's surprising to learn that overall our colleges and universities have a lower graduation rate than our high schools do. About three-fourths of high school freshmen graduate, while barely more than half of college freshmen do. ...
         "Since the quality of students admitted at many schools is very poor, a low graduation rate is exactly what we should expect. ...
         "Many young Americans now only go to college to obtain their education credentials. ... employers are widely using the possession of a college degree merely as a rough screening device, a substitute for general aptitude testing (which federal statutes and court decisions have made legally perilous). ...
         "A startling fact about the labor market is the large number of people who have college degrees but are working at jobs that don't even remotely call for advanced academic preparation, such as airline flight attendant and aerobics instructor.
         "The problem with American higher education is not that too few students graduate, but rather than so many of weak ability are pressured into college in the first place. ... many guidance counselors push college attendance on almost every student, apparently fearing that they'll be seen as failures if they have a low rate of students enrolling in college.
         "We don't need to worry about our college graduation rates, but if they went up because fewer students who have little academic ability or interest enrolled, that would be good."

  • America's Most Overrated Product: Higher Education by Marty Nemko, Ph.D. "How much do college students actually learn? Colleges are quick to argue that a college education is more about enlightenment than employment. That may be the biggest deception of all. Often, there is a Grand Canyon of difference between the reality and what institutions of higher education, especially research-centric ones, tout in their viewbooks and websites. ... A 2006 study funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that 50 percent of college seniors failed a test that required them to do such basic tasks as interpret a table about exercise and blood pressure, understand the arguments of newspaper editorials, or compare credit card offers. Almost 20 percent of seniors had only basic quantitative skills. ... Unbelievably, ... things are getting even worse ... the percentage of college graduates deemed proficient in prose literacy has actually declined from 40 to 31 percent in the past decade."
         The remainder of this article offers very specific and juicy recommendations under the headings, "What must be done to improve undergraduate education?" and "What should parents and guardians of prospective students do?"

  • Is College Worth It? by Walter E. Williams, August 27, 2008 "As parents pack their youngsters off to college, they might ask themselves whether it's worth both the money they will spend and their children's time.
         "While colleges have strong financial motives to admit unsuccessful students, for failing students the experience can be devastating. They often leave with their families, or themselves, having piled up thousands of dollars in debt. There is possibly trauma and poor self-esteem for having failed, and perhaps embarrassment for their families. Dr. Nemko says that worst of all is that few of these former college students, having spent thousands of dollars, wind up in a job that required a college education. It's not uncommon to find them driving a taxi, working at a restaurant or department store, performing some other job that they could have had as a high school graduate or dropout."

  • The College Con by George Leef, September 07, 2006. "Won't most jobs in the future require a college degree, though? The answer is, again, no. Most of the work in the economy in the future will be the same as in the past, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The need for workers to do things like drive trucks, hang drywall, and prepare food will continue to grow. In fact, the BLS predicts that most of the work areas that will grow the most over the next decade are ones that only call for on-the-job training."

  • The Overselling of Higher Education (PDF) by George Leef, September 05, 2006

Choosing a College

  • Click for info on the SAT, on our page covering tests and assessments.

  • Before Sending Your Child to a College, Ask these Questions by Dennis Prager, March 4, 2008. "Why so many Americans go into debt paying so much money to such failed institutions is one of the riddles of the universe. It is time to demand that universities teach. Forcing them to answer the above seven questions is a good way to begin. Because granting a Bachelor of Arts degree on someone who never heard of Cain and Abel and never heard a Haydn symphony is a fraud."

  • Choosing a College by Thomas Sowell, September 16, 2004. "Colleges used to say that their job was to teach the student how to think, not what to think. Today, most colleges are in the business of teaching the student what to think or 'feel.' Many colleges -- even many of the most prestigious -- lack any real curriculum, but they seldom lack an ideological agenda. ... As for education, students can go through many colleges selecting courses cafeteria-style, and graduate in complete ignorance of history, science, economics, and many other subjects, even while clutching a costly diploma with a big name on it."

  • Choosing the Right College: The Whole Truth about America's Top Schools. This excellent book goes way beyond surface descriptions. If you're looking for a college that still offers a broad and substantive liberal arts education taught in an atmosphere of political openness, this is the book for you.

  • Asking the Right Questions in Choosing a College; A Guide for Students and Parents by Winfield J. C. Myers. Taking a campus tour? Prepare for your visit with insights that go beyond the admissions literature. Unlike most "college guides," this book goes into detail about the academic and social life to be found on each campus, the degree to which it is encouraged, discouraged or even possible to put together a solid liberal arts course of study, and the presence or absence of political bias among faculty and in the classrooms.

  • The Student's Guides to the Major Disciplines: Get an overview of fields of interest before choosing and starting a college! These small books are reader-friendly introductions to the most important fields of knowledge in the liberal arts. Each title (only about $6) offers an historical overview of the discipline, explains the central ideas of each subject, and evaluates the works of thinkers whose ideas have shaped our world. Titles include:
    • A Student's Guide to Liberal Learning
    • A Student's Guide to the Core Curriculum
    • A Student's Guide to Philosophy
    • A Student's Guide to Literature
    • A Student's Guide to Economics
    • A Student's Guide to Classics
    • A Student's Guide to the Study of History
    • A Student's Guide to U.S. History
    • A Student's Guide to Political Philosophy
    • A Student's Guide to Psychology
    These guides will aid students seeking to make better decisions about their course of study as well as general readers who wish to supplement their education.

    Online College Guides

  • U-CAN Network: Developed by an association of colleges and universities, this site provides topline details about colleges, with a unique added twist: many topics regarding academics, student life, the surrounding community, housing, sports and so on link directly to the appropriate pages on the college's own websites, sparing the reader from having to master the navigation quirks of each one.

  • Naviance: Use the "guest entrance" for extensive information about all U.S. colleges. Families at subscribing high schools can access additional juicy info such as acceptance and enrollment statistics and extremely useful scatterplots of acceptance rates broken out by test scores and GPAs.

Community College

  • Have you been Delphi'ed? The following community college districts in Illinois have used professional PR firm UNICOM-ARC for public relations efforts:
    • College of DuPage
    • Danville Area Community College
    • Highland Community College - Freeport
    • Kaskaskia College
    • Lake Land College - Mattoon
    • Morraine Valley Community College
    • Prairie State College
    • Richland Community College - Decatur
    • William A. Rainey Harper College (IL)
    To learn more about UNICOM-ARC, and how districts have been employing slick PR tactics, read these pages on our website:

Quotes on Colleges, Knowledge and Thinking

    From our extensive page on education quotations, here are the entries on colleges:

    "In 100 years we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to teaching Remedial English in college."
    -- Joseph Sobran

    "The college model is broken. It costs too much. It promises too much. It is content to let people graduate with a degree in grievance studies and a minor in ferret husbandry."
    -- James Lileks

    "Those who talk as if more people going to college is automatically a Good Thing seldom show much interest in what actually goes on at college -- including far less time spent by students studying than in the past, and a proliferation of courses promoting a sense of grievance, entitlement, or advanced navel-gazing and breast-beating.
    -- Thomas Sowell, Ph.D.

    "The problem at the moment is that college students know very little and don't know what they don't know. To ask an uneducated student to select a course of study is to suggest the blind should lead the blind."
    -- Herbert I. London, Ph.D., president, Hudson Institute

    "The sad fact is that because students are not college-ready, colleges are dumbing down their curriculums to be student-ready."
    -- Charles Ormsby, professor, Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Massachusetts Lowell.

    "Seriousness is stupidity sent to college."
    -- P. J. O'Rourke

    "No account of the present condition of college students would be complete without mention of the extraordinary dearth of factual knowledge they bring to college. Horror stories on this topic abound--and they are probably all true. ... Indeed, one can't assume that college students know anything anymore. ..."
    -- Daniel J. Singal, "The Other Crisis in American Education," Atlantic Monthly, November 1991

    "Alan Heimert, a veteran member of the Harvard English department, encounters the same mushy grasp of historical knowledge and blames it on the 'trendy social-studies curriculum' now taught in most high schools which covers broad thematic topics rather than history. 'They are aware that someone oppressed someone else,' he says with only slight exaggeration, 'but they aren't sure exactly what took place and they have no idea of the order in which it happened.'"
    -- Daniel J. Singal, "The Other Crisis in American Education," Atlantic Monthly, November 1991

    "Students headed for college used to get a solid grasp of both American and European history at the high school level. Now, as most people are aware, they pass through an array of social-studies courses designed to impress upon them the central values of the sixties, including concern for the natural environment, respect for people of different racial and ethnic groups, and women's rights. These values are important and should certainly be included in the curriculum. But teaching them in such a superficial manner, devoid of any historical context, simply doesn't work."
    -- Daniel J. Singal, "The Other Crisis in American Education," Atlantic Monthly, November 1991No matter how fascinating or valuable a new detail might be, a person finds it almost impossible to hold in memory and have available for retrieval unless it can be placed in some kind of larger context. Providing that basic intellectual scaffolding used to be a major function of a good high school education. Year-long survey courses in history and literature, covering the United States, Europe, and the world, were designed to ensure that college-bound students would have the necessary background to make sense of the new subject matter they would encounter in college. Yet few high schools today teach that kind of curriculum.No matter how fascinating or valuable a new detail might be, a person finds it almost impossible to hold in memory and have available for retrieval unless it can be placed in some kind of larger context. Providing that basic intellectual scaffolding used to be a major function of a good high school education. Year-long survey courses in history and literature, covering the United States, Europe, and the world, were designed to ensure that college-bound students would have the necessary background to make sense of the new subject matter they would encounter in college. Yet few high schools today teach that kind of curriculum.

    "During the past thirty years the ideal of the unity of learning, bequeathed to us by the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, has been largely abandoned. With rare exceptions American colleges and universities have dissolved their curricula into a slurry of minor disciplines and specialized courses. While the average number of undergraduate courses per institution has doubled, the percentage of mandatory courses in general education has dropped by more than half. Science was sequestered at the same time; as I write, only a third of colleges and universities require students to take at least one course in the natural sciences."
    -- Edward O. Wilson, Research Professor and Honorary Curator in Entomology at Harvard University, "Back From Chaos," The Atlantic Monthly, March 1998

    "Many [college professors] will candidly say that a high percentage of today's high school graduates are 'disengaged.' They read and write poorly and have no interest in challenging academic work. They are used to education that is easy and entertaining, and rebel against rigorous standards and criticism. The 'award winning' public schools that parents keep hearing about are in fact producing hordes of young people who may be very pleased with themselves, but are almost unteachable. Perhaps most Americans are satisfied with the public schools, but they shouldn't be."
    -- George C. Leef, director of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in Raleigh, NC

    "The language skills of people from elite institutions frequently are not what they should be for the types of degrees they've accumulated, ... The old emphasis on the basics has gotten lost in the shuffle."
    -- Thomas Duesterberg, chief executive of the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI, a business policy group in Arlington, Virginia

    "Far too many of today's college students have difficulty writing a simple declarative sentence let alone a coherent paragraph. ... In [the classes I teach] perhaps a third of the students can write decent prose. Another third can write sentences that can be understood with a little imagination on the part of the reader. However, a good third of the students write so poorly that it is difficult to understand what, if anything, they have on their minds."
    -- Dr. Mark H. Shapiro

    "I find the English language skills, reading ability and mathematics ability of most people who have gone to reputable schools to be atrocious. What's worse, they're ignorant about their ignorance."
    -- Edward Studzinski, a Chicago portfolio manager, in discussing his worries about the quality of college graduates taking the reins in corporate America

    "Many of our freshmen arrive at college, after 12 years of school (presumably in the 'college track'), knowing nothing of the pre-Plymouth past, including the Bible. All too frequently, they have not heard of Aristotle, Aquinas, Luther, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, Burke, or Marx. They often know nothing of the deterioration of Athens and Rome, of Czarist Russia and Weimar Germany, and next to nothing of the history of science, technology, industry, of capitalism and socialism, of fascism and Stalinism, of how we found ourselves in two world wars, or even in Vietnam. They have been asked to read very little and to reflect hardly at all. At 18 or 19, they are unarmed for public discourse, their great energy and idealism at the mercy of pop politics and the seven o'clock news."
    -- Paul Gagnon, professor, University of Massachusetts

    "Students learn almost nothing about civic matters while they are in college ... Our students neither enter nor exit their universities with a level of civic literacy that even approaches a satisfactory level."
    -- Josiah Bunting, chairman of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute's National Civic Literacy Board

    "The decline of our once-proud colleges and universities ... is the bitter fruit of our ever-more ineffective K-12 education." -- E. D. Hirsch, Jr.

    "... unless we fix the leaks in the K-12 education pipeline, no higher education policy can possibly improve minority opportunities to attend college."
    -- Jay P. Greene and Greg Forster, Wasington Post, Jan. 7, 2004

    "... American colleges are so incompetent and vicious that, in any really civilized country, they would be closed by the police... Everywhere they tend to become, not centers of enlightenment, but simply reservoirs of idiocy. ... The childish mumbo-jumbo that passes for technique among them scarcely goes beyond the capacities of a moron. To take a Ph.D. in education in most American seminaries, is an enterprise that requires no more real acumen or information than taking a degree in window dressing. ... Most pedagogues ... are simply dull persons who have found it easy to get along by dancing to whatever tune happens to be lined out. At this dancing they have trained themselves to swallow any imaginable fad or folly, and always with enthusiasm. The schools reek with this puerile nonsense. Their programs of study sound like the fantastic inventions of comedians gone insane. The teaching of the elements is abandoned for a dreadful mass of useless fol-de-rols... Or examine a dozen or so of the dissertations ... turned out by candidates for the doctorate at any eminent penitentiary for pedagogues, say Teachers College, Columbia. What you will find is a state of mind that will shock you. It is so feeble that it is scarcely a state of mind at all."
    -- H. L. Mencken (quoted from "The War on Intelligence," December 31, 1928, published in "A Second Mencken Chrestomathy," Vintage, 1994)

    "One of the effects of the rapid spread of higher education has been to equip people to criticise and question almost everything. Some of them seem to have stopped there instead of going on to the next stage which is to arrive at new beliefs or to reaffirm old ones."
    -- Margaret Thatcher, October 11, 1968

    "Apparently, your brain doesn't work out all of its kinks until you're around 25 -- a fact that seems to have eluded everyone in history except our Founding Fathers and the people who run car-rental companies."
    -- Jonah Goldberg, "U. Topia", National Review, October 18, 2010

    "Universities cherish diversity in everything except where it counts most: ideas."
    -- David Rubinstein, professor of sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago

    "Yes, the lectures are optional. Graduation is also optional."
    -- Prof. Brian Quinn



    Also see our full page on education quotations.

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