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article imageOp-Ed: New book signals immediate need for better teaching at colleges

By Calvin Wolf     Sep 5, 2014 in Politics
A new book has provided a scathing critique of higher education in the United States, asserting that many college students learn very little during their undergraduate years. Perhaps it's time to change from "publish or perish" to, you know, TEACHING...
I've got a bone to pick with higher education. As a high school teacher, I live under the thumb of the state, which insists that K-12 educators be perfect all the time. We must have lesson plans ready weeks in advance, cataloged with the proper administrators in triplicate, ensure that our classrooms are properly outfitted with all resources and technology, hit high levels of academic rigor, yet also be nice, kind, encouraging, and ensure that all students pass with flying colors. We must maintain good classroom management yet not punish anyone. We must be uniform yet unique, thorough yet spontaneous, and rigid yet flexible.
But, mere months after enjoying the spring semester of their senior years in high school, protected by the umbrella of youth and exemplary teaching, many 18-year-olds arrive at college to find a much different world. And, according to CBS News, a new book by researchers is proclaiming it to be a world strangely devoid of higher education. Sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia allege that many college graduates have learned very little, if anything, during their traditional four years of undergraduate education.
Perhaps most alarming is that less than half (only 47 percent) of these recent college graduates who are still in the labor market have full-time jobs that pay more than $30,000 per year.
Arum and Roksa claim that colleges are failing young people by coddling them and focusing more on comfort and entertainment than academic rigor and skill-building, churning out droves of graduates who do not appeal to performance-minded employers. Too many of today's college grads, these authors opine, lack real-world skills and have little improvement in critical thinking ability compared to when they were college freshmen.
Worryingly, the most successful college grads appear to be individuals who were highly skilled and motivated going into college than individuals who learned skills and discipline while on campus.
What we must do is make colleges places of teaching and learning rather than institutions focused on publish-or-perish. Too many colleges and universities focus more on research than teaching, allowing graduate students, lecturers, and professors to do a mediocre job in the classroom. As a high school teacher, it amazes me how bad at teaching some college instructors seem to be. A family member who is currently attending a local college regales me with stories of instructors who are rude, poorly prepared, issue tests full of material never covered in class, and provide instruction riddled with confusion.
Frankly, that would not fly in a high school. Why do we let it fly in a college, where instruction is supposed to be at a higher level? We need to make sure college-level teachers know how to, you know, teach. While many, if not most, college instructors, lectures, and professors are exemplary and need no improvement to their instruction, we should insist that college faculty have instruction on effective teaching methods.
Perhaps college faculty should have to receive state teaching certification like K-12 teachers? It would cause grumbles, but could vastly improve the quality of college graduates.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Higher education, Teacher, College, University, apathy
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