I was impressed with the scope of the information provided by the sites I visited: Improve your SAT/ACT! Write the perfect admissions essay! Choose the best-fitting college! What to do if you’re wait-listed! Navigate student loans! How to survive residence life! Going through the massive amount of information and range of services that are available, I was struck that the one area, perhaps the most important area, that is not covered is the academic side of getting ready for college. Once you get in, figure out how to pay for it, and move in, you have to go to class, get the grades and graduate.
It’s frustrating to me as a teacher that students (and their parents) spend so much time and money on getting into college, not trusting the high schools to help them in this area and yet trust that these same institutions are teaching the kids what they need to do or know in order to succeed academically outside of high school. The kids may have been over-achievers as high school students, passed all the appropriate state assessments, but we (in higher ed) know that that does not guarantee that the student is prepared for college. As an example, 2/3 of students in the California State system need to take remedial classes. And these are students who are graduating with at least a “B” average from high school (the minimum requirement to get into Cal State). With budget cuts, the Cal State System has ordered the end of remediation. So what is a student to do in order to succeed in college?
I’ve discovered a fascinating new blog through Psychology Today called, Freedom To Learn, and it looks like learning from the perspective of a developmental psychologist, Dr. David Gray. Recently, the post was on what he perceives as “The Seven Sins of Our Forced Education.” Two of the seven sins really spoke to me, sin five: Linking of Learning with Fear, Loathing, and Drudgery, and sin six, Inhibition of Critical Thinking.
I was searching on the NY Times website for the article I mentioned in my previous post and I was presented with two (paid) links that advertised assistance in writing your papers (actually, it was the word assignment that flagged it; note to self, ignore advice to stop tweaking your site and add something about assignments). Being curious about my competition and how they sell themselves, I clicked on both their sites. They are actually sites that write a student’s paper, essay, thesis, dissertation, MBA project, etc FOR THEM. That’s right. For a price, you could have your dissertation written for you.
At first, I was really, really depressed. Why should they pay me, when for less, they can have someone else write their papers for them? But then I found a few good reasons right on their sites.
Really? Apparently the definition of cheating is different in the U.K. It’s not, but really, it’s a bit of moral and ethical acrobatics in order to make you feel better for slacking off and, yes, cheating.
Reason two, “The Hassle of University Papers,” according to one paper mill’s website:
“Putting in time and effort to get a good university level essay, thesis, dissertation or Term Paper done is a difficult especially when the assignment is difficult. A sound university essay, thesis, dissertation or Term Paper needs effort, devotion and an idea as well as meticulous knowledge of the subject.
“University essay, thesis, dissertation or Term Paper is an area of expertise and this website modestly helps students globally with their university essay, thesis, dissertation or Term Papers. There are many websites out there that can provide you with the best written university essay, thesis, dissertation or Term Paper that would totally comply with your specifications and help you advance. Students who cannot take out time or carry out researchers will be delighted to use our services that provide only the best university essay, thesis, dissertation or Term Papers for them at an affordable price.”
This ties into reason three: Why are you even here? Seriously, the entire point of higher education is education. Learning. The good is hard. If your education is worth it to you, then you will be willing to work hard and do what is necessary for the greater good of your career or educational goals. No, it’s not easy, but you can take the easy way out or you can use your resources to find a way to do the best that you can, not the best that some stranger can do for you in two hours (or less!). Give someone a fish; teach them to fish. Do you want to learn to fish? Or do you just want to eat?
Both the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed featured articles discussing the findings of the the latest Survey of Entering Student Engagement (SENSE). The study focuses exclusively on the experience of first-time community college students after three weeks. This is apparently a magical number in community college student retention. All of the recommendations (there are six in all) make a lot of sense: fostering “college readiness” programs for high-school students, connecting early with students, encouraging faculty and staff members to have high expectations for students, providing a clear academic path, engaging students in the learning process, and maintaining an academic and social-support network. I don’t so much have a problem with the recommendations themselves, but why we even need some of these recommendations.
Or, an Edupunk? Can I be both?
The New York Times recently reported here that despite all of the effort, reading scores have stayed stagnant. In other words, we’re not better readers at any level, K-12. It shouldn’t be that surprising, as the teachers we are graduating from our universities don’t actually know how to teach those children how to read.
There has been a depressing (and informative) series of articles posted on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Website, The Academic Bait-and-Switch. Don’t read them if you want to maintain the belief that the people teaching at universities are, well, great teachers. Today’s, Part 7, deals with the author reflecting on the question as to if he even belonged in a PhD program, or if he belongs in academia. The answer: yes, as he did get the tenure-track job and so is a success. But his vision of those in the PhD program with him, and those who often do go on to be successful is disheartening.