Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

Whom Do I Blame?

Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

Whom Do I Blame?

Article excerpt

No kidding, I mean it. Whom do I blame? I teach upper-division and graduate courses, and I am constantly confronted with students who cannot spell, who do not or will not read, and whose math skills are simply appalling. I spend a whole lot of time trying to get these kids up to a reasonable level of literacy. I should be teaching content, but, oh no, I just try to get past sentence fragments.

I think the problem is that our raw material, the student body, is not as good as it used to be. I teach a freshman-orientation seminar each fall, and these are some very bright kids, but their abilities to focus and concentrate are as poor as their basic skills. They really have no idea of how to be a student. After thirteen years of the K--12 experience, why are these kids so poorly prepared for advanced study?

By gosh, I think I may have just answered the question. What the heck is going on in K--12 anyhow? When I talk to my grandchildren, I am disappointed with how little they know for their respective levels of education. They seem to think that education involves sitting around and listening to a teacher who wants to be their friend.

Maybe that is another part of the problem. The parents might be able to get the kids to study, but to be fair to the parents the assignments are given by the classroom teacher. If the impetus does not come from the classroom, the parents have little ability to guide the kid through additional studies. And if they do make the kid do extra work and learn more, the poor kid is regarded as a geek by the other kids.

And lest we forget, there is now evidence to indicate that too much television at an early age is detrimental to a child's learning ability. Could someone please tell me why this is a surprise? Put kids in front of a television and then praise them when they learn the ABCs through a song and dance, and they expect to have a song and dance to learn everything.

To be perfectly fair, I must admit some complicity on the part of the college faculty, but it arises out of a concern for self-preservation. The whole business of student evaluations has gotten way out of hand. We are now to the point where the undereducated are rating the underpaid, and these ratings carry significance for salaries, promotion, and tenure. Only the most senior professors who are well tenured and bulletproof can even dare to teach a rigorous course. …

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