Thinking across Cultures

By Donald M. Topping; Doris C. Crowell et al. | Go to book overview

36
Guided Design: Critical Thinking and Proficiency in the University Foreign language Classroom

Christine M. Campbell The Defense Language Institute of the United States Government

This is a time of fundamental curricular change within American colleges, universities, and centers of higher education. Hartle ( 1986), a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington, DC, affirms in The Growing Interest in Measuring the Educational Achievement of College Students: "After two decades of focusing on issues of equal opportunity and student access, the emphasis is increasingly on educational quality and the intellectual skills of students" (p. 1). The article appears in Assessment in American Higher Education ( Adelman, 1986), the germinal volume published by the U.S. Office of Educational Research and Improvement on the question of academic accountability for students, faculty members, and institutions. As Secretary of Education Bennett states in the foreword to the volume: "There is wide agreement that the quality of undergraduate liberal arts education at a number of colleges and universities is not what it should be" (p. i). He continues: "We have all heard reports that many of our graduates do not possess the knowledge, skills, or, in some cases, the civic virtues of a well-educated person" (p. i).

Evidence of mediocrity in performance at both the college and the high school levels is not lacking in the professional literature. According to A Nation at Risk ( 1983), 13% of all 17-year-olds and 40% of all minority youth are illiterate. It points out that there has been a consistent decline in SAT scores from 1963 to 1980 and that many 17-year-olds do not demonstrate "higher order" intellectual skills: 40% cannot draw inferences from written material; only 20% can write a persuasive essay; only 33% can solve a mathematics problem which involves several steps. The conclusion is alarming: "(The) average graduate of our schools and colleges today is not as well- educated as the average graduate of 25 or 35 years ago, when a much smaller

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