Not-so-literate College Students
This is a "reforming education" post, not so much a gifted post, but I thought it was still an interesting topic.
The American Institutes for Research released a study last week on the skills of soon-to-be college graduates. They weren't too encouraging. I'm always suspicious of tests sprung on adults (those Jay Leno man-on-the-street interviews come to mind. Hey, sometimes we're busy with work and don't have time to follow current events!). But this study, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, asked simple skill questions. Can students who are about to finish their degree programs understand a table about exercise and blood pressure, compare offers from credit card companies with different rates, and understand the arguments in a newspaper editorial? According to articles about the results, more than 50% of students at four-year colleges and 75% of students at two-year colleges could not perform these tasks.
Again, another study showing Americans are dumb. So what?
The reason we should care about this one is that the skills tested closely track skills that have long been bandied about as the point of free, compulsory public education. These students experienced such education for the full 13 years before they went on to institutions of higher learning. For the bulk of students, education should:
1. Give the student the skills necessary to hold employment to provide for his/her family and take care of his/her family and
2. Teach the student the skills necessary to participate in civic life.
If you can't understand interest rates, you'll have a hard time climbing beyond paycheck to paycheck living. If you can't read charts, the bulk of data-oriented jobs are off-limits to you. If you can't understand a table linking increased exercise with lower blood pressure, you'll have a hard time figuring out what works to safeguard your family's health. And if you can't understand arguments in an editorial, how will you understand the different arguments political candidates make, or lawyers make in trial when you serve on jury duty?
The question always raised in homeschooling cases is whether families can guarantee that they will teach their children the same skills that public education provides. If I were trying to launch a case, I'd clip this article. It seems the bar is pretty low.