Tuesday, September 3, 2013

College is a Joke

Cartoon by BALOO

To be frank, it is. Or at least it certainly can be. Even in my day, forty-odd years back, colleges were starting to water things down so as not to flunk everybody out, to make it possible for just about anybody to get through four years without really learning anything much. It's not that education isn't going on, it's that a lot of non-education is going on.

Seriously, it comes down to standards.  There aren't any standards any more, and this is because of the theory that everybody should go to college. And graduate. Logically, that means you can't really have any standards, because then you can't have "everybody," right?

Well, Fred Reed is about my age, but he seems to have gone to a more rigorous college than I did. If I'd gone to his school, I'd have either flunked out or learned something.  As it is, I had to learn stuff other ways.

How We Were

Before Night Fell

August 25, 2013

In 1964 Hampden-Sydney College, in Southside Virginia, was fairly typical of American schools and particularly of the small, good Southern schools of the region: Randolph-Macon College for men in Ashland, co-ed William and Mary in Williamsburg, and Randolph-Macon Women´s College in Lynchburg among others.

H-S, as we called it, was entirely male, both as to students and professors. This had the great advantage that we could concentrate on the job at hand, as for example learning things, instead of pondering the young lovely at the next desk. These latter were available at Longwood State Teachers College (now of course Longwood University), seven miles away.

Hampden-Sydney was not MIT. Average SATs were perhaps 1150 if memory serves. The students were chiefly drawn from the small and pleasant towns of rural Virginia, and would go on to become doctors, attorneys, and businessmen. Yet H-S embodied (and may still) a, by today´s standards, a remarkable philosophy of education, and showed that reasonably but not appallingly bright young can be educated. So did most colleges.

It was then believed that higher education was for the intelligent and the prepared, for no more than the upper twenty percent, perhaps fifteen ore even ten percent of graduates of high school.
At Hampden-Sydney, “Prepared” meant “prepared.” It was assumed that students could read perfectly and knew algebra cold. There were no remedial courses. The idea would have been thought ridiculaous if anyone had thought it at all. If you needed remediation, you belonged somewhere else. Colleges were not holding tanks for the mildly retarded.

The purpose of a college, it was then thought was to turn college boys—we were then called “college boys” and “college girls”—into educated young adults. Part of this meant that we should act like adults, which meant as ladies and gentlemen. This concept, currently regarded as odd and even inauthentic, meant deploying good manners when appropriate, not dressing like the contents of an industrial dumpster, and avoiding in mixed company the constant use of sexual reference in words of few letters.

Hampden-Sydney then provided a liberal education, which is simply to say an education, everything else being vocational training. A belief seldom stated but firmly held was that if you didn´t have a reasonable familiarity with literature, history, the arts and sciences and the like, you belonged to a lower order of existence. College should provide the familiarity. The faculty believed that teenagers, which most of us were, didn´t know enough to decide in what education consisted, or what we needed to learn, so there were a great many required courses. These varied between BA and BS programs,  but, for example, a student majoring in history took two years each of two languages, one of them ancient (Latin or Greek), surveys of philosophy, art, a math course, and two of the sciences.
The latter were not Football Physics or Chemistry for Cretins. They were the same courses the science majors took.

The students were then all white and so could be graded on their academic performance.  Rigor was considerable. I can still read French after two years with Dr. Albert Leduc who, judging by the workload he imposed, we suspected of being a sadist who spent his spare time pulling the wings from flies. Freshman chemistry amounted to P-chem lite, heavy on quantum theory and endless, endless, endless solution of laboratory problems of the sort encountered in the real world. It was hard. A remedial student would not have lasted thirty seconds.

Such was schooling in 1964. Then came the Sixties, which actually started in mid-decade and didn´t have their full effect for some time. But everything changed. (It sure did.  Read the rest HERE.)

1 comment:

  1. Eager Young LiberalSeptember 3, 2013 at 4:00 PM

    Prove there are no standards. All of your posts about education only give a romanticized version of "how things used to be" and paint all college students as morons. If that was the case there would be no advancements period.