By DOUGLAS BELKIN
Updated Jan. 16, 2015
Four in 10 U.S. college students graduate without the complex reasoning skills to manage white-collar work, according to the results of a test of nearly 32,000 students.
The test, which was administered at 169 colleges and universities in 2013 and 2014 and released Thursday, reveals broad variation in the intellectual development of the nation’s students depending on the type and even location of the school they attend.
On average, students make strides in their ability to reason, but because so many start at such a deficit, many still graduate without the ability to read a scatterplot, construct a cohesive argument or identify a logical fallacy.
Click here to read the full article at The Wall Street Journal
Curated from www.wsj.com
The article focuses on students’ progress as a result of their higher education, but no mention is made of the underlying causes, which it must be said here, are not rooted in the students themselves or the education they receive in college.
What I found lacking was any discussion of what causes we can attribute to these reasoning skills deficits or to what we attribute their acquisition in students who, otherwise, have no learning disorders. So, when we look at the following quote from the article:
The 40% of students tested who didn’t meet a standard deemed “proficient” were unable to distinguish the quality of evidence in building an argument or express the appropriate level of conviction in their conclusion.
What are the parts of learning required for proficiency? First and foremost, the predominant skill has to be reading and comprehension. Then, once that skill is mastered, writing and logic are the next two skills needed in order to be proficient at college level. But ask any community college or university professor who teaches first and second year students, and they will tell you that a very large number of students enter college without the requisite reading and writing skills. Many will also tell you that they spend a portion of the start of the semester to review material that should have been learned and mastered anywhere from 4th to 12th grade, in order to be assured that their students will successfully learn the curriculum in their class.
It would seem to me that the CLA+ results are indicative of long-term deficits caused by poorly designed primary, middle, and secondary education curriculum and what has been missing from it, rather than what post-secondary education adds.
Critical thinking is developed and honed throughout childhood and the teen years through the education, by way of interaction, enrichment activities that children receive at home, the community, and in school. It is a skill that should be well-developed by the time college is started. College should enhance it. It should take it several levels up. The expectation shouldn’t be that college is where critical thinking is finally addressed.
From my vantage point as the personal aide to a college student, the results of the CLA+ are consistent with what I’ve been observing since I started attending classes in 2011.
It is my hope that, rather than focusing solely on why students in the West are doing better in college, though it is important to compare what they require, a very close look will be taken at all the public school systems and what is different about how they prepare their students for college.