Writing Off Reading by Michael Skube
- 'In our better private universities and flagship state schools today, it's hard to find a student who graduated from high school with much lower than a 3.5 GPA, and not uncommon to find students whose GPAs were 4.0 or higher. They somehow got these suspect grades without having read much. Or if they did read, they've given it up. And it shows -- in their writing and even in their conversation.
A few years ago, I began keeping a list of everyday words that may as well have been potholes in exchanges with college students. It began with a fellow who was two months away from graduating from a well-respected Midwestern university.
"And what was the impetus for that?" I asked as he finished a presentation.
At the word "impetus" his head snapped sideways, as if by reflex. "The what?" he asked.
"The impetus. What gave rise to it? What prompted it?"'
I wouldn't have guessed that impetus was a 25-cent word. But I also wouldn't have guessed that "ramshackle" and "lucid" were exactly recondite, either. I've had to explain both.
Here's some more words that made Professor Skube's list of words college students no longer understand: Advocate, Derelict, Satire, Pith, Brevity,and Novel.
I'll admit that I didn't really know the definition of the word "pith" either, but I easily recognized the rest. These vocabulary challenged students acquire college degrees without actually getting a college level education. The same is true for today's high school graduates. Giving a student a piece of paper that says he has a college degree or high school diploma doesn't magically transfer the knowledge that that piece of paper used to represent. It doesn't make her successful. It merely perpetuates a fraud.
- "What we're graduating from our high schools isn't college material. Sometimes it isn't even good high school material."
So why are we spending so much effort to make it look like students have an education when they, in fact, do not? I propose that one motive is that it makes people feel better. It is easier to give students grades and diplomas that they didn't earn than to admit some students will fail no matter what, the government school system is grossly ineffective, or that many students are just not college material.
Related Tags: education, college, literacy, dumbing down