Thursday, August 26, 2010

UC Berkeley gets an 'F' in general education

This article caught my eye.

Group co-founded by Lynne Cheney gives UC Berkeley an 'F' in general education

Just as the vaunted U.S. News and World Report rated UC Berkeley as the nation's top public university last week, a less-noticed ranking system from the conservative American Council of Trustees and Alumni gave UC Berkeley an "F" because it only requires students to take one out of seven core subjects as defined by the study.

Here's a little information about ACTA:

ACTA was co-founded by Lynne Cheney and former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm in 1995. (UPDATE: Cheney has since left the group.) Cheney had criticized professors for using humanities classrooms to advance what she saw as their left-wing political agendas, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education profile [PDF] of ACTA's president, Anne Neal.

The nonprofit, based in Washington, D.C., has itself criticized academia for graduating students with only a "thin and patchy education, with enormous gaps of knowledge in fields such as history, economics and literature," according to one of ACTA's publications, "The Hollow Core."

The organization takes aim at "distribution requirements" on most campuses, which allow students to pick from a wide range of courses to fill subject-area requirements. "Our colleges and universities have largely abandoned a coherent, content-rich general education curriculum … The general education curriculum has become anything goes," the website says.

I think they have a good point. It seems more and more these days that college graduates are basically ignorant on topics many high school graduates mastered a few generations ago.

By the way, my alma mater (Utah State) and Henry's (San Jose State) both got B's. [I took all the core classes, even if they weren't required. I admit that my literature class was a bit wishy-washy though.]

Quite a few colleges in California ended up on the F list.

UC Berkley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz


Jean said...

I got my MLIS at SJSU! Hi Henry. :) But I went to Cal for my undergrad. I was a comp lit major, and had to take 2 science classes, a "breadth requirement" (school code for 'PC class'), American history, and math to a trig. level for my GE classes. Of course that was a while ago, and of course I did have several professors who were vehement Marxists and whatnot. (I confess that we laughed at the Marxist.) I also had some truly amazing and inspiring professors.

I guess I don't know if the GE was inadequate or not. I was so under-prepared for college at all that a lot went over my head; I have felt very cheated by my high school education. Thus the classical homeschooling for my kids!

abba12 said...

I actually disagree with this, to me high school and before is the time for a 'general' education. You should learn your history and literature and ecconomics by this point. This is the compulsory school time. Then, you choose to go on and specialize in an academic field, or take one of many alternative career paths.

I don't buy into the idea that everyone must attend college, that college is considered the same as years 11 and 12 were just a decade or so back, technically 'optional' but very frowned upon if you didn't do it. To me college is where you go for training and learning specific to a certain subject or possible career path, an alternative to apprentiship, trade school or simply 'working your way up', which is more suited to more intelectual career paths. Theres only so far a general education can go, eventually you have to focus in on something. What does advanced theoretical math have to do with my attempt to get a degree in literature or archeology, and why do I have to pay a thousand dollars to take it. I have learnt the math I need in life, and more, in high school (or should have). Or on the other hand, what does american history have to do with my bioengineering degree. I should already have a decent broad education in the topic, and college level study will have no use in my life.

Of course, this works off the idea that highschool actually gives a good grounding for life with a general education, which dosen't happen, but I think we should be fixing the school system, not making the colleges do the work for them.

Saying that colleges need to teach a general education past what high schools do or they are failing, is like saying anyone who dosen't attend college has an inadequate education, and I don't believe that is the case, I believe the choice to attend college should be made on the basis of the career path you want to follow, not because everyone else is going or you will be looked upon as unintelligent if you don't go.

Henry Cate said...

I'll make the claim that our general education should never end. We should all be life long learners.

Abba12 - I wonder if there is room for both. For those who want to get in, get a education for a particular career, and get out, we ought to have a track for them. For those who want to expand their general education, we ought to have a track for them.

Currently universities in America only seem to favor the second approach.