Monday, January 24, 2011

How come college grads aren't smarter?

You'd think it's axiomatic that a college education mandates training in critical thinking, but in my experience it doesn't. Many people treat college as a meal ticket, getting the training they need for a particular line of work, and taking as little as possible in anything else (those pesky general education requirements), with such courses generally teaching sets of facts.

Of course many people get a liberal arts education not as a meal ticket to a specific profession but as what they imagine to be a general education. However, such people often show a general disdain for science, preferring things with lots of affect--emotional content, in other words--and the amassing of factual knowledge, which only requires storage, as opposed to things that require processing.

My long experience with liberal arts college graduates (not to mention those who never matriculated) is that they're generally deficient in critical thinking training.

I'd also cite the fact that academic tenure can lead to situational narcissism, which can lead to professors indoctrinating students rather than actually teaching them--and to not supporting a general, mandated curriculum that fosters critical thinking, preferring to simply try to get more for their department.

I'd also criticize science faculties for disdaining their own general ed "survey" courses--that is, for only caring about majors in their field and professors who are leaders in their field (i.e. "published") instead of valuing and hiring teachers who are good at instruction in general and at communicating the critical elements of their field to nonmajors in particular.

So everyone unconsciously conspires to dump generation after generation of liberal arts BAs who can't actually think out onto the world.

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