Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Degree Mills

"Do you want an exciting career in the field of medical transcriptioning?"

"Do you want to be on the cutting edge of criminal justice?"

"How about an exciting career in travel and hospitality?"

"Then School XYZ is the school for you!"

"Earn your degree in just 16 months and you'll be on your way to a better you!"

This is the typical commercial for the typical 2 year college you will see during daytime TV. And the reason you see it during day time TV is because the target audience is not you nor me, but basically the welfare bum deadbeats who don't have a job and are looking for a way out of their miserable lives.

Now understand we are smart enough to know such a thing sounds like a scam. But to the average deadbeat watching her soaps or the typical loser turning off the video games long enough to watch TV instead so he can eat, this actually sounds like a feasible opportunity and thus 2 year colleges are born.

But allow me to tell you a couple stories about my days teaching at some of these institutions of "higher learning" so that;

1. You know never to go there.
2. You can tell some of your less fortunate friends never to go there
3. These schools may go bankrupt.

So pour yourself a martini, find a comfy chair, kick back and relax as I regale you with my tales of teaching in 2 year colleges.

I first started teaching at this "business" school where the "campus" was a rented out, brown, 1970's style office building located in the inner suburbs of St. Paul/Minneapolis. The school didn't even rent out the entire building, but let that be a lesson to you kids, highly ranked schools lease out their HQ in suburbanite strip malls.

I intuitively knew this wasn't going to be Harvard, but it was a nice part time job and I got to teach my passion; economics - so I didn't much care.

However troubles immediately started to occur.

The first sign of trouble came when I issued the first quiz, of which 85% of the students failed. It wasn't an issue of the quiz being difficult or hard. It wasn't an issue of me being a mean teacher. The quiz was of an average difficulty and any student paying attention would have passed it. However, upon grading the quizzes I realized just what a low caliber of students I was dealing with and made the egregious error of deciding not to LOWER the standards to them, but to have them RISE to my standards and thereby teach them something.

Complaints flooded into my boss about the test being too difficult, they didn't have enough time to study, "by god I have two children and can't study this much" etc. etc. And sure enough, at the age of 27, I was called into the office.

My boss explained to me that we are here to challenge the students, but not too much. That my test was unfair and I should consider tailoring it more to their skill level. Of course with hindsight I now see what the charlatan of a dean was telling me; "Dumb it down because we're fleecing these kids for their money for a worthless degree and if you rock the boat we'll lose some of them." But he couldn't come outright and say that, ergo why he was feeding me a line of bull.

The next quiz I dumbed down, and this time a whopping 30% of the students passed. Naturally there was the same cacophony of complaints which resulted me landing in the dean's office once again. This process continued until I had more or less realized that not only were the students dead set against learning or trying to feign some semblance of being a scholar as well as the complete lack of back up from management to hold some level of standards to these kids. And so, choosing the path of least resistance, I decided I would not only make the quizzes and tests insanely easier, but skew the grading curve so greatly it would put affirmative action to shame.

To avoid any more criticism that I didn't test the students on what we studied I made them make their own "study guide" for the tests. This consistent of each student writing a multiple choice question on a piece of paper, me taking all those questions and photocopying them into a guide for each student. We would review the questions and the correct answers, and then I would take the EXACT SAME PHOTOCOPIED questions, photocopy them again, insert 4-5 questions of my own and then give it back to the students as the official test.

Even then, with no more than 4-5 question of my own to give those who deserved an A and A, I would still get students to flunk the test. So idiotic and genuinely stupid, or perhaps galactically lazy, were these students, they couldn't pass a test where they had the answers the day before.

Regardless, the majority of the students did pass, but with less than 40% of them earning A's.

Of course the concept of "earning" A's was a joke. Only 2-3 students per class really "earned" an A. But the grading curve was so skewed (at the request of the dean to make sure everybody passed) that the math more or less bumped people who would have really earned a C into the A+ category.

This behooved on my part true pity for the few students I did have that did indeed earn A's. They would study hard and effectively waste their time because all they would have to do is the bare minimum to pass and still get an A.

However, insisting on some kind of level of integrity, if I had to bump some degenerate loser's 12% score to the 70% necessary to pass, then I would bump everybody's score up by 58%. Not to mention the never ending requests from students to do some kind of "extra credit" to pass, I would have to present the same opportunity to every student, of which of course the straight A students would avail themselves of and earn even more unnecessary points. This resulted in some very interesting final scores.

Of the possible 100 points you could have earned in the class the top student had a final score of 170.

She had busted he ass off to earn nearly twice the amount of points she needed simply because that was the work/study ethic she had. The runner up had 150%. I insisted that neither of them study much for the next class I taught which was statistics and instead enjoy their next semester.

Tests and quizzes were just one problem I ran into in the schools. The second one was papers.

Foolish and idealistic, I thought it would be a great idea to have the students write an economics report on a country of their choosing to test their economic and analytical ability. Each student was to pick a country of their choosing and then write a FIVE PAGE DOUBLE SPACED PAPER on that country. This was no Herculean task. Matter of fact, I think I've already written more in this post in the past 10 minutes. Regardless, the hellish bitching and moaning and complaining did not stop.

"I don't have a computer."

"I don't have a printer."

"I don't have access to either."

"Why does it have to be 5 pages?"

"What's the font size."

More effort bitching and whining went into fighting against the paper than actually writing the effing thing.

With much ballyhoo and BS, inevitably I did get them into the computer lab and as the deadline approached, the vast majority of my students were frantically writing as they had procrastinated to that very last day.

Truthfully though, the majority of them did get their papers in on time and with them in hand began a painful task I was completely unaware of.

The first paper I read was on South Korea. The student had written:

"South Korea's economy is a modern industrialized nation, diversified into manufacturing, technology and services. It paradoxically compares..."

And right there I knew something was up.

So well written was that first sentence, I knew there was no way my student could have written it.

Sure enough I went to the Google and found he had just copied and pasted the report from the CIA's World Factbook.

The next paper was on Finland;

"Finland's economy is a mixed free market/socialist economy with the government providing its populace with ..."

Already, too well written. Google. CIA World Fact Book. Plagiarized.

I continued to google search various phrases and sentences that seemed too well crafted for the ability of my students and found out that out of 92 students, 89 had plagiarized.

The next day I ripped into them. I lectured them about how plagiarism was completely unacceptable, they would all get F's and blah blah blah, they weren't listening. And sure enough I got called into the principle's office.

The "dean" then lectured me about how I was overly harsh on the students and that they "didn't know" they weren't supposed to plagiarize. He then went on to read complaints he took in a survey from my students about my performance, one of which was a complaint about this ever so slight speech impediment I have (I cough due to allergies more frequently than the average person). I was to also let all the students write a new paper. I was dumbfounded.

I was to apologize to these students for their plagiarism. Only in a 2 year degree mill.

It was here that I realized that if I was going to keep my job I was just going to have to play ball and pass these kids no matter what. But the trick was to show them still who was boss because by this time they thought they owned me and had won. Never mind their degree would be worthless. Never mind with that kind of attitude they would get fired in half a second. In their little minds they "won" and now life was just going to bend over for them, if not the dean would always be able to save them and would bend life over for them.

But I would get my revenge. For the next class in the next semester was statistics.

Now you must understand that at this school there were multiple "majors" and they would keep the majors together so as to breed comradery. The majors were computer science, accounting, "travel and hospitality," and "health care." Naturally, the computer science and accounting students had a high mathematical aptitude and therefore would not only do better, but advance through the class faster. Therefore after 4 weeks they were already twice as far as their "travel and hospitality" counterparts.

Thinking there was nothing wrong and learning to make the class insanely easy, I thought there were going to be no more complaints. And sure enough there was;

The computer science and accounting students were complaining because they had done twice the work in the same amount of time. The dean then said I can't teach two different classes and they must be standardized across all majors.

This presented a problem to me in that there was no way in hell the travel and hospitality majors would ever be able to accomplish what the other students were doing. Thus I had to slow them down while travel and hospitality caught up. Thus, one of my greatest creations ever;

The Halo Statistics Project.

To grant the travel and hospitality majors enough time to get their fat, imbecilic lazy asses enough time to catch up, I decided that the accounting and computer programming majors would conduct a statistical experiment playing Halo. We linked 4 X-Boxes together, each person (including yours truly) would have a statistics sheet, and as we played various games we would record various statistics;

# of deaths
# of kills
# of assists
Time Alive

This would then give us enough empirical data to have a field day with to calculate things such as standard deviation, mean kill and calculate very important things such as;

"If you have 18 deaths in Halo, what percentile are you in, in the sub game "Slayer Pro?"

"What is the correlation coefficient between assists and the use of a bazooka."

For the next two weeks we played Halo while the rest of the students caught up.

Naturally, of course there were complaints. The travel and hospitality majors found out the other students were playing Halo. And when asked why they couldn't play Halo, I said, "well you're two weeks behind the other students so I have to find a way for you to catch up and this way we will have empirical data to use in future projects and experiments."

It did not go over well. By this time my repoire with the students had deteriorated so much there was nothing I could do. Teacher's cars were getting keyed, I was regularly called names and insulted by students. It was a "college" but it was more like teaching in a ghetto high school. The students were completely unaware of any possibility it was their fault they were failing or were so inconceivably stupid other students had to resort to "Halo Statistics" for them to play catch up.

Of course, by this time, I had given up on any kind of desire to teach these kids. I made it possible for those who wanted to learn, to learn, but instead of treating my job as an educator, I treated it as a baby sitter. And fresh in my mind the complaints filed about me being a idiot and a jerk and having that "stupid cough thing" as well as being forced by the dean to apologize to these daytime-tv-watching morons, I had one final trick up my sleeve.

The students by this time knew enough about simple statistics that the concepts of the bell distribution curve and how standard deviation can estimate what percent of the population you rank in were within their ability to calculate. But, since I was a concerned teacher, the question was "what kind of calculation can we do or test to make this personal and interesting to my beloved students?" And then it hit me;


There was a web site, where if you had the time, you could take a rather thorough IQ test and get your IQ. It wasn't official or anything, but it would serve the purposes of my little statistics experiment. The students would go online, take their IQ test and then calculate what percent of the population they ranked in, in terms of their IQ.

The students were all excited about it. Of course they were the smartest students in the world and the world and meanies like me were just out to get them. They were almost supremely confident they would score high and no doubt some of them were tentatively planning on showing me their IQ to "show me."

So off they went to the computer lab, 45 minutes they came back with their score and I then showed them the method using a mean of 100 to find out what percent of the population they ranked in.

And as more and more of them looked up their percentile on the little percentile sheets their shoulders slouched. Their faces shocked. The travel and hospitality majors, you could tell, were double checking their math because they couldn't believe they were that stupid. Many faced the paradox of having to ask me to help them because on one hand they couldn't believe they scored that low, but they didn't want me to see their IQ (which I insisted be kept confidential). One girl started crying and another student who never shut up and found it a vital necessity to constantly talk in class, actually shut up. We found one student was "officially" retarded (though he wasn't, he just didn't try) while another was ecstatic to find out she was in the top 30%, until I pointed out she subtracted wrong when calculating her standard deviation and she was in fact in the bottom 30%. The class was somber, silent and depressed. Oh sure, there were the genuine straight A students who were happy and arguably finally vindicated that they were smart, arguably MENSA material, but the rest of them got a harsh delivering blow from the real world. There was their real grading curve.

In the end I went on to teach at another 2 year college, this time with the wisdom knowing not to try to teach the kids anything, but to entertain them. Pass them along, give them their B- and everybody's happy. And it is here that the lesson of degree mills and junior college must be learned.

There is no point in going to these schools unless they are accredited and you are intending on moving on to get your 4 year degree. Many states and local governments have 2 year colleges and they're great. They are typically part of the state university system, they are accredited and they are a VITAL AND GREAT opportunity to those who may not have the means to afford a 4 year college or perhaps was just goofing off during high school and now realized the merits of education. However, there are other 2 year "institutions" out there that are nothing more than degree mills. Non-accredited, typically private companies that are just that; companies.

They don't care if you get a good education. They're not really there to help you. And they certainly do not care if you get a job or not.

They're just there to take your money.


Angela said...

"The students would go online, take their IQ test and then calculate what percent of the population they ranked in, in terms of their IQ."

That's brilliant. Evil, but still brilliant. I'll be laughing for the rest of the day...

Anonymous said...

Having had a science background, I never took economics, but it was a pre-req for my pharmacy degree. So before going back to pharm school, I took econ 101 at a local Minnesota CC. Now I don't disagree that this may be a great way to cheapen your 4 year degree, but man, that class was full of morons.

Hot Sam said...

I was a "Director of Academic Affairs" at just such a school for five months. Your description of the students is dead-on.

I wouldn't quite call the school a "degree mill." They really were sincere about both upholding standards, retaining, and graduating students. The mission of the school segued nicely with the profit motive.

Of course, teachers who stuck to "traditional" models and methods of education and course rigor were not only disappointed with their results, but came under pressure to modify their methods to be more effective for the unique target audience.

Some of our students were high school dropouts. Others were convicted felons. A few were superior students who wanted to specialize in something we offered (like Accounting or IT) and get out fast. Some students were very bright, but screwed up their high school GPA by goofing off, so they couldn't get into a public college.

It was a stressful environment to work in and there were many more failures than successes.

The tuition was astronomical, but the school had to pay its bills and make a profit. And for most of these kids, we were the educators of last resort. The debt-load was very large compared to the salaries they could expect.

We worked very, very hard to keep kids in school and we were required by law to disenroll students who failed to show up for classes for two consecutive weeks. There was a strict attendance policy. We had a dress code, but many people ignored it. We called students every day when they were absent or not doing well in their courses.

Few of our courses actually transferred to 4 year programs, so there was no smooth transition. A Medical Assistant who wished to eventually become a nurse would have to start college all over again. But for someone with a piss-poor high school education, that's the best they can do. Nursing schools are highly competitive.

The University of Phoenix is the king of these degree mills. They are a multi-billion dollar enterprise and their ultra-left-wing founder is a billionaire. I posted a photo of his son's house on my Billionaires for Obama blog post. Their degrees are of questionable worth.

Our school had a strong preparation program for the job market and our best students had no trouble finding employment in their fields. If students defaulted on their student loans, we got hammered by the government. The auditing procedures for financial aid and accreditation were rigorous.

Not all of these proprietary schools are a bad deal, but the buyer definitely has to beware. The commitment of the Admissions Advisor to hook you is pretty strong since they make money on commission.

Nice article, and timely given that during a recession many people go back to "school" to transition to new "careers."

Anonymous said...

This is actually a pretty damn interesting read. After having dealt with college and all of its nonsense and bullshit (much of the same vein), I toyed briefly with a theory that the ITT schools of the U.S. would eventually provide a better cost-to-education ratio than college.

The problem, I think, is that with college you're paying more for accreditation than you are for, say, education. I could have learned a lot more in college than I did, but the same amount of effort at home would have probably landed more more information and knowledge. Nobody would have hired me, though.

Bike Bubba said...

You're going to see the same thing in St. Paul at the remedial class level, with the exception that it is actually possible to fail those courses. I was a TA for these back in my undergrad days at Michigan State. Truly appalling. If you wanted to save tens of billions of dollars annually in college costs, get rid of remedial classes and tell those who can't make it in regular classes to go to a community college or trade school.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a really entertaining post. One side note: The IQ test is actually a worse scam than degree mills. The feature that it purports to measure, a generalized intelligence faculty called "g", is a scientific fraud with roots in the Eugenics movement. A lot of the basic research behind the concept of "g" and the IQ test has since been recanted by the researchers who originally published it. Anyway, it has an interesting history, documented in the (not uncontroversial) book, "The Mismeasure of Man".

Anonymous said...

The proper term would be "for-profit". The odd thing about it, community and state colleges are usually cheaper than most for-profits.

The key to determining if a school sucks is their accreditation. Non-profit public/private colleges are regionally accredited. For-profit colleges are nationally accredited (if that). So, all those commercials that claim a school is "nationally accredited" as a selling point...

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention the root cause of this evil: government financial aid to students. Most of these places are nothing more than well-tuned machines for separating the student and his government enablers from their money.

If students had to pay out of their own pocket, they would, in my opinion, be a lot more interested in the quality of their courses.

Alex said...

"The IQ test is actually a worse scam ... blah blah .. scientific fraud .. blah blah .. Eugenics movement."

Right. And AIDS is actually an evil NWO eugenics pogrom being perpetrated by money-hungry doctors. Go on, pull the other one.

I've heard your particular conspiracy theory before, and it's utterly idiotic, not to mention racist. Proponents of this theory basically argue that mathematics, pattern patching, and spacial orientation skills are somehow unique to white anglosaxon men, and that it's unfair to test those poor dark skinned fellers the same way. That's, in a word, despicable.

IQ scores certainly do give us a reliable indication about the general quality of that brain, as well as the potential of that individual. There are dozens of different ways to confirm the correlation, and it has been confirmed hundreds of times. A simple example would be comparing "success" statistics of MENSA members to the general population: they have an unemployment rate which is lower than the general average and their median income is much higher.

Of course, IQ only tells us about the potential of the individual, and not their performance in complex situations. There's even been some suggestion that people with high IQ's tend to be more susceptible to certain types of mysticism and conspiratorial thinking, due to their natural propensity for pattern matching. But IQ scores aren't meant to measure critical thinking skills or levels of credulity. IQ scores are very limited in what they tell us about an individual, but as long as they're used within those limits they are very accurate.

Hot Sam said...

The 'for-profit' school I worked for began as a 'for-profit' and operated that way for 100 years. Then it became 'non-profit' which is a nice way of saying 'not feasible.' They were losing tons of money.

So some angel investors bought the school and made it 'for-profit' again. The last time I was there, they had just broken into the black.

The school had WASC regional accreditation.

Universities are 'for profit' also, but they pretend not to be. They are professional beggars. They are barely confined to cost minimization and they receive government subsidies. No public or private college I ever went to cared whether a student came to class or not. The for-profit had strict attendance and resources for tutoring which are mostly only available to minorities and athletes at universities.

Yes, they are expensive and do cajole students into biting off more than they can chew, but at least some of them try to make a difference. And I hated my job there so I'm not blindly defending them.

BTW, plagiarism was rampant in my school too. Even after they get caught and you lecture them, they do it AGAIN. Incredible!

I'm glad I got out before I got shot.

Anonymous said...

I think most "community colleges (formerly known as junior colleges") are ok. Like anything, the students get out in the same measure that they apply themselves.

And then there are state technical colleges which are trade schools.

But I think you speak of some of the quickie private outfits like National American University, Globe Business College, Minnesota College of Business, etc. They provide a lousy education in a worthless "degree" that isn't transferable anywhere. You've got their number.

Captain - I bet your students for most part had just as poor study habits in high school.

I taught high school for a while and as teacher unions do, they give the worst assignments (the poor, dumb, unmotivated students and the disciplinary cases) to the teachers least prepared to deal with them - yes, the new teacher.

I had two sections of "adjusted algebra" - essentially dumbed down algebra for the poor, dumb, unmotivated students. Of the two sections totalling 45 seat occupiers, only about 10 would actually do the short homework assignments and half of them copied. I got zero help from the administration in dealing with this. I gave them time to do the homework in class. I did everything possible to get something to work in those classes.

Before the end of the year, I was told my contract would not be renewed which was fine with me because that schools was an extremely poorly run school.

It got to be the end of the year and I was directed to give them a final exam and I had to make sure that it took the full two hours to complete, because they didn't want any of the students raising hell in the hallways when they finished early. The other problem was that I had to have the exams graded, and the grades for the year submitted within in within two hours after the exam. Seems they give the rookie teachers to least amount of time to turn grades around.

So I built the test using the easiest problems from their homework assignments and the easiest examples of all the stuff we had covered during the year. Because I had to turnaround the results so fast, I made it a multiple choice test. I told them in advance exactly what was covered, where I'd get the test problems and how the test was a MC thing because of the time limits.

Well, the final exam results were consistent with the other test scores during the year and I ended up failing a bit more than half of them.

The Principal was disgusted. I showed him the exam, where the questions were from and how this is the natural consequences of doing squat in class. He understood, he wasn't happy, but he understood.

However, the chair of the Math department was livid - because I failed so many, they had to schedule another "dummy math" class for next year which he got the teach.

The chair of the science department after hearing the story, nodded his head and gave me a thumbs up. Perhaps I taught some of those students a larger lesson in life.

Anonymous said...

These morons are about to be taught the best lessons ever, by the best teachers ever.

Those teachers are hunger and deprivation.

This recession will crush many of them, and deservedly so.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, for noting that junior colleges aren't that bad. Finally something to right size the self-esteem based education of K-12. Now, I know why the establishment hates them. I tried to take an IQ test once, but noticed it was really a vocabulary test.

Anonymous said...

"The Mismeasure of Man" was of course, written by a Marxist. IQ is still a very valuable tool with predictive qualities. No doubt many of the pioneers in psychology were racist (Dalton for one), but the same could be said about most fields (ever read Aristotle?).

Thanks to new methods, cultural differences and education/literacy differences can be normalized in IQ tests thus removing any race based bias.

IQ correlates well to academic achievement, income, job performance and even morbidity.

The following is from the wikipedia article on IQ:

"In response to the controversy surrounding The Bell Curve, the American Psychological Association's Board of Scientific Affairs established a task force in 1995 to write a consensus statement on the state of intelligence research which could be used by all sides as a basis for discussion. The full text of the report is available through several websites.[93][14]

In this paper the representatives of the association regret that IQ-related works are frequently written with a view to their political consequences: "research findings were often assessed not so much on their merits or their scientific standing as on their supposed political implications".

The task force concluded that IQ scores do have high predictive validity for individual differences in school achievement. They confirm the predictive validity of IQ for adult occupational status, even when variables such as education and family background have been statistically controlled. They agree that individual differences in intelligence are substantially influenced by genetics and that both genes and environment, in complex interplay, are essential to the development of intellectual competence.

They state there is little evidence to show that childhood diet influences intelligence except in cases of severe malnutrition. The task force agrees that large differences do exist between the average IQ scores of blacks and whites, and that these differences cannot be attributed to biases in test construction. The task force suggests that explanations based on social status and cultural differences are possible, and that environmental factors have raised mean test scores in many populations. Regarding genetic causes, they noted that there is not much direct evidence on this point, but what little there is fails to support the genetic hypothesis.

Hopefully the anonymous commentor goes elsewhere to spread their ignorance

EarlW said...

Great story...

PS: "By this time my repoire with the students"
You probably meant "rapport". It's a French word...

Anonymous said...

Your story is a fascinating odyssey.

I teach, and I find plagiarism another strange and frustrating issue: Students don't get it, that when they take quotes and ideas verbatum from a web site, they have to give credit to their sources. One semester, I had two students who plagiarized; I gave them both an extra chance, and they both plagiarized on the next essay. Amazing.

Your story reminds me of a turning point: When I started teaching, I assumed that if I gave an assignment, I'd grade it, and the grade would count toward the student's course grade. Only years later, while attending a workshop on formative and summative evaluation, did I realize there was another way. This changed my approach: Now I give some early assignments that are scored, but the score doesn't count toward their grade: Rather, the "formative evaluation" goal is to find out student knowledge and skill level, and to let students know the areas they need to work on in their study. It lifts much of the pressure and frustration students feel about assignments and grades; if they KNOW they need to study certain things to get a higher score, and if they don't, then they know it's their own fault. Then "summative evaluation" comes later, and measures whether they made the needed progress. The formative evaluation can also help identify students who need extra tutoring and help to pass the class. In a state university they get such services free from certain on-campus centers, but in a 2- year program, those services are often reduced and not as available to many who take night classes, etc.

Anonymous said...

Nice post. And I'm glad to see that you emphasized the need to go to an accredited school. Accreditation doesn't solve everything (or even most things) but at least it helps identify which schools might be worth the time and money to attend.

I would like to point out that employers are just as much to blame for these degree mills as greedy administrators and overly-optimistic students. In the engineering fields I met a lot of engineers and technicians (especially those in their 40s and 50s) who were very knowledgeable, competent, and had a good work ethic -- but who wouldn't get looked at even once by HR because they did not have a degree. I heard similar stories in the Portland area from people trying to get into other non-technical positions: proven experience or work history counts for little when the college degree is all-mighty.

The truest words I've yet heard about a college degree came from my dad, who has a BS, and he said as far as he could tell a college degree indicates (1) that you are teachable, and (2) you possess a certain bullshit tolerance; ideally it also indicates you are familiar with the basic concepts of your field of study, but based on what he saw both in school and in the real world, that ideal is not always met.

So, until employers quit using a college degree as an implied warranty for their new hires, I think these degree mills will continue to proliferate.

Anonymous said...

I knew Steven Jay Gould a little and had the honor of studying with him. The off-the-cuff assertion that he was a Marxist is ignorant and repulsive.

Anonymous said...

I knew Steven Jay Gould a little and had the honor of studying with him. The off-the-cuff assertion that he was a Marxist is ignorant and repulsive.

Alex said...

Gould wasn't a Marxist, and he certainly was a great man. He was also absolutely wrong about IQ testing. Being a great scientist doesn't make a person infallible.

I should also mention that his political views have nothing to do with his opinions on this particular subject. Even if he were a Marxist, that would just be another thing for me to disagree with him on. It's idiotic to suggest that being a Marxist automatically makes someone wrong about everything.

Anonymous said...

I said Gould was a Marxist, I was quoting Professor Tom Bouchard (Psychology, U of M) who said exactly that. And I wasn't saying Gould was wrong because he was a Marxist. Gould's opinions about IQ had more to do with his personal ideology (Some form of Marxism) than it did with the actual facts of the matter. That was the exact criticism Dr. Bouchard made and it was the one I made in my comment.

In fact, I rather like much of Gould's writing on the topic of baseball.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of those students who treaded water the first time through college (4 year state college). Took the easiest classes, did minimal effort, asked about instructors who gave the least amount of work, etc. It's amazing how many students do this, especially if their parents are paying (and the tax payer subsidy of couse).

When all I could get was a retail sales job after graduation (not that there is anything wrong with that), took things a bit more seriously. Went back to get an accounting degree, passed the CPA, etc. Now I'm in an MBA program.

You really see how the caliber of both the students and instructors goes up with each level (high school, bullshit business major, accounting, MBA).

Robert G. Harvie, Q.C. said...

The developing debate here about the validity of IQ testing simply reinforces the point of this excellent articles - that we are too busy trying to be politically correct and wiping everyone's noses to deal with the reality of the results of a failure to truly help them succeed..

As pointed out - there is broad acceptance that, in fact, IQ does provide a clear correlation to school and career achievement - so rather than deny that, and perpetuate the myth that we should all be Brain Surgeons and Nuclear Physicists, let's just be honest - many, many students will find out the hard way, as Dean Vernon Wormer pointed out, "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life son".

Anonymous said...

There are sites to rate profs, but there needs to be a site to rate colleges so employers like me can know which ones are useless degree mills.

As for profs caught in these farce universities, I would advise that you focus on the few grains of wheat in each class and ensure that they get a good education. As for the weeds, I'm confident that employers will identify them quickly and apply herbicide.

It will be interesting what will happen to the Entitlement Generation (ie children of Boomers) if there is a 10 year depression. We Gen-Xers who've had to make our way in a competitive job market will have little time for these perpetual children.

Jay Currie said...

Once upon a time I was a TA in Poli Sci at the UofT. My sections were nothing but Trinity and UC students and everyone of them was an Ontario Scholar - top 5%.

None of them could write. None of them knew anything. There was no internet.

I bootcamped the little buggers. Essay - 500 words - a week. Every week. Random reading to the "seminar". A third of the kids dropped my section.

What they didn't know was that the topics, every week, were drawn from the past five years of exams given by a very lazy prof. By the time they hit Christmas "practice" exams they could nail 70% of the possible essay questions. And by the end of the year my 25 kids took seven of the top 10 and 16 of the top 20 places in a 300 student class.

We drank a lot of beer which I forced them to pay for.

But here is the thing: these were, in fact, smart kids. They had been taught badly through 13 years of school; but they were very clearly university material.

The sad part of the two year programs (and commerce degrees) is that they leave the students as ignorant as they found them - albeit poorer. But, in the weird way of the credentialing world, more employable.

Why? Well, if you live in an egalitarian utopia and a smart person and a dumb person are interviewing for a job you need a "reason", pure and objective, to hire. If the dumb person happens to belong to a protected class you sure as hell better have a certificate based answer as to why you picked the smart person.

Which is silly but how we live now.

Anonymous said...

This situation is hardly found only in shady two-year schools. I'm currently enrolled in a graduate program at Hunter College in NYC, earning a Masters in Childhood Education. With a couple notable exceptions, each of the 11 courses I've taken to this point have been exactly as you describe. And this is a freakin' MASTERS PROGRAM. The professors could care less, they are there just to pick up an extra paycheck, the majority of the students are there on government loans or grants and so don't care about what they're "learning," they just want their B average to stay in the program, and the professors are happy to oblige. There is endless extra credit, curving on exams, opportunities to rewrite papers and we spend countless hours simply working on basic paper- and project-creating skills such as research and citation. These are things you should have learned in middle school. It is a freaking joke. And these are the people that are going to be teaching your children in elementary school in a couple years. There are certainly some students that deserve to be there, who try, who know what they're doing and who care, but the vast majority of them wouldn't have graduated from a legit high school much less undergraduate level studies.

Anonymous said...

I have attended both a two year community college and obtained an AA and then a BA from an online college.
While I can easily agree that many of my fellow students in the community (accredited) college were not bright, they ran about average for the community. The school enforced standards and many dropped rather than fail.
In the online college(also accredited), I submitted an average of twenty pages a week, properly researched, argued and formatted. I had to meet minimum standards of online discussions, contribute to study groups, ask and answer questions from the other students and the professors. The requirements in the syllabus were harder than the two year brick and mortar college.
The online college also had the policy that the requirements be met and some students dropped. Others had to retake classes that did not meet a C standard. However most of my fellow students were going this route because we were working, caring for kids etc and just plain could not take years off with no income. I did notice that since we were more mature that the average students, the vast majority worked harder and the professors made all of the students contribute. Furthermore, all of my teachers were PHD's who were actually working in the fields they taught not just flowers of academia.
I recommend anyone looking for education to research the graduation rate, the requirements, accreditation and by what body, and their placement rate as well. Avoid any "college" that cannot produce that data. Good luck. Bart

The_Myth said...

I has virtually the same exact experiences teaching at Temple University and Drexel University in Philadelphia.

And those were supposedly respectable universities. They just enroll completely underqualified [and often willfully ignorant] students.

The Shrug said...

I was to apologize to these students for their plagiarism.

That wasn't a classroom. That was your girlfriend.

Anonymous said...

The problem is our educational system does not offer an option for kids who are not that "bright". My incredibly talented car mechanic was in "special ed" in HS and they thought he was retarded. He just didn't fit in the round hole. College and higher education is not for everyone. But we don't offer career paths in vocational fields. And if we do, folks are not encouraged to pursue that path.

najamonline4u said...

really these degree mills are ruining other also

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