Monday, November 07, 2011

What Happened to Education? Costs, Rip-offs and Reflections

Is a College Degree More of a Rip-Off Than a Benefit Today? As they say, read the whole thing. Though it may upset you, seeing how much we pay, and how little we get. (Quoted from a Post Gazette article)
We spend about $10,600 per pupil in public schools—377 percent more, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than we spent in 1961. Yet among students who go to college, 75 percent require some remedial work.
. There is more like that.

"Remedial work" means that they can't read at the 12th-grade-level, they can't write worth a damn, or they are hopeless when it comes to math. Reading, Writing and 'Rithmatic are not the focus. of education anymore. Students have to memorize Al Gore's movie. (A Arnold Ahlert says: "Environmental literacy? How about literacy, period?")

Some of this can be attributed to the dumbing down of America, but part of it is the insane behavior of colleges
A look at the various new specialty degree programs, however, provides a peek into the priorities of the schools: to accept as many students as they can, and also to broaden their own revenue streams. The offerings are most likely not made to produce anything meaningful in academia—and certainly not in the “real world”—but they do attract a certain type of student. This is often someone who is willing to buy into the myth that a degree in gender studies is going to be useful. These naive young people are willing to pay the big bucks demanded for such a thing—even if that means borrowing the money

As MEEP says, "college educations are not all created equal." Math Class IS Hard. The Wall Street Journal has an interesting interactive list of college majors, their unemployment rates, as well as their 25th percentile, median, and 75th percentile earnings. The differences are not too surprising. (I'm sure it is a shock to folks with Interdisciplinary Studies degrees.) If you know anyone with soon-to-be college-aged-kids, you might want to have them take look - or have the kids take a look.
Forget about the median salaries – the 75th percentile earnings for the lowest-earning majors almost don’t crack the 25th percentile earnings for the top-earning majors.
And it is true that hard science and engineering are hard. Why Science Majors Change Their Minds (It’s Just So Darn Hard) -
Politicians and educators have been wringing their hands for years over test scores showing American students falling behind their counterparts in Slovenia and Singapore. How will the United States stack up against global rivals in innovation? The president and industry groups have called on colleges to graduate 10,000 more engineers a year and 100,000 new teachers with majors in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math.
And so schools are running in a "Sputnik-like" panic mode. Of course it isn't working.
But, it turns out, middle and high school students are having most of the fun, building their erector sets and dropping eggs into water to test the first law of motion. The excitement quickly fades as students brush up against the reality of what David E. Goldberg, an emeritus engineering professor, calls “the math-science death march.” Freshmen in college wade through a blizzard of calculus, physics and chemistry in lecture halls with hundreds of other students.
Dr Goldberg, who just retired last year as an engineering professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, thinks that getting 10,000 more engineers is basically impossible.

Getting the teachers will be difficult too, if what they really want is to hire people with math or technology skills. When I moved to Florida, about 10 years ago, they were already in a "crisis situation" with regard to math and science teachers at both the middle school and high school levels. So they were offering emergency teaching credentials to people with math or science degrees. I looked into it, briefly, before a teacher friend of mine - a high-school math teacher - talked me out it. Also investigating one of the local districts was enough. (The math department had 10 goals for teachers - actually teaching math was not in the top 5. And they wonder why they can't teach math.)

If you haven't seen it, I recommend the movie Stand and Deliver. Based on a true story, it shows that you can teach this stuff, if that is your focus. But it hasn't been America's focus in 20 years - or more.

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