Institutions of Higher Ignorance
From OneNewsNow.com; the original report was produced by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute and may be found in its entirety here.
A recent study of college students shows that those attending elite schools such as Yale and Cornell tend to lose more of their knowledge of U.S. history and government while at the school than do their counterparts at smaller, less prestigious colleges.
Some of America's Ivy League universities are going backward when it comes to teaching civic affairs. Students at prestigious schools such as Yale, Duke, Cornell, Brown and Georgetown lost knowledge of American history and government between their freshman and senior years.
Conversely, smaller, less prominent campuses showed moderate success in teaching U.S. history, government and civics. More than 14,000 students at 50 schools participated in the three-year study. The startling facts are revealed in "The Coming Crisis in Citizenship," a new study from Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI).
According to ISI, a non-profit educational organization, Johns Hopkins led the losers with student knowledge loss of 7.3%. Also in the bottom ten were Cornell (-3.3%), Duke (-2.3%) and Yale (-1.5%).
Among the colleges where students actually learned something about American history and government, the top four were Rhodes College (+11.6%), Colorado State (+10%), Calvin College (+9.5%) and Grove City College (+9.4%). (Waffler note: the table of colleges and how much one learns/unlearns is appended below.)
This is not terribly surprising. Beloved but Expensive Daughter did extremely well at Trinity University (not surveyed), which is a pretty highly-regarded school. She learned a lot about her chosen field of study, and did very well on her GREs. In terms of her general level of knowledge about who we are, how we got to be that way, and why – the basic structural framework around which one structures one’s life as an educated citizen and that one expects to receive from a liberal arts education – I don’t think she knows a heck of a lot more than she did when she graduated from Hyde Park Baptist High School. I am very glad she is well positioned to continue into a successful professional career, but I expected a lot better for $27 K a year. Having worked and taught for many years at the University of Texas, the state’s flagship university, I guess I should have known better.
I think a big part of the problem is the total abandonment of any really meaningful “core curriculum.” Like many (if not almost all) universities and colleges, Trinity abandoned a “core” in favor of some set of “area requirements.” Different colleges have different names – I forget what Trinity calls them. The upshot is that you have to have a certain number of classes from different areas, such as social sciences, natural sciences, humanities, language, etc., but there are very few constraints on what you take within those areas. The net result is that a student can fulfill his requirements with Congolese History, Introduction to Zoroaster, IndoChinese Buddhist Philosophy, Food Chemistry, Medical Spanish, and Comparative Psychology. Now please note! I have nothing against any of these classes! Even though I just made up the titles, I’d love to have the chance to take several of them! HOWEVER, it is one thing to add these classes onto an existing intellectual framework of American and European history, Western philosophy, Latin, Greek, ancient and medieval theology, the development of psychological thought, and a couple of degrees in the real sciences. It is quite another thing to substitute them for the framework itself!
If you don’t share the common historical framework on which to organize your Weltanschauung, you are left with two possibilities. They aren’t just theoretical - I run into people all the time who have gone with one or the other. One response is to go without an intellectual framework and wing it. For such people, the world is a jumble of disconnected facts that can only be filtered through their own personal experience. The other approach is to create your own framework. This, in essence, is the intentional equivalent of schizophrenia without the voices. Your world may make sense to you, but not necessarily to anyone else, and its reflection of reality is largely a matter of chance. Once again, in the absence of shared understanding, one’s perception of the world is colored primarily by personal experience. The first response leads to mental chaos; the second to paranoia and conspiracy theories. Both lead to a society that can no longer come up with a reason to justify its own existence. Sic transit gloria mundi.
 I’ve only gotten to work that word into a sentence a couple of times since college 35 years ago! Yeehah! (It implies a concept fundamental to German philosophy and epistemology and refers to a wide world perception. Additionally, it refers to the framework through which an individual interprets the world and interacts in it, according to Wikipedia.) I don't mean to be an intellectual snob - we used to have an informal game where you scored points by working obscure words into sentences. Weltanschauung was one of my favorites and a sure winner if you could get it in. As you might guess, I hardly ever could. Doesn't rhyme well, either.
|RANKING THE COLLEGES|
|Rank||College||Learning Added or Subtracted|
|2||Colorado State University||10.9|
|4||Grove City College||9.4|
|5||University of Colorado, Boulder||8.9|
|6||Spring Arbor University||8.3|
|7||University of New Mexico||8.2|
|8||University of Mobile||7.5|
|9||Florida Memorial University||6.8|
|10||Central Connecticut State University||5|
|11||George Mason University||5|
|12||Youngstown State University||4.9|
|13||North Carolina Central University||4.8|
|14||Utah State University||4.5|
|16||Catholic University of America||3.2|
|17||University of Massachusetts,Boston||3|
|19||Eastern Kentucky University||2.7|
|21||West Texas A&M University||2.5|
|22||University of South Alabama||2|
|23||University of Texas, Austin||2|
|26||University of Washington||1.8|
|28||University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill||1.6|
|32||University of West Florida||0.7|
|33||Washington & Lee University||0.2|
|35||University of Michigan||-0.1|
|37||University of Chicago||-0.3|
|38||Massachusetts Institute of Technology||-0.4|
|40||University of Florida||-0.8|
|42||University of Virginia||-1.1|
|45||State University of West Georgia||-2|
|49||University of California, Berkeley||-5.6|
|50||Johns Hopkins University||-7.3|