Saturday, January 21, 2006

This is unbelievable

CNN is carrying an article on a study on the 'literacy' of (American) college students. There were three types of skills measured: [the ability to analyze] news stories and other prose, understand documents and [the] math skills needed for checkbooks or restaurant tips. The results were dismal, to say the least. They found that more than 75% and 50% of students at two- and four-year colleges lacked the ability to handle complex, real-life tasks. (Even with a very generous definition of 'complex'.)

Large numbers of students "cannot interpret a table about exercise and blood pressure, understand the arguments of newspaper editorials, compare credit card offers with different interest rates and annual fees or summarize results of a survey about parental involvement in school. Most students... showed intermediate skills. That means they can do moderately challenging tasks, such as identifying a location on a map."

I'm sorry, but identifying a location on a map is an 'intermediate skill' for students about to graduate from college? You would expect an eighth-grader to do that! But wait, there's "brighter news. Overall, the average literacy of college students is significantly higher than that of adults across the nation. Study leaders said that was encouraging but not surprising, given that the spectrum of adults includes those with much less education." If the reporters needed study leaders to tell them that, then clearly it's not just college students who have trouble understanding the results of surveys. (Ok, that was a cheap shot. But still, who on earth would consider that good news?)

Ok, done ranting.
Via Slashdot.


Anonymous said...

Well, none of the tasks in the test sounds remotely interesting. I am sure 90% of people being tested fell a sleep during the test.

Nitish said...

If 90% of college students can't read a newspaper editorial without falling asleep, then we have serious issues. What's going to happen to them when they have to pick schools for their kids, or choose a retirement plan (even worse, a Medicare plan, which would be challenging even if they were well educated.)

Anonymous said...

What do you mean by "going to happen"? It is already happening. The world is ruled by the democracy of ignorance

m. said...

i think it was aristotle who said it - democracy is mob rule! :)

but it seems unbelievable. how on earth can a nation have (reputedly) several of the best colleges in the world, and still be so duh?!