Make School Hard Again

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Make School Hard Again

Post by Warren » 26 May 2019, 15:12

Yes. Exactly so.
Make School Hard Again reinforces my long held beliefs formed back in the 80's. Though according to the author, it's been a problem since shortly after I was born. Everything I see, buttresses my belief that it has only been getting worse ever since.
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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by thoreau » 26 May 2019, 15:32

The U.S. higher education system is admired for its faculty research and the products of its graduate programs, not for its level of basic teaching—and the former areas, lucky for all of us, remain overwhelmingly meritocratic. Students at the doctoral level are selected with minimal regard for the "holistic" considerations so prevalent at the undergraduate level. They're generally drawn from around the world without attempts to represent different groups equally. If you doubt this, see how far your lacrosse championship or volunteer experience will go in compensating for low GRE math scores when applying to a Ph.D. program in economics or physics at a top-20 university.
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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by Mo » 26 May 2019, 15:33

Hahahahahahahahaha. This dude thinks employers care about your GPA.

Also, it would be nice to see some numbers to back up the claims. I have no doubt that grade inflation is a thing, but has affected everyone pretty equally. However, the stats show that the ratio of people who have some college vs a degree is higher now than it was in 1970 (I.e. the proportion of people that have started college, but not finished is higher now). If you’re going to make a claim, back it up.
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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by thoreau » 26 May 2019, 16:03

Grade inflation numbers:

https://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011 ... inflation/

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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by Ellie » 26 May 2019, 16:28

Warren wrote:
26 May 2019, 15:12
Yes. Exactly so.
Make School Hard Again reinforces my long held beliefs formed back in the 80's. Though according to the author, it's been a problem since shortly after I was born. Everything I see, buttresses my belief that it has only been getting worse ever since.
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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by Mo » 26 May 2019, 16:53

thoreau wrote:Grade inflation numbers:

https://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011 ... inflation/

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Grade inflation doesn’t matter because no one looks at grades except for grad school and grad schools can distinguish between joke majors and real majors. Also, I conceded grade inflation is a thing. Part of his point is around graduation rates and there’s no solid data on that that supports his point.
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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by Warren » 26 May 2019, 17:48

I was once asked what my GPA was at a job interview. But I think it was just the once. I'd say it's true that employers don't care about grades, but they absolutely care about what school you got your degree from.
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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by Jennifer » 26 May 2019, 17:57

I think a big part of the problem --at high school, college AND university levels -- is that there's two different reasons why one might go to school, and those reasons often get confused: are you there to get an education (or learn a specific skill), or are you there for the credential? Credentialism has gone way too far in our society IMO: waaaaay too many employers require a college degree for jobs that really don't need one.
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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by thoreau » 26 May 2019, 17:58

Mo wrote:
thoreau wrote:Grade inflation numbers:

https://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011 ... inflation/

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Grade inflation doesn’t matter because no one looks at grades except for grad school and grad schools can distinguish between joke majors and real majors. Also, I conceded grade inflation is a thing. Part of his point is around graduation rates and there’s no solid data on that that supports his point.
Fair enough.

The biggest problem is that it makes it harder to push people to do their utmost. Also, there is increasing pressure to inflate grades in what were historically "weeder" classes, i.e. intro math and science, and apparently also intro econ and accounting. (Anything with graphs or numbers really screws some kids up.)

We've always had some upper-division grade inflation, but I think it was understood that if you made it to junior year in certain majors you at least had the fundamentals. Nobody can be sure what that B in an advanced class means, but you made it this far in a hard major and that means something. Not everything, but something.

If we are required to let every idiot into upper-division classes in the name of equity, and then pass everyone in upper-division classes "because they already got this far" then the degrees mean nothing.

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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by Aresen » 26 May 2019, 22:15

Jennifer wrote:
26 May 2019, 17:57
I think a big part of the problem --at high school, college AND university levels -- is that there's two different reasons why one might go to school, and those reasons often get confused: are you there to get an education (or learn a specific skill), or are you there for the credential? Credentialism has gone way too far in our society IMO: waaaaay too many employers require a college degree for jobs that really don't need one.
We've had that discussion here before. I fully agree, but the 'requires degree in X' thing is a way for the HR department to triage the job applicants.
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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by Number 6 » 26 May 2019, 22:30

Aresen wrote:
26 May 2019, 22:15
Jennifer wrote:
26 May 2019, 17:57
I think a big part of the problem --at high school, college AND university levels -- is that there's two different reasons why one might go to school, and those reasons often get confused: are you there to get an education (or learn a specific skill), or are you there for the credential? Credentialism has gone way too far in our society IMO: waaaaay too many employers require a college degree for jobs that really don't need one.
We've had that discussion here before. I fully agree, but the 'requires degree in X' thing is a way for the HR department to triage the job applicants.
It's also a result of the push to ensure that everyone has at least a Bachelor's. Had the people pushing that silliness paid attention in their undergrad classes, they may have encountered a concept known as supply and demand.
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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by JasonL » 27 May 2019, 09:03

One thing I’ve wondered about is HR new hire effectiveness over time. Say something like percent of new hires still employed by hiring firm 3 years later. We are pretty far into the age of “everyone is a BA” and “everyone must pass”.

Is HR successfully screening in this environment beyond elite roles that use elite institutions as signals?

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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by Jennifer » 27 May 2019, 14:38

JasonL wrote:
27 May 2019, 09:03
One thing I’ve wondered about is HR new hire effectiveness over time. Say something like percent of new hires still employed by hiring firm 3 years later. We are pretty far into the age of “everyone is a BA” and “everyone must pass”.
Not that I have any personal experience from an HR perspective, but -- even that info might not be too useful. Can't find it now (or rather, don't feel like Googling it), but there are scads of workplace-trend stories on the theme "People go job-hopping because switching companies is the only real way to get a pay raise." In other words, even if a given company DOES lose a lot of new hires within three years, is that because "Those new hires weren't any good at the job," or "Those hires were SO good, they could do better at another company"?
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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 27 May 2019, 16:31

I'm all for rigorous standards, but that cuts both ways. Good in math and science? Great, but you still need a substantial number of classes in courses requiring significant reading and writing and, preferably, a foreign language for a B.A. or B.S. (No, computer programing languages don't count.) And if engineering and business schools are unwilling to accommodate even the most modest efforts at providing a well rounded education, then let's just call them trade schools, as I'll gladly also call med school and law school, and be done with it.

There are a small number of undergraduate students who want to go to schools that are academic hothouses, e.g., Chicago, and among most elite schools the students are already default set for competing to outdo their peers and usually shooting for some graduate or professional schooling or some highly selective training program, e.g., investment banking, after they graduate. Grade inflation everywhere else is likely a result of lazy/indifferent/intimidated faculty and part of the marketing to attract applicants in the first place.

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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by thoreau » 27 May 2019, 16:52

Team DAR.
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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by Warren » 27 May 2019, 17:11

D.A. Ridgely wrote:
27 May 2019, 16:31
I'm all for rigorous standards, but that cuts both ways. Good in math and science? Great, but you still need a substantial number of classes in courses requiring significant reading and writing and, preferably, a foreign language for a B.A. or B.S. (No, computer programing languages don't count.) And if engineering and business schools are unwilling to accommodate even the most modest efforts at providing a well rounded education, then let's just call them trade schools, as I'll gladly also call med school and law school, and be done with it.
I'll buy that. I don't know of any engineering or business schools that don't do that already. I just want Liberal Arts schools to also provide well rounded education by requiring Algebra, Statistics, and either Physics or Chemistry (actual University freshman STEM level courses). And while I support English requirements, I think it's asking a bit much that STEM undergrads be required to take a foreign language.
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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by Jennifer » 27 May 2019, 17:22

Foreign language teaching should take place in primary and elementary school; America needs to abandon the ridiculous notion of waiting until after kids reach puberty (read: after their child's innate ability to absorb language calcifies) to try teaching a language.
I'm all for rigorous standards, but that cuts both ways. Good in math and science? Great, but you still need a substantial number of classes in courses requiring significant reading and writing
Basic literacy and numeracy are both mandatory for anyone hoping to get by in modern society, certainly ... but, although people do need significant reading and writing skills, that still leaves open the questions "What exactly should they be required to read" and "what exactly should they be able to write about?" You likely recall my oft-cited anecdote of giving a passing English grade to a high school senior who did not strictly deserve it -- he could definitely read and write well enough to live comfortably as a mechanic, as he hoped to do, but he just didn't have what it takes to write a proper literary deconstruction of symbolic poetry, or antiquated centuries-old English plays, or similar things.

Given what a HUGE handicap "no high school diploma" is in today's society and job market, I still don't think I harmed that student or "society" as a whole, by letting him get the diploma despite his lack of literary-analysis skills.
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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 27 May 2019, 19:20

Yes, foreign languages should begin being taught in elementary school. That said, if you want to drastically cut down on college applications (which I do) while giving a well deserved advantage especially to bi-lingual Spanish speaking college prep students (but any widely spoken language will suffice), colleges should require four years of a foreign language in high school (or testing out equivalence) and continue to require some foreign language & culture (note, I didn't say "or culture") coursework in college. Furthermore, only community colleges should even offer remedial courses in anything whatever.

What should constitute the so-called canon in secondary school English curricula will never be agreed upon, but a survey of English literature including exposure to Shakespeare, a survey course in American literature and a survey course in world literature or course in language specific foreign literature not using translations would be my minimum general pre-college curriculum choice, as would be math through Algebra / Trigonometry and at least two lab science classes. Warren's focus on chemistry and physics, while understandable, is a bit narrow for my tastes, especially as the biological sciences are vastly more complex and rigorous than they were fifty years ago. I took neither in high school -- remember, I was an atrocious high school student -- but my son contends that taking physics and calculus at the same time greatly facilitated learning both subjects. That's a bit much for many college bound students, as is being able to deconstruct French symbolist poetry. I'd gladly forego just about any other college prep courses, however, for at least a half credit/year of economics, applied statistics, philosophy and a civic course that required passing the naturalization test in order to pass the class.

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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by Warren » 27 May 2019, 19:24

D.A. Ridgely wrote:
27 May 2019, 19:20
Warren's focus on chemistry and physics, while understandable, is a bit narrow for my tastes, especially as the biological sciences are vastly more complex and rigorous than they were fifty years ago.
I concede this point.
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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by Jennifer » 27 May 2019, 21:23

D.A. Ridgely wrote:
27 May 2019, 16:31
I'm all for rigorous standards, but that cuts both ways. Good in math and science? Great, but you still need a substantial number of classes in courses requiring significant reading and writing and, preferably, a foreign language for a B.A. or B.S. (No, computer programing languages don't count.) And if engineering and business schools are unwilling to accommodate even the most modest efforts at providing a well rounded education, then let's just call them trade schools, as I'll gladly also call med school and law school, and be done with it.

There are a small number of undergraduate students who want to go to schools that are academic hothouses, e.g., Chicago, and among most elite schools the students are already default set for competing to outdo their peers and usually shooting for some graduate or professional schooling or some highly selective training program, e.g., investment banking, after they graduate. Grade inflation everywhere else is likely a result of lazy/indifferent/intimidated faculty and part of the marketing to attract applicants in the first place.
Note the part I emphasized ... there's the problem: for pretty much ALL college/university students today (except perhaps a tiny handful of exceedingly rich trust-fund kids or corrupt foreign royalty), it's a "trade school" in the sense that they're there because they think it will help them get a job, NOT to become cultured and well-rounded people. Between the internet and the abundance of cheap books, anyone with the interest and a relatively small amount of time can educate themselves in the canon, to the point where they know it a hell of a lot better than I did the day I got my four-year English degree ... but they still won't qualify for any of the jobs I qualified for the second I had the degree in hand.

Related: a fairly ancient (and short) blog post I wrote way the hell back in 2006, regarding a then-new Yale project:

This has been all over the mainstream media lately, so it must be important news: Yale’s putting seven of its lecture courses online, absolutely free.
The 18-month pilot project will provide videos, syllabi and transcripts for seven courses beginning in the 2007 academic year. They include "Introduction to the Old Testament," "Fundamentals of Physics" and “Introduction to Political Philosophy."
None of this counts for credit at Yale or any other school, though some of it’s bound to be interesting. Between libraries and the Internet, however, free access to information is almost taken for granted these days. Why did this get so much attention?
Students at Yale -- one of the nation's most exclusive schools and the alma mater of U.S. President George W. Bush -- can be expected to spend nearly $46,000 for this year's tuition, room and board.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for us to share a vital and central part of the Yale experience with those who, for whatever reason, are not in a position to pursue a Yale education at first hand," Yale President Richard Levin said in a written statement.
Ah, yes. A vital and central part of the Yale experience: Old Testament knowledge found in a specific Yale course. Truly high among the list of motivations students have for spending $46,000 [on tuition] this year.

Look, I’ll probably watch a lecture or two when they come out. Just don’t try to tell me I’m soaking in the benefits of Yalehood by doing so, okay?
Whatever benefits one gets from "going to Yale" -- or even "going to second-tier State U." -- you're not going to get them from watching those lectures online, not unless Yale or second-tier State U. is willing to give you credit for this.
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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 28 May 2019, 00:24

I've watched several of those Yale courses. I highly recommend the Intro Old Testament course. The philosophy offerings, not so much.

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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by lunchstealer » 28 May 2019, 14:22

D.A. Ridgely wrote:
27 May 2019, 19:20
...my son contends that taking physics and calculus at the same time greatly facilitated learning both subjects.
This is true. Frankly, ALL math is easier to learn if you're learning physics as well, as long as you're motivated. Trig didn't gel for me until I took a non-calculus physics class in high school.

The only unfortunate thing about the simultaneous physics/calc is that they'd been synced well at Wofford for years, but slipped a little, and we got to work/energy in physics before we got to integration in calc. The look of defeat on Dr. Lejeune's face when I pointed at the board and said, "Hey so what's that big squiggle 'S' looking thing?"

The one thing I was disappointed by at Wofford was the foreign language work. Took German because hey I took latin in high school so why not take the other science language because clearly that's what I need, not a language I might have to actually converse in. But the German course I took was taught by the actual German prof's husband. And this was the beginning of the 'no your textbook will not be written in English, everything will be in German,' trend. So I couldn't look up vocabulary or grammar to reinforce classroom instructions. My undiagnosed ADHD meant that I wasn't great at just reading the text and learning from that alone, but man being able to reference some things would've been REALLY useful when studying.
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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by Jennifer » 28 May 2019, 16:11

D.A. Ridgely wrote:
28 May 2019, 00:24
I've watched several of those Yale courses. I highly recommend the Intro Old Testament course. The philosophy offerings, not so much.
I think I watched part of the Old Testament thing -- it's been so long now, I can't remember -- but even if I had every bit of it committed to memory, I STILL am not getting any of the "benefits" of a Yale degree. And, regarding the benefits of "college degrees" in general -- at this point, a bachelor's is almost equivalent to a high school diploma, in the sense that "having one doesn't HELP you, so much as NOT having one HURTS you" -- I still can't get behind the idea that all these things should be REQUIRED before anyone has a shot at a decent career and life in our society, let alone that late teens and extreme young adults should have to add to their bankruptcy-proof debt burden to get these things.
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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 28 May 2019, 17:16

Jennifer wrote:
28 May 2019, 16:11
D.A. Ridgely wrote:
28 May 2019, 00:24
I've watched several of those Yale courses. I highly recommend the Intro Old Testament course. The philosophy offerings, not so much.
I think I watched part of the Old Testament thing -- it's been so long now, I can't remember -- but even if I had every bit of it committed to memory, I STILL am not getting any of the "benefits" of a Yale degree. And, regarding the benefits of "college degrees" in general -- at this point, a bachelor's is almost equivalent to a high school diploma, in the sense that "having one doesn't HELP you, so much as NOT having one HURTS you" -- I still can't get behind the idea that all these things should be REQUIRED before anyone has a shot at a decent career and life in our society, let alone that late teens and extreme young adults should have to add to their bankruptcy-proof debt burden to get these things.
Of course it isn't, nor did I suggest any such thing. But the system as it stands is a vicious circle. If more people have college degrees, as once upon a time high school diplomas served the same function back when high schools had modestly rigorous standards, then more employers can use having a degree as a prerequisite to employment. Which in turn makes college more desirable if not necessary for more and more people, in turn leading for the 'need' for more and more colleges. The colleges in turn realize that the overwhelming majority of their students aren't prepared for college level work so they offer more and more remedial courses and dumb down degree requirements and permit grade inflation. Because demand is high, colleges can raise their prices. Because attracting students from a competitive market is necessary so they can protect themselves and their own jobs, those increased prices go to pay for more and more amenities rather than academic needs. Because we've decided as a culture that higher education is a border-line right and oh-my-gawd! it turns out that rich people can afford more expensive stuff than poor people can, we make it easy for students and their families to borrow money to pay for colleges that in turn realize they now have more money available to them so the colleges can raise prices even higher.

The only way to stop this is to make college harder to get into and harder to get through academically, not financially. Employers will stop demanding college diplomas when they can't fill their needs with college graduates. There will be fewer college students and graduates when mediocre and worse colleges go out of business, when the government stops subsidizing higher education except where there is a strong need for specific services requiring extensive training and only then tied to some reasonable reassurances of repayment, rather like the military pays for medical school to help fill its need for doctors.

No one in particular needs to know anything about French symbolist poetry, or Shakespeare for that matter. In the aggregate, however, a culture is stronger if there are enough people who do care enough to learn about such things and have access to the means of doing so, but whatever the socially maximizing number is, it's probably way lower than a third of the population. That said, there is only so far being an auto-didactic will take you in many fields of study, which is one of the reasons having internet access and a library card is only of limited value to most people.

You can watch the Yale lectures, but I doubt many people who do so will do any of the assigned readings, let alone complete the writing assignments and, of course, even if they did they'd still lack the value of conversation among their fellow students and feedback from the instructors and, yes, even then they wouldn't be getting the very different sort of value that merely attending Yale confers or even that taking the very same course at the very same level and quality of instruction but from a third-tier college confers. No one's arguing about that. Universities are servants of two masters.

No one's arguing that the signaling value of college in general or of elite schools in particular is not out of sync even viewing higher education merely in terms of its instrumental value for future job seekers. The discussion is over how to bring those things closer into alignment as well as, and in my mind more importantly, restore to at least some extent the notion of the intrinsic value of a broad liberal arts education.

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Re: Make School Hard Again

Post by Warren » 28 May 2019, 17:56

D.A. Ridgely wrote:
28 May 2019, 17:16
Of course it isn't, nor did I suggest any such thing. But the system as it stands is a vicious circle. If more people have college degrees, as once upon a time high school diplomas served the same function back when high schools had modestly rigorous standards, then more employers can use having a degree as a prerequisite to employment. Which in turn makes college more desirable if not necessary for more and more people, in turn leading for the 'need' for more and more colleges. The colleges in turn realize that the overwhelming majority of their students aren't prepared for college level work so they offer more and more remedial courses and dumb down degree requirements and permit grade inflation. Because demand is high, colleges can raise their prices. Because attracting students from a competitive market is necessary so they can protect themselves and their own jobs, those increased prices go to pay for more and more amenities rather than academic needs. Because we've decided as a culture that higher education is a border-line right and oh-my-gawd! it turns out that rich people can afford more expensive stuff than poor people can, we make it easy for students and their families to borrow money to pay for colleges that in turn realize they now have more money available to them so the colleges can raise prices even higher.

The only way to stop this is to make college harder to get into and harder to get through academically, not financially. Employers will stop demanding college diplomas when they can't fill their needs with college graduates. There will be fewer college students and graduates when mediocre and worse colleges go out of business, when the government stops subsidizing higher education except where there is a strong need for specific services requiring extensive training and only then tied to some reasonable reassurances of repayment, rather like the military pays for medical school to help fill its need for doctors.

No one in particular needs to know anything about French symbolist poetry, or Shakespeare for that matter. In the aggregate, however, a culture is stronger if there are enough people who do care enough to learn about such things and have access to the means of doing so, but whatever the socially maximizing number is, it's probably way lower than a third of the population. That said, there is only so far being an auto-didactic will take you in many fields of study, which is one of the reasons having internet access and a library card is only of limited value to most people.

You can watch the Yale lectures, but I doubt many people who do so will do any of the assigned readings, let alone complete the writing assignments and, of course, even if they did they'd still lack the value of conversation among their fellow students and feedback from the instructors and, yes, even then they wouldn't be getting the very different sort of value that merely attending Yale confers or even that taking the very same course at the very same level and quality of instruction but from a third-tier college confers. No one's arguing about that. Universities are servants of two masters.

No one's arguing that the signaling value of college in general or of elite schools in particular is not out of sync even viewing higher education merely in terms of its instrumental value for future job seekers. The discussion is over how to bring those things closer into alignment as well as, and in my mind more importantly, restore to at least some extent the notion of the intrinsic value of a broad liberal arts education.
If we don't restore substance to the collage degree, fitness for employment will be demonstrated by certification and experience, and that will be then end of the broad liberal arts education for all but the children of the ruling class.
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