Academically Adrift

While leading a history institute in the state of Oklahoma, a friend and colleague informed me of a work I gathered: Academically Adrift. The work discusses how unprepared mentally students are when they leave for college. We both agreed that America’s commercial culture regarding college is to blame. Now, we did not place absolute blame on that. But most colleges seek to appeal to the message that college is the BEST four years of your life. First, that is a lie. Life gets much better after college. It is a great experience, but it is one of many. I would not go back. Like high school, there comes a point in which a student is ready for the next journey. That is normal. Think about how colleges recruit students. Brochures show the fun life of college. There might be a few images of the library, or a students talking to a teacher, but very little about the day-to-day grind.

American culture perpetuates the idea that once in college it is time to drink and party. Many head to school with an immature image shaped. Fraternities and Sororities are trying to fight this image by establishing GPA requirements. Many now have service requirements. But in the end, it is all about socializing. In the work Academically Adrift, it is pointed out that students fail to make any true gains during those first two years.

The work goes on to say:

The book cites data from student surveys and transcript analysis to show that many college students have minimal classwork expectations — and then it tracks the academic gains (or stagnation) of 2,300 students of traditional college age enrolled at a range of four-year colleges and universities. The students took the Collegiate Learning Assessment (which is designed to measure gains in critical thinking, analytic reasoning and other “higher level” skills taught at college) at various points before and during their college educations, and the results are not encouraging:

  • 45 percent of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” during the first two years of college.
  • 36 percent of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” over four years of college.

The book blames the ultimate problem on rigor. 32% of students fail to take any courses that require at least 40 pages of reading assigned per week. I can attest to the fact that my students have been assigned that amount in most given nights. The work also states that students spend only 12 hours studying per week– and most of that is done in groups. It also states that:

Students majoring in liberal arts fields see significantly higher gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills over time than students in other fields of study. Students majoring in business, education, social work and communications showed the smallest gains.


3 thoughts on “Academically Adrift

  1. I was this student. It took me until graduate school to grow up, and that was upon my return in my late 20s.

  2. This is why your loser friend Bryan wrote a book on how to get a career. College has turned into an expensive game that’s just about getting a piece of paper.

  3. You are too funny Bryan. I disagree with your situation. You did very well and turned out an exceptional career. And yes, all too often it is only about a piece of paper.

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