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The 7 - Current Events & Politics - Johnny still can't read Register and log in to post!
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bash91
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#1 Posted on 20.1.06 1406.35
Reposted on: 20.1.13 1407.35
Every so often, especially after a really bad class, cranky old teachers like me tend to bemoan the dumbing down of curricula and the increasing illiteracy and innumeracy of our students. Usually, we tend to console ourselves with the thought that this particular class is merely an aberration and that things really aren't that bad. Unfortunately, it now appears (detnews.com) that those classes aren't just an anomaly.
    Originally posted by the linked article
    More than 50 percent of students at four-year schools and more than 75 percent at two-year colleges lacked the skills to perform complex literacy tasks.

    That means they could not 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 at community colleges and four-year schools showed intermediate skills, meaning they could perform moderately challenging tasks.

    Examples include identifying a location on a map, calculating the cost of ordering office supplies or consulting a reference guide to figure out which foods contain a particular vitamin. ...

    Almost 20 percent of students pursuing four-year degrees had only basic quantitative skills. For example, the students could not estimate if their car had enough gas to get to the service station. About 30 percent of two-year students had only basic math skills.


If reading a newspaper editorial is what passes for "complex literacy", then I really wonder what students are learning both before and in college. Of course, since reading a map is now considered to be a moderately challenging task, maybe I shouldn't ask that question.

There is good news as well. College students and graduates are more literate than the rest of the population and have better research skills.


If you are interested, the complete study (air.org) is available in the form of moderately large pdf. The fact sheet is available here (air.org) and the appendices, which are also a moderately sized pdf, can be found here (air.org).

Tim
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spf
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#2 Posted on 20.1.06 1444.35
Reposted on: 20.1.13 1444.37
The problem is that at least half the things you mentioned have been rendered as unnecessary to the average 18 year old as the ability to churn our own butter or build a thatch roof hut are for us now. Don't know how to get somewhere? Use the GPS/direction service on your phone. The cost of ordering office supplies? Put it in Excel and let that total it for you.

I'm not going to pretend like there's not worrying trends coming from younger kids. But I wonder how most 65 year olds would do on a test requiring them to know how to do technological things that the average teenager considers commonplace. We can argue back and forth about whether they would be better people for knowing these things. But the fact is for most people of this age group, tech advances have rendered the underlying knowledge to be not particularly necessary to day-to-day living. And with the trend in the modern American economy towards specialization, they likely will never need to know these things in order to be productive workers, which is the whole point of the educational system.
Nag
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#3 Posted on 21.1.06 1150.00
Reposted on: 21.1.13 1150.30
But how hard is it to find a location on a map, a skill I learned in maybe 3rd grade. The cost of office supplies? Elementary mathematics, which any fool should know.

Technological advancements are nice, I for one do not know what I would do without spell check, but it should be used as a complement not a substitute for basic knowledge.

edit: even with spell check I'm a moron



(edited by Nag on 21.1.06 1251)
Stilton
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#4 Posted on 21.1.06 1200.28
Reposted on: 21.1.13 1200.47
For me, the scariest part by far is that, "...they could not...understand the arguments of newspaper editorials..."

More and more these days, public discourse in the mass media is becoming over-simplified and dumbed down. Election campaigns are becoming the intellectual equivalent of a WWE audience chanting "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!"

Literacy is more than the ability to read and write words, it is also the ability to understand those words, the ability to think. A lot people simply repeat the opinions of whichever celebrity pundit they happen to like without really thinking about the issues for themselves. Too much repeating, not enough thinking.

If post-secondary students can't even follow basic editorial arguments, then the level of public discourse is approaching a dangerous level. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and part of that vigilance is being able to understand what the hell is going on before you find, say, your own government spying on you without a warrant or something.
Lexus
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#5 Posted on 21.1.06 1308.46
Reposted on: 21.1.13 1308.57
I'm 23, and I can read maps, discern what vitamins and chermicals are in my food, and use any other charts. My secret? I didn't go to college.
CRZ
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#6 Posted on 21.1.06 1323.28
Reposted on: 21.1.13 1324.28
    Originally posted by Stilton
    For me, the scariest part by far is that, "...they could not...understand the arguments of newspaper editorials..."
Perhaps instead of providing your own ellipses and then LEAPING on a subquote of the article, using it as the basis for an entire theory about... American elections and the government? Okay, but maybe it would have been better to go directly to the survey instead of using a "one step removed" source. bash91 was good enough to provide them for you and everything, so you didn't even have to test your research skills!

Then, together, we can decide exactly how much irony should be inferred from your last post.

Speaking from personal experience, I'm PRETTY sure lots of folks (me included) didn't develop their ability to perform research while in college...

1. College was fer drinkin'
2. Lotta dance majors don't like taking math and stuff
3. We didn't have so much Internet when I went to college

I believe that it's only through ego and pride that I'm able to research the way I do now, anyway - I can't stand being wrong and especially hate when someone is able to do more research than me and PROVE I'm wrong. Sadly, there are plenty of other people who just don't care or figure they can get through life without anybody noticing anyway. Some of them even turn out to be right about THAT! Wait, what was my point? Oh, right - Canada sucks
Eddie Famous
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#7 Posted on 21.1.06 1644.43
Reposted on: 21.1.13 1645.06
    Originally posted by CRZ
    2. Lotta dance majors don't like taking math and stuff


First time I read this I thought it was "METH and stuff"



rinberg
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#8 Posted on 23.1.06 0938.28
Reposted on: 23.1.13 0938.44
    Originally posted by spf
    The problem is that at least half the things you mentioned have been rendered as unnecessary to the average 18 year old as the ability to churn our own butter or build a thatch roof hut are for us now. Don't know how to get somewhere? Use the GPS/direction service on your phone. The cost of ordering office supplies? Put it in Excel and let that total it for you.
    I'm not going to pretend like there's not worrying trends coming from younger kids. But I wonder how most 65 year olds would do on a test requiring them to know how to do technological things that the average teenager considers commonplace. We can argue back and forth about whether they would be better people for knowing these things. But the fact is for most people of this age group, tech advances have rendered the underlying knowledge to be not particularly necessary to day-to-day living. And with the trend in the modern American economy towards specialization, they likely will never need to know these things in order to be productive workers, which is the whole point of the educational system.


...which reminds me of a short story* I read long ago. The basic plot divided the world into two sides of a war in an age where computers were used for even the most basic tasks. Since people were using computers to fight the war and the sides were technologically even, the war was at a standstill and had been for generations(?). When a man is found performing mathematical computations without a computer (1+1=2), the military comes up with the brilliant idea of manning their missiles because people are cheaper than the computers that they were currently putting in the missiles.

My point is that it is fine to abstract a certain amount of knowledge, but there are some things that should be common knowledge for everybody. OK, we don't need to understand TCP/IP or Flash programming to use the web. You may never need Algebra. But, we do need to understand basic literacy skills, critical thinking, basic math, etc. and this report does not bode well.

I was hoping to find a huge standard deviation or something, but no such luck. Maybe someone more familiar with statistics can find something wrong with it, but all I can find is depression.

*I tried to find the story, but I don't remember the title, author, or even the book that it was in.


*edit: Good point, Zed. (see next post) I feel better now.

(edited by rinberg on 23.1.06 1321)

(edited by rinberg on 23.1.06 1322)
CRZ
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#9 Posted on 23.1.06 1050.15
Reposted on: 23.1.13 1050.17
    Originally posted by rinberg
    I was hoping to find a huge standard deviation or something, but no such luck. Maybe someone more familiar with statistics can find something wrong with it, but all I can find is depression.
Who's to say that these levels are higher/lower than they would have been had they run this same survey five years ago? Ten? A hundred? HAVE they run this survey before, and if so, where is the comparison of results? Absent any context, just how much meaning can/should you derive from this study?
Mike Zeidler
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#10 Posted on 24.1.06 0836.17
Reposted on: 24.1.13 0837.43
I know that when I took the college placement tests back in 1995, the guidance counselor was shocked that I had a 12th grade reading level, whereas the majority of the students had a 6th-7th grade reading level.

Also, one of my wife's college friends was rooming with a dance major who minored in accounting because "Accounting is my fun class."
J. Kyle
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#11 Posted on 27.1.06 1859.31
Reposted on: 27.1.13 1900.35
I can too! (College-level in English and elementary-level in Japanese)

SPF, while I do agree that technology has made tasks easier for the whippersnapper set, I don't think they've automated all that much. I think people are just asking machines instead of other people to do the work.

I have to side with CRZ on it not meaning much sans context. Most people display mediocre skills at anything requiring thought.

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