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Old 04-17-2007, 03:34 PM   #1
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Student entitlement?

I was listening to an interview with James E. Cote who has written a book Ivory Tower Blues: A University System in Crisis.

http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/audio.html

March 11th link

I found many of his insights to be disturbing. He claims that university degrees have become merely a work permit in Canada. According to him, most university graduates don't work in fields directly associated with their degree. And end up working in jobs which don't require that particular level of education.

He mentions the concept of social promotion/passing in schools where kids are promoted despite lacking skills in literacy or math. How teachers can't fail students anymore and must inform the principal who then talks to the parents. He calls this the progressive dropping of standards.

He comments on the teacher rating system and its' effects on the teachers, especially their job security or salary. So some professors in an attempt to receive higher ratings end up making their courses easier, and basically pleasing the students.

He mentioned a lawsuit where a teacher was fired for failing to follow a school policy of awarding marks using a 75% effort, 25% merit policy.

Is this what is happening in school these days? Do students have a sense of entitlement do higher marks for mediocre work? I have seen surveys which reveal huge amounts of cheating in academia too. I have been out of school for 15 years and plan to return this fall again.

I know there are many teachers and students here and would appreciate any insights. The interview link summarizes his thoughts far better than I but I hope he is wrong in his conclusions.
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Old 04-17-2007, 03:56 PM   #2
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I'm finishing up a graduate program in English this semester, and I've been teaching undergrads for the last six years while in MA and PhD programs at state universities in two different states. There's a large problem with grade inflation in universities, in large part because of student attitudes. Some students think merely satisfactorily completing work for a class means they should get an A. They don't buy into the argument that everyone getting an A cheapens the value of that grade. A C has suddenly become a bad grade, even though a C once stood for satisfactory work.

Many of the students with this attitude are bright students who have scholarships. They didn't have to work hard in high school to get good grades, so they believe they won't have to in college. I like to think I've humbled a lot of students, because I don't hand out A's like Halloween candy. I'm fair, and I often give out quite a few good grades during a class, but I don't let a student pressure me. I teach writing, and because I grade students both on content and on how well they've revised, I do take into consideration a student's effort, but I reserve A and A- grades for only the very best work.

This is certainly not the case with all students. I've had many students who worked hard and genuinely wanted to learn, and I always appreciated their hard work. As you head back to school, though, you're probably going to encounter a fair number of "grade grubbers"--students who just want the good grade and could care less what else they get out of the class. They're terribly frustrating, and the fact that many professors grade on huge curves or dumb down their classes to help students who aren't working hard makes the situation even worse. I definitely don't think classes should be impossibly hard, but if there isn't some degree of challenge, most students aren't really going to learn anything.
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Old 04-17-2007, 04:08 PM   #3
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^Sounds like you understand where the author is coming from.

Thanks for your thoughts. I agree that not ALL students would expect this treatment but in the long run, this will probably have negative consequences upon our society if not already.
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Old 04-17-2007, 04:11 PM   #4
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The problem is that an undergraduate degree is completely watered down and essentially worthless except in very select circumstances (like undergrads in nursing, engineering, teaching). Your regular BA in English or BSc in Biology are worth about as much as a piece of toilet paper in terms of your employment prospects. There are too many universities, particularly shitty ones who will admit anyone willing to pay. To some extent, this is controlled for in countries where private institutions are not allowed. For example, in the US you have something like 200 law schools, about 100+ of which I would probably not pay $ to attend because their quality is below that which I find acceptable. I really don't understand the logic or reasoning of thousands of private institutions pumping out people with degrees who really should not be graduating with a BA. It's as if we've reached this point in society where it's offensive to suggest that somebody just may not have academic predispositions.

So then what happens is that kids go to university and go insane over grades and things since their BA is worthless and they will have to pursue grad school or professional school if they really want decent job security and better pay someday. And with that comes the entitlement of "I'm paying ___ dollars, you bet your ass I'm not going to accept a C."

The main issue in my eyes is that too many people are graduating with undergraduate degrees. University has become some kind of social project for people to go hang out at for 4 years, regardless of whether they have an interest or not, but because the society expects it. I can't really blame the students here because our job market is such that you better have multiple letters after your name. Our parents and people their age may have gotten away with a high school or community college degree. My best friend's dad is an exec at IBM who never finished his BA. He says these days, they wouldn't even look at his resume. Times have changed.
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Old 04-17-2007, 07:42 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by anitram
I really don't understand the logic or reasoning of thousands of private institutions pumping out people with degrees who really should not be graduating with a BA.
Maybe it's different in Canada, but around here it's well known that the private colleges in the area are far more challenging than public ones. You can expect to work at least twice as hard. Even being in class is tough, since class sizes are generally no more than 30:1 (I was in a few with 12 people) and most are "seminar" meaning you're not just sitting there taking notes, you have to participate in discussion and presentation for actual points. You can get As on all papers and exams and still fail the class if you skip enough times. That's not to say the degree is worth more than someone else's, but if anyone's just passing people along it's NOT the private schools.

Personally, I think it's like a lose-lose situation, pretty much a vicious cycle. If you don't have a BA, no one's going to consider you for even stupid jobs. If you do have a BA, it's really not that big of a deal anyway.

The one thing I really do appreciate about college is the opportunity to travel and/or get hands-on practical experience. Maybe this is not true elsewhere, but at my school you can pretty much study with a sister program anywhere in the world or get any kind of internship you want (as long as you deserve it). You're basically required to study abroad since you cannot graduate without CCE (cross cultural engagement) credits (western Europe doesn't always count either). If I had done the same study I did in Tanzania on my own, it never would have worked. It would have cost three times as much and I never would have been able to meet the people we met because of the connections our professor has there. I wish the school would take emphasis off on the "liberal arts" thing and place even more emphasis on field placements, internships, and studying abroad.

As for the original article, I do see the sense of entitlement where grades are concerned, but again, there's that catch 22 because scholarships have become so competitive. Not 30 years ago, my mom got a full ride academic scholarship from her 3.4 high school GPA. These days, a 3.4 is mediocre in terms of what scholarships are available and what percentage of tuition they would cost.
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Old 04-17-2007, 08:29 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by Liesje
That's not to say the degree is worth more than someone else's, but if anyone's just passing people along it's NOT the private schools.
I totally disagree. There are obviously excellent private institutions (not just the Ivy League either). But the worst institutions in the US are private universities which are funded by high tuition and barely accredited. They are admitting a lot of the spillover because their admission standards are considerably lower. If you can pay, you can attend. That is not how higher education should be, and it's sad it's come to this. Take a look at the law schools in your bottom 100, some of them aren't accredited, some are religious freak shows, some have such ridiculously low standards that it's scary. It's a well known strategy in Canada that if you can't get into law school or grad school or teacher's college or MBA or optometry or dentistry or ____ (fill in the blank) all you need is head south of the border, pay your fee and SOME school will be able to take you. Everyone who I know who failed to get into one of these schools in Canada got in somewhere in the US. Not saying they went to a good private institution, but they went to some crappy school, shelled over an enormous amount of money and got a degree they couldn't have gotten here because of their qualifications.

Because bottom line is, we don't have private universities and so we have far fewer spots per capita than you do.
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Old 04-17-2007, 08:59 PM   #7
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Re: Student entitlement?

Quote:
Originally posted by trevster2k

I found many of his insights to be disturbing. He claims that university degrees have become merely a work permit in Canada. According to him, most university graduates don't work in fields directly associated with their degree. And end up working in jobs which don't require that particular level of education.

He mentions the concept of social promotion/passing in schools where kids are promoted despite lacking skills in literacy or math. How teachers can't fail students anymore and must inform the principal who then talks to the parents. He calls this the progressive dropping of standards.
I'm too lazy to read the article now
Regarding not working in the degree field, the workplace/job market does not reflect students' collective majors. Too few study technical fields for example, so there's bound to be an imbalance. I guess grade inflation can lead to the illusion of students being overqualified for jobs or grad schools. But eventually a student entering a job or grad school will be judged by other standards, and the grades will mean less as time goes by.
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Old 04-17-2007, 09:06 PM   #8
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Sure they are easier to get into - they don't even HAVE competition to get in - but that doesn't mean you will stay in very long or not get kicked out! I know more people who've been on academic probation than I know who've received academic scholarships. Also, you cannot count any credits toward a major you received lower than a B+ in anyway. So yeah, you can get in and be a shitty student, but you will either not get accepted into the major program in the first place (it's not a free for all where you can choose any major and that's it, you're good to go) or not get that degree because you don't make the cut academically.

I don't think in general private schools are better, but I don't think they are generally worse.

What you get out of college is really what YOU make of it. If you slack and waste time just for the social experience, you might get a degree, but like we've been saying, that doesn't mean anything anymore, so who cares? If you never put out the effort to join extra clubs, take on internships and field placements, etc., you won't have any practical experience and you won't get picked for jobs.

I think we agree that the degree itself doesn't mean much these days. If that's true in general, then it's not even worth holding against some private schools. Compare their career development and field placement programs instead. Those are really the key to getting ahead of the competition, IMO.
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Old 04-17-2007, 09:13 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by Liesje

I think we agree that the degree itself doesn't mean much these days. If that's true in general, then it's not even worth holding against some private schools.
But to me that's exactly part of the problem. The degree doesn't mean much because it's watered down and a greater proportion of the population is getting degrees that are worthless. A CDO can only do so much - when you flood the marketplace with hundreds of thousands of BAs, of course they can't all be accomodated. A BA used to mean something 40 years ago. Today, almost anyone can get one and tons of people do. Then you have the problem of entering a workplace with an expensive BA, tens of thousands of dollars in loans and you're working for a $30K/year job as an admin assistant? That's ridiculous. You do not need a degree for that job, but because everyone and their brother has a degree these days, suddenly it's become a requirement of employment.

I'm fully supportive of universities making significant cuts in the number of available spots for students. Take 25% of the lowest ranked students out, and the top 75% would have a better chance of getting jobs in their fields and better jobs than bottom of the totem pole. Now, the bottom 50% ends up doing some unrelated crap.

Post-secondary education should not be seen as entitlement in my eyes. It's total insanity out there now.
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Old 04-17-2007, 09:30 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by anitram

Then you have the problem of entering a workplace with an expensive BA, tens of thousands of dollars in loans and you're working for a $30K/year job as an admin assistant? That's ridiculous. You do not need a degree for that job, but because everyone and their brother has a degree these days, suddenly it's become a requirement of employment.
The admin assistants where I work don't have degrees, I believe. I wonder why a 2-year degree (max) would not suffice for those types of positions.
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Old 04-17-2007, 09:41 PM   #11
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Yep, I agree, but I don't think that private colleges are really a significant factor since 1) the amount of students going there is almost marginal compared to the populations of large universities (many private colleges have less people than my high school) and 2) it's not true that just because it's easy to get in, you will get your BA without being cut from the program or put on probation because you are doing poorly.

On this side of the state, if you go to one of the private schools and are struggling, it's very common to go to the state school and get "easy As" for some of the classes in order to keep up. It happens all the time for foreign language classes and science classes with labs. The schools try to limit the amount of credits you can transfer and no longer accept grades to be transfered, but it still happens. Most people I know took at least one course at an easier school. I think that's ridiculous. Why go to one school if you have to go part time to another because you really can't keep up at your own school? To me having to go back and forth would just complicate things and add more stress, but whatever.

But then I suppose the alternative is no better - dropping out to work, not being able to find a job without a degree. Chicken, or egg?
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Old 04-17-2007, 09:48 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by ntalwar


The admin assistants where I work don't have degrees, I believe. I wonder why a 2-year degree (max) would not suffice for those types of positions.
Depends on what you're the assistant for. Some admin assistants are basically the brains AND brawn behind the entire operation. If you're an admin assistant for a foreign language department, you have to speak that language so unless you are a native, you'd have to have majored in that language in order to be fluent enough for that job. The admin assistants in our Development office are insanely qualified and paid accordingly. They rule the school. Same for the president's posse. I could not fathom doing their jobs and I have a college degree!

For other ones, I've seen many, many postings that only require a high school diploma, but they generally all require a few year's experience. There are plenty of these out there. I guess maybe the reason that so many are over qualified is say you are interviewing two people, one has a 4 year degree and the other is a 17 year old who just finished high school. You don't NEED the degree, but why not?
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Old 04-17-2007, 09:54 PM   #13
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A BA today is the equivalent of a high school diploma 30 years ago, there is no denying that. I can only speak for the science field, but my BS allowed me to be a lab tech or research associate with minimal room for promotion without having an advanced degree.

Part of the blame has to be put on our culture and parenting styles. Nowadays, everyone is told how special we are, how many great gifts we have. We coddle our kids so much and we feed the illusion that every kid can go to college and become a CEO. It's not reality - college really isn't for everyone. A bell curve of life does exist. Not everyone can be at the top of the curve, but we sell the lie that a degree from some d-list college can make all the difference in the world - which I think hurts all of society.
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Old 04-17-2007, 10:23 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by anitram

some are religious freak shows,


but such a degree will get you a job in the Gonzales Justice Department.

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Old 04-17-2007, 10:53 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by randhail
A BA today is the equivalent of a high school diploma 30 years ago, there is no denying that. I can only speak for the science field, but my BS allowed me to be a lab tech or research associate with minimal room for promotion without having an advanced degree.

Part of the blame has to be put on our culture and parenting styles. Nowadays, everyone is told how special we are, how many great gifts we have. We coddle our kids so much and we feed the illusion that every kid can go to college and become a CEO. It's not reality - college really isn't for everyone. A bell curve of life does exist. Not everyone can be at the top of the curve, but we sell the lie that a degree from some d-list college can make all the difference in the world - which I think hurts all of society.
It's so depressing how little a bachelors is worth

With the shrinking of the middle class, though that BA isn't worth much it's better than nothing. There are plenty of smart people in the world who never got advanced degrees and contributed to society. It is sad that now to have any hope of a good job you've got to fit into the college model. To have a comfortable lifestyle you've got to spend a good eight years in school.

I think we overpay those with the most schooling and shortchange ourselves by not compensating people enough for doing other essential work. These things lead us to encourage EVERYONE to get a degree.
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