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Sending the wrong students to college

BeliavskyBeliavsky - Posts: 1,253 Senior Member
edited December 2012 in Parents Forum
Sending the Wrong Students to College
by Jackson Toby
Minding the Campus: Reforming Our Universities
November 11, 2012

The short weekly papers turned in by my seminar students showed overwhelming shortcomings in the structure and expression of basic ideas, plus a Niagara of errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar. [...] Many couldn't keep straight when to use "there," rather than "their" or "they're," "threw" instead of "through," "sight" instead of "site," "aloud" instead of "allowed," "Ivy" instead of IV (intravenous), and "stranglers" instead of "stragglers."


Toby, a sociology professor at Rutgers, wrote the 2009 book "The Lowering of Higher Education in America: Why Financial Aid Should Be Based on Student Performance".
Post edited by Beliavsky on

Replies to: Sending the wrong students to college

  • momofthreeboysmomofthreeboys Registered User Posts: 15,588 Senior Member
    I saw a deterioration in emphasis on reading and writing during the years between my oldest and my youngest. In my opinion it was a knee jerk reaction to the thinking that "we Americans" were behind the rest of the world in math and science so the K-12 education world focused more effort on making sure little Suzy could multiply 12 and 15 and less emphasis on whether little Suzy knew the difference between there and their. Frankly I think this is rather short sighted as a calculator will multiple 12 and 15, but a computer can't spell check the difference between there and their.
  • MarianMarian Registered User Posts: 12,631 Senior Member
    I don't see this as sending the wrong students to college. I see it as a need to tweak the K-12 curriculum to place more emphasis on the mechanics of spelling and grammar and the clear expression of ideas.
  • SteveMASteveMA Registered User Posts: 6,079 Senior Member
    Financial aid is based on performance to a point. If you don't make adequate progress or maintain a satisfactory GPA your financial aid is yanked. If you excel in high school, most colleges offer merit awards for those students, also linked to maintaining a satisfactory GPA in college. For those schools that don't offer merit awards, they typically offer substantial financial aid to a higher income threshold and admissions to those schools rewards better students.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 25,325 Senior Member
    Why the string of threads about the wrong kids, by one measure or another?

    I wish we could have a thread about kids who took off like wildfires in college. Kids from whatever backgrounds who took advantage of opportunities, saw their critical thinking and analysis skills refined, were exposed to higher orders of knowledge and came out the better for it.

    Not all this fuss about who doesn't belong.
  • blossomblossom Registered User Posts: 8,233 Senior Member
    Ruth Simmons, former president of Brown University.

    "Simmons was born in Grapeland, Texas, the last of 12 children of Fanny (n
  • jnm123jnm123 Registered User Posts: 743 Member
    The only worthwhile idea I can glean from this pablum is that high school graduates are for the most part woefully prepared for college in the writing structure, grammar & syntax department. They have become dependent on spell-check but that doesn't fix bad writing.

    Add mandatory English grammar/writing classes to my 'life skills' bucket for 18-year olds, along with waiting tables, selling door-to-door, keeping track of money (formerly balancing a checkbook), and possessing basic sewing skills.
  • younghossyounghoss Registered User Posts: 3,033 Senior Member
    We see those mistakes here time and time again. I suspect here many posters are foreign-born and English is their second language. At least, I hope that's the case.
  • MarsianMarsian Registered User Posts: 939 Member
    jnm123 -- I like your "life skills" bucket, except that I'd remove the door-to-door selling and replace it with a summer of farm labor.

    For one year, our school had a required course in money management. I saw the curriculum and what my child was doing in there. It was a very good, practical course -- especially considering the amount of debt the average American has. However, a lot of parents complained that their college-bound children were wasting their time when they should be taking accelerated math and science courses instead. Once the course was optional, few students registered for it, so it is no longer offered. Sad.
  • happymomof1happymomof1 Registered User Posts: 25,831 Senior Member
    Bad spelling? Bad grammar? How about making the kid's write that stuff in CLASS BY HAND instead of with something that autocorrects as badly as the hand-held device I'm using right now? Geese. Half of their errors would probably not appear if it weren't for spell/grammar check.
  • happymomof1happymomof1 Registered User Posts: 25,831 Senior Member
    And yes, those errors above are due to auto-correct.
  • confetti247confetti247 Registered User Posts: 1,061 Senior Member
    I think the problem goes back further - when I was in early elementary school, spelling and grammar were corrected first, and concepts and overall writing afterward, maybe. Boring, in-the-box ideas were rewarded. This method was (rightly IMHO) eventually frowned upon because it discouraged creativity and penalized students with learning disabilities. However, now we've gone too far the other way, when a 6th- or 7th-grade student gets work back that's marked with red every other line but no points are taken off for "structural" issues. There has to be an answer somewhere in between.

    jnm123 - Can I add basic laundry and ironing to your bucket?
  • sseamomsseamom Registered User Posts: 4,884 Senior Member
    Although D's school has the latest in technology thanks to awards and foundation support, the students are still required to write much of their work by hand, for the very reasons some above note.

    As for the rash of posts about the wrong students, I can't help notice that most have been posted by the same person, who clearly has a mindset that some are not bright or worthy to BE in college. This article was more of his "proof".

    And regarding life skills, work on a farm would not be so good for my D, who has terrible plant-based allergies and animal-based allergies as well. And I would never let her go door-to-door. She probably won't ever wait tables either, but her volunteer work at her church and at a kids' program has given her the experience in hard work, kitchen work, interaction with people of all ages and backgrounds, and more. I think she's good. We work on money management at home.
  • SteveMASteveMA Registered User Posts: 6,079 Senior Member
    The demise of phonics in early elementary ages is a lot to blame for this. Back when our kids were younger many schools were looking at "whole language" where they got to write "creatively" and it wasn't wrong to spell a word out phonetically because we can't use red pens on papers you know. I thank my lucky stars our kids had an extensive phonics program and can spell very well. I don't equate spelling with intelligence, however. I am a terrible speller but I did just fine in school thanks. I REALLY like spell check now.

    We DID have grammar drilled into us and while I don't always use proper grammar on chat boards, I do know how to use it when needed:D. Our kids have a good foundation with that as well. I see a LOT of adults that should know better that do not though too. Heck, even the words a lot get misused here all the time (alot).
  • poetgrlpoetgrl Registered User Posts: 13,334 Senior Member
    the school curriculum is woefully behind and always has been. Years ago, when we were in school, writing across the curriculum would have made real sense. Now, not so much. Now, they ought to require computer literacy for graduation.

    I say this as one with advanced degrees dependent on writing. Jnm's post is very apt, in many ways, writing is less and less important in our culture. Bookstores are going the way of the feed stores. The culture is changing. The academy needs to advance, as well. I adore a well written book, a masterful poem, well produced Shakespeare or Molliere or Williams.

    give me a great critical thinker and a true creative over an adept punctuator any day of the week.
  • BeliavskyBeliavsky - Posts: 1,253 Senior Member
    sseamom wrote:
    As for the rash of posts about the wrong students, I can't help notice that most have been posted by the same person, who clearly has a mindset that some are not bright or worthy to BE in college. This article was more of his "proof".

    Isn't it true that there are lots of people who are not bright enough to get a "real" BA? If many college students write as badly as Jackson Toby's do, and if they do not improve before graduating, it means a lot of money is being spent to grant degrees that do not certify much.
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