North West Arkansas Community College (via becomealiveblog)

It has been some years, more than I care to remember, since I went to college. I thought I was in heaven, and I’ve never forgotten how it felt those first few days when I discovered that my professors actually thought I was bright.

Here we have a student embarking on a new career path. One day soon, college may become a simple matter of computer assisted tests and internet presentations with the personal removed, no more lecture, no more exchange of ideas between teacher and student, and no more of the power and enthusiasm of teaching at its best. But we are not there yet and so his experience will be similar to mine, a path of self discovery with the pleasure of being taught.

I wish him well and suggest his essay as an example of a thinking human being, in short, a rare individual.

James Pilant

Well, my last day of employment at Coors of Western Arkansas was on Friday. I began that job a year ago when I  was still under the false impression that I wanted to work my way up in the work force. I thought: "I might like it better than the restaurant business." I was dead wrong. Despite the fact that I was a salesman, 80% of my day was stocking shelves. Which I found to be less than intellectually stimulating. So now it is Monday and I'm abou … Read More

via becomealiveblog

What on earth is S365? (via (B)LogtheLeg)

The debt ceiling agreement clobbers grad students. It makes it harder to get loans for those working toward advanced degrees. We in this country need to encourage education not just at the bachelor level but at all levels. We don’t just live to make money but to extend our civilization. It’s important to continue this process.

Let’s cut grad students a break and maintain their ability to stay in school.

James Pilant

Based on the timing on this post, I think you can infer it's the debt ceiling bill that passed the House earlier. But let's go a bit in depth, and discuss something which I don't believe was discussed on the Floor of the House. I'm not going to delve into the numbers of the debt ceiling, for you all can read that on whichever source you choose. What many of your outside sources will not tell you is the name of the bill itself. It is entitled, "To … Read More

via (B)LogtheLeg

Welcome To Pottersville, USA (via Crowhavenscriptsfarm’s Blog)

A few stories of the banking industry and how it plays the public for every last extractable fraction of a cent!

I’ll let the stories speak for themselves of the constant danger of being a consumer in America.

James Pilant

Welcome To Pottersville, USA Yes, that is a reference to that classic film, “It’s A Wonderful Life”. Oh where, oh where is George Bailey when you need him?! Because most banks, MOST not all, are run by Mr. Potter type thinkers. Get ’em while they ain’t lookin’. And get ’em good! We have debt, who doesn’t these days? I own up to it, or “own it” as the financial gurus tell you you must. I do, we have debt. And with two teens, more is coming. My hours at work have been cut in h … Read More

via Crowhavenscriptsfarm’s Blog

Is Higher Ed Doomed? (Part I): Driving off a cliff near you, the state-run university (via Paul Kiser’s Blog)

This Part 1 is the intriguing first shot across the bow to get our attention. It explains the developing crisis in state run universities.

What Kiser has said so far has definitely caught my interest. I’ve read this one and I’m looking for part 2.

This is going to be interesting. I think you will enjoy it as well. So, read this one and then catch the number 2 article when it comes. While you are at this, it might be a good idea to favorite the site. There might be a part three. Besides, you’d enjoy reading the site regularly. I do.

James Pilant

Is Higher Ed Doomed? (Part I): Driving off a cliff near you, the state-run university by Paul Kiser USA PDT [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679] Article first published as Is Higher Education Doomed (Part I): Driving Off a Cliff Near You – The State-Run University on Part I The average cost of a college degree is rapidly rising. In 2006, the annual average cost for tuition and fees at a state- … Read More

via Paul Kiser’s Blog

One-Third of Students Don’t Learn Much in College!! (Part 2-The Colleges and Universities)

Part 2 of my series on American Higher Education. (Part 1 is here.)

For those of you who are new to these postings, I include the brief recap below.

From CBS Money Watch –

A new study suggests more than one third of parents aren’t necessarily getting a great return on their investment in their kids’ college education. Two college professors tracked more than 2,300 college students at 24 colleges and universities from their freshman year in 2005 through senior year, testing them along the way to gauge their critical and analytical thinking. According to the authors of a new book based on the study, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, 36 percent of college students did not learn much in the way of those cognitive skills.

But at least that was an improvement over the learning curve through sophomore year: In the first two years of school, 45 percent of college students had no significant improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing.

Let us continue our search for answers. In part one we discussed why students have little experience in critical thinking. Now we take up the question of the colleges and universities.

A simple questions – How can we expect students to learn critical thinking skills in an environment where teaching undergraduates is often little more than an annoyance?

The contempt that universities have for undergraduates is legendary.

For universities, undergraduate students are unimportant. They are cash cows to be milked until due to lack of advisement or any other concern they flunk out or just get bored with being treated like a semi-useful farm animal. The comedic touch of repeatedly telling these students that they pay only a proportion of their college cost is one I particularly enjoy, that university administrators can say it with a straight face suggests thespian training.

To have a brilliant career in a university setting, a professor must evade teaching if at all possible. The university expects research, publications and grants. The professor gives the students who fall into his area of concern to his grad students, masters degree students who in almost all cases have no training in teaching whatever. There are many fine grad student teachers. I have done it myself. But some grad students are not that good.

I have sat with other professors while we exchanged our stories of worst grad student teachers. The stories usually revolved around those grad students inability to speak English, understand their subject or to act normally. The stories always ended the same way. We discuss what they said, how bad the grades were and how many complaints were made. Then the straight man of the group says, “What happened to the grad student after that teaching fiasco?” The story teller pauses for effect and then says, “He was back teaching the next semester.”

But if a professor should teach, industrial techniques are applied. If you can watch the spectacle of one professor teaching an auditorium of 600 to 1,000 students and then believe for one moment that the university has any concern for the teaching of undergraduates, you have a faith that I do not.  Do I have to bring up the cattle analogy?

Then we have the colleges. Intent on maximizing profit, colleges have embarked on out sourcing teaching away from full time instructors to part timers. This is very similar to the use of grad students and once again there are many, many fine adjunct instructors but the statistics are clear, full time professors do a better job of teaching.  (Confession – I am an adjunct instructor.)  This is another piece of evidence that teaching is not considered to be important.

And then there is online teaching. This kind of teaching is a blessing for those who cannot attend regular classes but there is a powerful temptation to use it instead of regular teaching. Why? No classroom, no facilities use, etc., it saves bundles of money. You almost don’t have to have a college.

What are the standards by which a class is determined to be necessary to be taught online? Obviously if you advertise that as many distance learning colleges do, you should expect online teaching. But where is the line when a class is being taught out of a facility with classrooms and facilities? When does online teaching move from necessity to cash cow? Once again, you have to wonder where the importance of teaching is in the calculations.

Universities insist on removing the best of their faculty from teaching. Colleges substitute part time instructors instead of full time. Online teaching is used not out of necessity but to save money. Everyone of these phenomenon makes student learning more problematic. It makes learning the skills of critical thinking and writing more difficult.

If teaching is not important in universities and is done only as much as necessary in colleges, it is inevitable that our students will not do as well as they might.

Next in Part 3: I will explain why our society is uninterested in critical thinking.

James Pilant

Is A College Education Worth $800,000?

The number, 800,000 dollars, has been used often to describe the advantage of a college education over a high school diploma. However according to new data, the actual value is $450,000 dollars. If that isn’t bad enough, according to the American Institutes for Research, it’s only worth $279,893.

Let’s figure it up. The number of working years used is forty. So if we divide 800,000 by forty, we get 20,000 dollars a year in advantage over someone with a high school diploma. Now let’s look at the revised figures. At 450,000 dollars, a college degree adds 11,250 dollars, which is much less impressive than 20,000 dollars. But if the American Institutes for Research is correct, it is only worth about 7,000 dollars.

Now, none of this takes into consideration, the costs of college itself, in particular the burden of paying off students loans which can easily get into the tens of thousands.

Am I discouraging you from pursuing a higher education? Certainly not, there are many advantages, intellectual and otherwise for going to college. I do want you to be aware that we might want to contemplate some kind of structural change in how we pay for education and how education is rewarded in the job market.

And be cautious about these kinds of statistics. The first decade of the twenty first century was cruel to the middle and lower classes. They lost a lot of economic ground. One of the things that was hit hard was earning power. Whole classes of jobs disappeared. The very, very few new jobs carried much lower salaries and reduced benefits.

Take a look at this film on college costs:

James Pilant

(This is a repost of a column I wrote some months ago.)