Thursday, March 27, 2014

Stories Like This Just Make Me See Red

There's a lot of looking down the nose by prestige operations like the University of North Carolina at mere "community colleges" for lacking the high standards of a university.  And then you read articles like this about "phony classes" created to keep athletes "academically eligible:
The classes — which were listed as "independent studies" on the course book — had no attendance, and students got credit for writing papers that always got either A's or B's.
Willingham, who called the paper classes "scam classes," showed ESPN an example of one of these papers. It's a one-paragraph, 148-word "final paper" on Rosa Parks.
The essay, titled "Rosa Parks: My Story" got an A-minus, Willingham says.
Here's the text (h/t @BrianAGraham):
On the evening of December Rosa Parks decided that she was going to sit in the white people section on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. During this time blacks had to give up there seats to whites when more whites got on the bus. Rosa parks refused to give up her seat. Her and the bus driver began to talk and the conversation went like this. "Let me have those front seats" said the driver. She didn't get up and told the driver that she was tired of giving her seat to white people. "I'm going to have you arrested," said the driver. "You may do that," Rosa Parks responded. Two white policemen came in and Rosa Parks asked them "why do you all push us around?" The police officer replied and said "I don't know, but the law is the law and you're under arrest."

Read more:
Those of us who teach at the community college level are trying very hard to demand a lot out of students.  It isn't easy.  In some cases, students are arriving at college with serious educational deficits -- and sometimes, serious capability deficits as well.  When I see scams like this, I really want to see college administrators looking at the prospect of serving time for fraud, because they have accepted public funds to perpetrate such frauds.


  1. I did a short stint as an adjunct at a private University.

    Even that school did not offer a living wage. Most of the other adjuncts who worked there were splitting time between two or three Universities and Colleges.

    I'm somewhat happy that I've found employment elsewhere.

    I was teaching in mathematics, not history. And I was surprised at the things students didn't know, coming in.

  2. To add to my previous thought: my experience was with students who were under-prepared for the field they were studying in. The school I worked at did not have any inter-mural sports teams.

    (I still saw High School graduates who hadn't mastered Algebra. Which might have been laziness on their part. Or educational malpractice on the part of the school they attended.)

    About big-name athletes, and special courses to allow them to remain as "students" at the University level: can we arrange a modern form of shaming, equivalent to the medieval stocks and pillory?

    I'm imagining using it to shame the Sports Directors, Admissions Officers, and certification boards from the NCAA. And College Presidents.

    More realistically: I understand the tangle of perverse incentives that led to this situation. And I'm told that some Universities hold their athletes to much higher standards than this example.

    Is there some way to convince the NCAA to require a minimum number of classroom hours for student athletes? A minimum of classes in which athletes are the minority, and more typical students are the majority?

    Or some way to have the teams separate from the University and become a minor-league team? Even if the team keeps the same name, has some sort of arms-length relationship with the University, and provides athletes with scholarships+stipends?

  3. Not all is bad. I am currently enrolled in a junior college nursing program. 30 years ago I took many of the same classes as pre-reqs for my BS degree. I find the science classes now, anatomy, microbiology, chemistry and the like to be more rigorous and better taught, from mostly better textbooks, than in the classes I had a a decent 4-year university way back when.
    I have no idea what the freshmen are being taught, or how much they know, but the young adults I am in class with are all pretty sharp. Of course, the dummies have all been weeded out by this point.

  4. I'm just not as mad as I should be about this situation. I don't see a "tangle of perverse incentives" but a realistic view of what these students are capable of.

    It's unrealistic to expect everybody to go to college. You have students who are not college material, will never be college material, yet they have one skill they've developed, sports, which is of value to the real world. How does a college balance these issues? Kick the student out? That's stupid.

    Lots of schools already hire private tutors to help teach them 4th and 5th grade level stuff. What is the student supposed to do with the rest of his hours? There is nothing he can take at a college level.