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Ask Slashdot: Is the Bar Being Lowered At Universities?

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the students-probably-making-good-use-of-the-bars dept.

Education 605

An anonymous reader writes "I am in my late 20s, live in the U.S., work in the IT industry, and am going to school to upgrade from an associate's degree to a bachelor's degree. One of my classes is a web-based course that requires students to write blogs. I am not attending one of those questionable for-profit schools. This is a large, state-funded, public university. In this course I have noticed poor writing skills are the norm rather than the exception. It is a 3rd year course, so students should have successfully completed some sort of writing course prior to this one. Blog posts, which students are graded on, tend to be very poorly written. They are not organized into paragraphs, have multiple run-on sentences, and sometimes don't make sense. I do not know what grades they are receiving for these posts. Slashdot, is what I am seeing the exception, or the norm? Is the bar being lowered for university students, or am I just expecting too much?"

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Betteridge's Law has been beaten (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912329)

Yes... the bar is being lowered, yes it is!

Re:Betteridge's Law has been beaten (1, Offtopic)

cffrost (885375) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912557)

Yes... the bar is being lowered, yes it is!

It's a limbo bar.

Re:Betteridge's Law has been beaten (2, Funny)

theillien (984847) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912679)

Then wouldn't it get harder as it gets lower?

Re:Betteridge's Law has been beaten (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912767)

More like is the bar being lowered at Slashdot amirite? /. has been going down hill ever since the Dice take over.

Re:Betteridge's Law has been beaten (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912889)

I think the bar was lowered to soak up all the cash the various levels of government have been dumping into the institutions' coffers. The governments appropriate more money, the schools have to dig up more students to get the bucks.

its normal (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912331)

dont you no most people dont rite good

Re:its normal (5, Interesting)

PatentMagus (1083289) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912829)

What ages are most of the people in the class?

Someone in their late 20's should notice lots of qualitative differences between themselves and most relatively fresh high school graduates. That is especially true for someone who has been working for a living.

The smart move, if you're having such an easy time with the course work and acing the class, is to pick up on those youngsters. This is probably the height of their physical attractiveness (and the waning of yours). You'll never be so well positioned again either.

Re:its normal (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912891)

Funny, but entirely accurate, and it's nothing new. Many of the people I've worked with over the last couple decades, most of them college grads, can barely read and write. It's really not just the ones in their twenties or thirties, and it includes the ones that make good money in important jobs.

Older folks seem to think they're better about it, on average. They're really not, and it makes for some very funny exchanges.

Wrong site (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912357)

Slashdot readership (if it can really be called that, judging by how little is actually read by its posting users [slashdot.org] ) is an older crowd; they are not college students. Chances are they will lament how times have changed, and then tell you to get off their lawn. Seriously, very few people here are going to be able to answer your question because they are not in college anymore. On top of that there are tons of trolls who will just say they have to start up arguments.

Re:Wrong site (4, Insightful)

Jstlook (1193309) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912567)

The Dice.com content generation team hasn't realized that yet.
This sounds like (judging from the tenor of the well-written "ask slashdot") another shill article along the lines of the "how to get the job interview" crap they're posting nowadays.

Re:Wrong site (2)

mspohr (589790) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912933)

I'm a geezer.
Get off my lawn!

It's been dropping for a long time (4, Interesting)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912375)

I saw it start in the 60s when profs started inflating grades to keep students from losing their student draft deferments. More and more unqualified graduates entered the workforce and many went into education. It's been in a downward spiral ever since.

Re:It's been dropping for a long time (4, Funny)

stewsters (1406737) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912803)

I sincerely doubt that. I bet many collage graduates back then didn't even know how to write a blog post, let alone post videos of them doing keg stands on Vine.

Re:It's been dropping for a long time (1)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912907)

I did my undergraduate work from 1999-2004, double majored in anthropology and computer science. Obviously everybody's mileage will vary, but from I saw proper grammar and punctuation was more of an emphasis in my so-called 'soft' science classes than it was in any other. As a graduate student I taught a number of general Liberal Arts courses and can also say that as a very general rule, the upper-classmen in a LA major tended to have a better grasp of proper writing than the others. This isn't to say that engineers are smacking their heads on keyboards and turning the results in, I'm just giving my very anecdotal experience.

not new (5, Informative)

bananaquackmoo (1204116) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912379)

This is nothing new. Universities have a BROAD set of admissions standards. In any college you will frequently find people who you wonder how they got there. Even if they didn't someone could get in via money, lying, legacy, getting lucky, socio-economics, knowing a guy in the admissions office, you name it...

Re:not new (2)

onkelonkel (560274) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912569)

Or not. Most of our Universities are publicly funded. Engineering and Sciences (and maybe other schools? not sure) have enrollment limits, in other words only the top X applicants get in.This is as opposed to when I attended (very long ago), where they had a standard and any one who made the standard was admitted. For example to get into 1st year Science I needed to get a 65% in all my 12th grade science courses and a 75% in math (not too hard). But now, since universities only take the top X% the bar for 1st year science is near a 90% average in science and math.

Re:not new (1)

bananaquackmoo (1204116) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912761)

You say that, and I agree that is supposed to happen, but welcome to the real world buddy.

US University Education shocked me... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912397)

20 years ago as a first year UK student, I spent a semester at a decent US university. I participated in Masters level courses and aced them all. I was shocked at the astonishingly basic level of teaching and understanding; grading for much of the course was via multiple choice quizzes which made it ridiculously easy to achieve high marks, without proper validation of a student's understanding of the subject. At that time, UK university courses were effectively free.

You are paying handsomely for the lamentable education you are receiving. Complain. Vociferously!

Re:US University Education shocked me... (5, Funny)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912587)

I'm sorry, most of us dumb Americans don't understand the words "lamentable" and "vociferously". Please limit yourself to monosyllables if you intend to get your point across.

Re:US University Education shocked me... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912711)

Please limit yourself to monosyllables if you intend to get your point across.

I don't know that big word you just used. please use short words.

Re:US University Education shocked me... (0)

Abstrackt (609015) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912961)

Please limit yourself to monosyllables if you intend to get your point across.

Your schools suck. You need to bitch to the guys in charge till they fix them.

Re:US University Education shocked me... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912717)

Things are no better in the UK. I did a Computer Science degree at the University of Manchester, which is supposed to be one of the better universities for Computer Science, and the standard of teaching was dire. You get shoved in a room with 300 people and lectured to. Having somebody lecture to you about programming is of little use and somebody I know finished the degree without understanding what an array was. The only people who knew how to program were people who learned themselves, and anyone who relied on the university to teach them ended up know nothing.

I found the entire degree to be a waste of time as it acted as a bottleneck to kerning. Something you could learn yourself in a short amount of time would be spread over months at university, and because of the lecture format you'd end up with a much lower level of understanding than if you had learned yourself.

Personally I'm all for shutting down the whole education system and creating a series of books and DVDs. The education system now exists primarily for the teachers and is very damaging for the students.

Ummm (5, Funny)

Tx (96709) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912403)

You come to Slashdot to complain about badly written blog posts? Have you even been here before? That's like going into a gay bar to bitch about homosexuality.

Re:Ummm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912491)

The difference is this is something people post to voluntarily. They are not paying to receive a grade and credit for. The OP is referring to a course requirement.

Actually That Might Not Be a Difference (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912649)

The difference is this is something people post to voluntarily. They are not paying to receive a grade and credit for. The OP is referring to a course requirement.

The submitter didn't really explain the purpose of this exercise. If the purpose was to deploy and customize Wordpress to show something you had learned about PHP and MYSQL then maybe the teacher wasn't grading on grammar and most people didn't care. I myself am guilty of long sentences that, if I had more time to spend on them, I would probably trim down but I don't because that's not what I'm paid to spend time on at my job (unless it's user doc). Likewise if this was demonstration of technical skill over prose, these could have been last minute entries and afterthoughts to the assignment. Given little time, no proof reading and just put up to Lorem Ipsum up some text?

The big question: are these students docked for having poor grammar in their blog posts in a computer course? If not, then you probably shouldn't be critiquing them like they just tried to write a novel.

If what you're really asking is... (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912411)

I believe your question could be phrased "are people getting dumber?" You can either believe what you hear (that they're supposedly not) or you can believe what you see with your own eyes, in which case the answer would likely be a resounding "Yes!"

are you certain (1)

HPHatecraft (2748003) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912421)

you didn't accidentally enroll in a high school?

Just out of curiosity, if you were to stand up and walk to a mirror, would you say you look like this man here [google.com] ?

Consider the field (2)

Bob Watson (2842337) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912429)

You did say IT, didn't you??

Could be the medium (2)

chemicaldave (1776600) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912435)

I think writing a blog implies much less formality than a traditional paper. I graduated with a BS in 2010 and never did I write a paper with improper grammar that did not receive deductions, no matter the course or the assignment. It could also be that the students are not writing this in Word, and thus can't rely on the spelling and grammar checking functions.

Re:Could be the medium (1)

Moridineas (213502) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912653)

I hope you are joking!

Wait, a 3rd year course on blogging? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912437)

What kind of legit bachelors degree program has a class for juniors that requires them to write a blog?

Re:Wait, a 3rd year course on blogging? (1)

Tsiangkun (746511) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912747)

One in using the new medias to attract and retain eyeballs ?
Maybe the course is graded by something more important than the English abused in the posts
  • Does the hit rate increase over time ?
  • Does the site attract a global audience ?
  • Does the site get repeat visits ?
  • How many minutes does a viewer spend on the site ?
  • How much of your content is actually ever seen ?
  • How many people link to your content ?

I think there are many ways to evaluate a successful blog, besides the correctness of the grammar.

Re:Wait, a 3rd year course on blogging? (1)

Tsiangkun (746511) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912939)

Or maybe one where the purpose is to design and build a blog system, where the actual system is what is important, and not the sample posts used for testing ? I guess the lack of information presented is just another sign of the youth having degraded mental abilities. He didn't list the primary objectives, he just bitched about grammar used in blog posts, which may or may not even be relevant to what the class is trying to achieve.

University Professor Here (5, Interesting)

RobertJ1729 (2640799) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912441)

I am a university professor. What you are witnessing is the disintegration of American secondary education. We have seen a dramatic decline in the preparation of incoming freshman. Even strong students who are very prepared on paper have major and substantial gaps in their education. Professors are struggling to manage this situation. Do you teach to the students in a way that will maximize their learning? Or do you teach the course content at a level consistent with your own notion of academic integrity and what the course catalog lists as the content of the course? Do you somehow split the difference, or if so, how? These are the questions we are trying to answer.

Re:University Professor Here (4, Insightful)

funnyguy (28876) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912555)

As an adult student who has gone back to school, I want to say something as well.

We have seen a dramatic decline in the knowledge retention of students because professors are not trained on teaching methods. Even strong professors who are very prepared on paper have major and substantial gaps in their ability to communicate. Students are struggling to manage this situation. Do you let them teach to the students in a way that just forces memorization? Or do you only learn the course content at a level consistent with the professor's ability to communicate? Do you somehow split the difference, or if so, how? These are the questions we are trying to answer.

A constant can't explain a variable (5, Informative)

langelgjm (860756) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912737)

The problem with your argument is that professors have pretty much never been trained in pedagogy. I think most people in secondary education, including the professors themselves, would agree that learning about how to teach effectively is not high on the list of priorities for most professors. There are a lot of reasons for this, some of which are problematic and should be changed. But the thing is, this has been the situation for decades. Most professors aren't good teachers. That's true today, and it was true in the past. So how do you explain declining performance of students when the quality of professor has remained constant?

Re:University Professor Here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912901)

You are right that many professors don't know how to teach. That was always the case. The students, however, have gotten worse over time.

Re:University Professor Here (1)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912903)

Most universities will let anyone teach as an adjunct as long as they have a master's degree in the subject. Its bad enough most courses are being taught by TAs who are doing it just to get said master's.

Re:University Professor Here (4, Interesting)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912599)

What you are witnessing is the disintegration of American secondary education.

My (Canadian) brother married an American. Once their (American-born) kids were of a 'certain' age, they moved back to Canada, for exactly this reason. They were appalled at the degradation of American public education, and they saw their options as being 1) paying gazillions they didn't have for private school, 2) home schooling with the loss of all the resultant good stuff that comes from going to school or 3) putting their kids in public school and having them wind up with an inferior education.

So now the kids are enrolled in public school here in Vancouver.

Re:University Professor Here (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912763)

I am a full professor at the University of California. Our promotions are tied to our course evaluations, and our course evaluations improve as we make the classes easier. Why would we slit our financial throats for you?

Re:University Professor Here (1)

Tailhook (98486) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912849)

I am a university professor.

Your answer has left no doubt.

What you are witnessing is the disintegration of American secondary education. We have seen a dramatic decline in the preparation of incoming freshman. Even strong students who are very prepared on paper have major and substantial gaps in their education. Professors are struggling to manage this situation. Do you teach to the students in a way that will maximize their learning? Or do you teach the course content at a level consistent with your own notion of academic integrity and what the course catalog lists as the content of the course? Do you somehow split the difference, or if so, how? These are the questions we are trying to answer.

Yes, in other words. Standards are dropping.

Typically educrats use these discussions as an opportunity to claim poverty; not enough public money. I applaud you for not doing that. For the record we're #4 in in the world [businessinsider.com] in spending per student in elementary and secondary education. Way up the high side of the spending histogram. The NEA will say otherwise but they are lying; "percent of GDP" is a misleading calculation.

It's about parenting. Parents have dropped their standards to zero. They do, however, have expectations of schools; don't you dare fail Shaniqua... she showed up every day just like all the other kids.

Re:University Professor Here (0)

GreatAntibob (1549139) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912853)

"What you are witnessing is the disintegration of American secondary education."

We're witnessing a self-reported university professor use poor grammar to decry the use of poor grammar by university students.

Astounding.

Incentive based bar lowering (1)

gmclapp (2834681) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912461)

Classes, as well as professors, are evaluated based on the pass/fail ratio of students. Because of this, passing sub-par work is rewarded. Word gets out that a certain class is "easy" and even less talented students enroll. I don't think this is new, but yes, the bar is continuously lowered..

Re:Incentive based bar lowering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912723)

Classes, as well as professors, are evaluated based on the pass/fail ratio of students. Because of this, passing sub-par work is rewarded. Word gets out that a certain class is "easy" and even less talented students enroll. I don't think this is new, but yes, the bar is continuously lowered..

This doesn't have anything to do with professors or university level education. The purpose of college/universities is not to teach students basic writing skills like how to construct coherent sentences. It is not the purpose of colleges to teach basic mathematics (you'd be surprised at how many college students struggle with subtraction - I'd say that about a third of my students at a Big 10 university would be incapable of doing 7 - (-3) without a calculator). It is not the purpose of colleges to teach very basic science (I bet less than 10% of college students can define the scientific method properly). These are elementary/middle/high school subjects.

This is a problem with elementary, middle, and high schools. Colleges just can't do their job (higher education) plus the high school's job in 4 years. Once students get to universities, the only options are to boot them out for being unprepared, force them to do a million remedial classes (essentially make them do what they should have learned in high school), or just do the best you can with poorly prepared students. The first two options would cause a riot of angry parents, so universities are stuck with door #3.

I think that the students should be forced to take all kinds of remedial classes, but parents would throw a fit if they were paying tens of thousands so that their kid can learn what he should have learned in the 8th grade. Of course, the parents should be furious at their local public school, but that's not how the world works. Their high school teacher said the kid was just fine, so it must be the university's fault.

Easy Credit Course? (1)

getto man d (619850) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912467)

Sounds like a course for easy credits, so insert your own assumptions here and please be nice.

I finished my post-grad about a year ago at a highly ranked public university for my specific scientific field. The third/fourth year courses I taught had exceptionally bright students, where said courses were not easy credits. I would disagree with the premise of your statement based on experience, but I'm also distanced from public high schools. You may be seeing the effect of poor preparation at that level.

WTF RU on about? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912481)

Mr fancy pants thinks hes better than us. I dont remember reading your novel, showoff.

Re:WTF RU on about? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912731)

I don't remember you reading a novel period.

What bar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912487)

The bar has been lowered for everyone and everything. Universities included. Take a look around you once in a while; people are just plain dumb

...Back in the day (4, Insightful)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912497)

Back in the day they had high standards...

Wait, did they? Do you have metrics to show it?

Eighteen year olds aren't great writers, they never have been. Maybe at Harvard or an advanced English class, you'd have to write really well. But this is a Blogging class at State school. This is clearly writing for engineers, I'm not surprised the writing is bad.

Welcome to the real world. Universities are neither miracle factories that turn out great thinkers, nor are they particularly strong filters of the caliber of people. They take in average 18 year olds and turn out average 22 year olds.

What is the point of college? Well, it's kind of arbitrary. We have more people than jobs, so we need some sort of filter to select the people for the jobs. On the other hand, the professors know Blogging 301 is just a ticket to clerical work, so they don't act harshly on tuition-paying students who just want to move on to average jobs. They can't write well, but do they really need to? Does the world really need that from them?

Re:...Back in the day (1)

swillden (191260) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912677)

We have more people than jobs

This one statement makes clear that you didn't take a decent economics course when you were in college.

Not just for universities, unfortunately... (1)

cogeek (2425448) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912515)

This lowered bar for having a basic grasp of grammar and spelling isn't just limited to universities. Read through any news source these days (printed or online), and you'll see the same things. Grammar and spelling errors that even a basic spell check in Word would find and correct. People are lazy, and with no one calling them out on it, there's nothing to stop it. If a news editor can't even be bothered to proofread an article before publishing it, why should a student or professor or anyone for that matter? Hopefully enough of us will hold out and maintain basic standards until the pendulum swings back.

Re:Not just for universities, unfortunately... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912879)

This is very true. I can't read an article on the website of one of our local TV stations without wanting to *facepalm*. The reporters don't appear to have anyone editing what they write. I guess they just post whatever they please straight to the website. Oh, and I'm not talking about typos -- I mean they have horrific grammar (and can't spell basic English words). They use words in the wrong context, constantly insert slang, leave words out, use garbage like "would of" and "should of" and on and on. This is a big network affiliate, no less. Almost every article has some weirdness like that.

welcome to the digital future (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912519)

This is the new normal. In an age of "txt messaging", "tweets" and short attention spans, basic writing skills are being lost. Those students will pass the class, many with high marks because the professor won't want to take the time to fail them. (FYI At tier 1 schools, professors put a little effort into their teaching workload as they can to get by as their performance is based on research.)

You should review your Universities policy on course failures and how the univeristy ombudsperson deals with dissagreements on grading. Professors are basically put on trial to fail students and often lose because there is insufficient documentation that the student knew they were not performing well during the course. Even with low homework scores and a syllabus defining how final grades will be determined.

I write this as a recent PhD working as a post doc at a university. I have taught a mix of undergraduate and "professional" classes. It is only getting worse.

George Carlin has the answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912523)

Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.
- George Carlin

Unfortunately the norm... (1)

rs1n (1867908) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912539)

It's not just writing, it's also in mathematics. The the worst part is that many students who do poorly in mathematics do so because of their poor writing (and hence poor reading comprehension). The main issue today is that many people feel that a higher education is essential to a "better future", and that it should be available to everyone -- and I agree with both sentiments. However, not very many people are willing to admit to the fact that many folks entering college are simply not well prepared. Almost every university offers a pre-caclulus class (and some even offer lower level mathematics courses). The problem is that such a course should really have been taken at the high school level (and usually by the sophomore year at the latest). The reality is that there are too many students who come into college and in some cases graduating with only pre-cacalculus as their highest mathematics course! The same goes with writing/reading. When email and texting has become the preferred method of communication, it is not uncommen to see textspeak in emails, with little to no proper punctuation.

It has for undergrad, not so much for the grads (5, Informative)

pngwen (72492) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912543)

I am a college instructor, and I have been for about 7 years now. I'll be upgrading to professor soon, so I can tell you first hand that your observations are quite correct. The undergraduate education system of the USA is considered to be the laughing stock of the academic world. However, our graduate schools are perceived as the best in the world. The reason for this is the utter failure of our public primary schools.

Think of it this way. The average high school graduate in the US can only read on a 6th grade reading level. They come to me, a scholar in the field of Computer Science, and I have to try to teach them complex mathematical ideas that are only truly expressible in a new language. I have a couple of options. I can either dumb down my course to give them a chance, or I can maintain my integrity and demand that they come up to speed. The answer is that I have to do a mixture of them. If I taught as I was supposed to, my student success rate would plummet and my perception scores would be low, hence I would be fired. However, if I make the course too easy, I've polluted my own field in the next generation. Instead, I try to ramp them up with basic skills, but push them just to the edge of what their minds can actually handle. I also try to encourage them in other areas of study outside my own. Most of my students consider me a very tough but fair instructor, and most are grateful for my help. However, I do fail a larger percentage of my students than other instructors. Most have gone the field pollution route.

This is a serious problem in our society. One thing we could do to fix it is stop pushing college so hard. Many of my kids would be better served in a tradeschool than a university, and yet they are pressured to come to me. They waist 4 years of their lives, learn nothing usable, and then end up back where they started.

Oh, and one last thought. About the perception of the rest of the world. If you have a Bachelor's degree, that basically brings you up to par with the high school graduates in other countries. That also brings you up to the level your grandparents in the US had when they finished High School. We need to stop the degradation of the primary schools, but we never will. No child left behind has basically ensured that all future generations of Americans will be too stupid to find their a**hole with both hands.

Re:It has for undergrad, not so much for the grads (3, Funny)

nospam007 (722110) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912681)

"They waist 4 years of their lives,..."

Indeed, these years are wasted.

Re:It has for undergrad, not so much for the grads (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912793)

"They waist 4 years of their lives, learn nothing usable,"
Yup, you may not learn much in college but you can certainly get overweight.

Re:It has for undergrad, not so much for the grads (1)

ub3r n3u7r4l1st (1388939) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912851)

Because you don't receive Federal Pell Grant for going to grad school. You either have to pay the whole thing (via cash or loans), or getting an assistant ship, a fellowship or some other award. That is basically the filter between undergrad and grad education.

A friend of mine and I ended up in the same class (1)

scorp1us (235526) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912547)

And I proofed his report for my English class. It was atrocious. full of endless grammatical errors, punctuation etc. I had to retake the class, because let's face it English grades are subjective. But guess whose paper was selected for reading and who passed it? Proving my point that any writing class is largely complete bullshit, I repeated the course with a different teacher with the same assignments. Accordingly I re-submitted the same papers (only dates changed) and passed with a very good grade.

As a scientific person I can't ever see how someone can award grades subjectively in creative subjects. Like, who could fail art school? I think for the most part it is just busy work. And if your instructor thinks you put in an adequate amount of work, you get passed.

Re:A friend of mine and I ended up in the same cla (4, Funny)

nospam007 (722110) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912713)

"It was atrocious. full of endless grammatical errors, punctuation etc. I had to retake the class, because let's face it English grades are subjective."

Alas, you still didn't get that punctuation thingie.

Re:A friend of mine and I ended up in the same cla (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912947)

As a scientific person I can't ever see how someone can award grades subjectively in creative subjects. Like, who could fail art school? I think for the most part it is just busy work. And if your instructor thinks you put in an adequate amount of work, you get passed.

Did you know you didn't write what you meant? Therein lies your problem, YOU do not understand the technical aspects of creation or writing.

Bad news for ya, kid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912553)

Bad news for ya, kid. If you haven't noticed already, that "style" of written communication is just what's become the norm, regardless of age. In fact, even using proper grammar can be seen as intimidating and pompous. (Yes, I realize I used the passive voice there, but English is the only language I know where language teachers frown on the passive voice.)

No single cause (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912565)

I teach writing at a community college in Pennsylvania. Primarily, I teach classes for developmental students -- students who aren't ready to write at a 101 level.

At our school, it isn't an issue of lowering the bar. We're an open admission school; we accept everyone, and try to meet their needs. That means I see lots of poor quality writing, and it means that I'm always looking for ways of making a difference. I'd point to a number of reasons for why students write poorly, even after going through a university's writing series:

1. Students usually only invest in their writing when they're being graded on their writing.
2. Students tend to memorize processes rather than master concepts. They might not think that the stuff they memorized for essay writing -- like paragraphs -- applies to a blog post, even though the similarities should jump out at them.
3. Grading systems encourage students to do the bare minimum.
4. Students tend to invest less in online writing. Blogging is so similar to the way they write in social media that they let their bad habits from the one environment appear in the other.
5. Many students have a bad attitude about general studies. They think college is there to teach them the exact skills they're going to use in a specific job environment. In reality, college is really bad at this; it almost never can accomplish the same goals as on the job training. This means they undervalue their writing classes.
6. The writing process usually isn't emphasized outside of writing classes. I have students every semester who can produce passable writing as long as they participate in prewriting, draft, do a peer review activity, get feedback from the college's writing center, and then revise and submit a final draft. Outside of my class, they revert to trying to write, edit, and revise all in one session, and then wonder why their writing isn't the same quality. Blogging tends to exacerbate these problems, since the software doesn't encourage you to do multiple revisions over a period of a couple of days prior to posting.

fart! (1)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912579)

I fart on this story!

It was at mine (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912589)

The university I graduated from sure lowered the bar. They went from quarters to semesters even thought the student body voted against such a change. The administration claimed it would help retention while not lowering the bar. It did help retention, but of course it lowered the bar. Otherwise it would not have helped retention.

Yes (2)

JacquesDemien (995045) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912593)

Agree with the previous posters. Grade inflation, yes. Broad admissions standards, yes.

But in a more general sense, it seems largely due to the (to me) bizarre notion that a good goal is for more people to attend university. U.S. culture nurtures the idea that if you don't get a college degree, you are worthless. Typical 'First World' wrongheaded thinking, the kind which Alexis de Tocqueville observed back in ~1835.

Which is kind of funny when you see many college graduates working (not by choice) at Starbucks or the like--just as you see see many non-graduates and even secondary school dropouts working quite ably and to great success in corporations or in businesses they themselves own.

The more I experience, the more I am convinced that--save for a relative few exceptions--people either have a basic grasp of thinking, writing, basic maths, etc., or they don't. Usually, this attainment or non-attainment preceeds the age at which one typically might attend college by approximately 10 years.

tweet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912601)

I dnt no y peeps cnt rite nemor, u wud think dat all dis tech wud hlp. The only rule I am aware of is that paragraphs have to be = 144 chars.

Not enough information here. (1)

j33px0r (722130) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912603)

What's wrong with writing blogs? Journals have been a viable alternative to short papers for a long time, probably the last century at least.

Otherwise, there's not enough information here to determine if the activity is a waste of time or not. I can say that many students in online courses are resistant to discussion board posts, weblogs, asynchronous group activities; or in other words, work in general.

As far as your assessment of other students having poor writing skills, your professor is probably in agreement. You should probably keep in mind that blog writing is a personal or subjective process. It is difficult to conclude that someone has poor writing skills if the assignment allows for them to freely write whatever comes to mind without specific criteria. If you actually have to read other student's lousy blogs then I would suggest putting on some rose-colored glasses and try to find the silver lining in the muck.

University stage is too late (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912611)

In my opinion, the university stage of a person's education is simply too late to develop good writing skills, if they haven't been developed at least to some extent before then. Without intending to sound stuck up, I credit my writing ability mainly to my excellent primary and secondary school education.

Yes, it is being lowered (1)

MikeRT (947531) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912617)

You don't honestly think that most students at a typical public university with a student body that is 10k or larger could be there with the requirements of say the 1950s or earlier, do you? Set aside the bullshit racial and gender grandstanding about requirements "back in the day" which is so often used to discredit anything our forebears did, the average heterosexual white male in college today could not meet the academic requirements of most universities back then.

The very fact that there is a significant overlap between high school and college math course offerings at the lowest levels is proof of this. Algebra I in college? Really? Someone who cannot even solve basic algebra should not even be a candidate for college, but it's shocking how many people who lack even a basic understanding of freshman and sophomore high school math can make it to "respectable colleges." I say this as someone who had damn near a learning disability in math then (somehow I managed to get Bs in all of my high school math classes).

60% is an A (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912637)

I recently received my phd in physics last year, at which time I had the unfortunate pleasure to be a TA for many physics courses. Through the years of teaching at a community college and being a TA at the university, I have seen professors significantly curve the courses due to either poor teaching or lazy students. The final two years of the program, it became common place for the physics courses for bio/chem students to be curved to the point that if you got 60% of the total points you would receive an A in the course.
The sad/funny thing about this is that many students became cocky and thought so much of their hard work for getting 60% of the points in the class. In my personal opinion, a significant part of the problem is that many students can get solutions to the work that is required for them to work on. Because of this, they never really learn how to do anything and since it is bad practice to flunk a whole class, it needs to be curved.

Welcome to Ladders (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912639)

SIx Seasons and a Movie

Poor writing and grammar are pervasive. (1)

RNLockwood (224353) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912641)

Example I notice today on Slashdot: ... which students are graded on ...
should be: ... on which students are graded ...

Re:Poor writing and grammar are pervasive. (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912957)

Example I notice today on Slashdot: ... which students are graded on ...
should be: ... on which students are graded ...

So, how's life in the Roman Empire?

An educated populace is necessary for democracy. (1)

I see the fnords (2842345) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912647)

If you were getting rich off the people, would you want them educated?

Read Upton Sinclair's books about the schools in the 1920s, about how they were corporate-controlled indoctrination centers back then. Read John Taylor Gatto's book available for free online, 'The Underground History of American Education.'

Here's a small quote from H.L. Mencken's review of Sinclair's book "The Goslings":

"And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual. Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; therein they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber-stamps."

From experience, yes. (5, Interesting)

HappyHead (11389) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912651)

First, the context - I used to teach a web development course at a Canadian university. It was a side-job as a sessional instructor, brought in for knowledge in the area, and since I moved away for my day job, I stopped teaching.

While I was teaching the course, I would have the students develop a web site from scratch, with the primary focus being to showcase their ability to encorporate CSS and javascript, and follow the W3's accessibility guidelines - topic was up to them, and I frequently told the class that their content's accuracy wasn't important, as long as it was their own content being generated. (This produced some of the most entertaining things to read at times... "Reptiles of the World" was all about Lions, Tigers, Giraffes, and their political machinations.) There were always a mix of local and foreign students in the class, and frankly, while some of the foreign students hadn't actually bothered learning the local language before coming to the country (or after), their average writing skills are (and have always been) about the same as those of the local students.

Sadly, I must admit, that over the 10+ years that I taught the course, the quality of writing steadily decreased. At first, the average student was fairly literate, and I only had occasional problems with people devolving into instant-message speak. ("Can u help me?" Seriously people, the "y" and the "o" are both within an inch of the "u" on the keyboard! If you're writing a web page, you've got time to search them out and hit them!) During the later years of teaching the course, I found that more and more of the people coming into my class fell into the category I would call functionally illiterate, and sadly, all I can think of to blame for it is schools no longer actually caring if kids learn to read and write before pushing them out with diplomas.

A relative of mine's daughter in grade school came home with an "essay" she had written and received a good mark on - it was full of horrible spelling and grammar errors, which my mother and the girl's mother both made her correct - when the teacher was asked about why the spelling problems were not corrected, we were told "Oh, we don't do that anymore, we don't want to stunt their creativity."

Re:From experience, yes. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912799)

when the teacher was asked about why the spelling problems were not corrected, we were told "Oh, we don't do that anymore, we don't want to stunt their creativity.

I wish you were kidding.

Worst I had was technical writing..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912661)

You find all kinds.
Blog writing is pretty bad. The worst I had to do as a Computer Engineering student at a UC was take a technical writing class where they made you write fake documentation for stuff. It was actually kind of useful in the long run. Not a total waste of time.
Now the ethnic studies class, that was a different story. It's not fun being one of the only white guys in a class full of minorities when the purpose of the class is to show how white guys through history have screwed minorities. Now THAT was a total waste of time, and a little scary.

Effects of No Child Left Behind? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912701)

I got a lot of insight into the effects of No Child Left Behind on this very question from this Kenneth Bernstein. He makes a great argument.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/02/09/a-warning-to-college-profs-from-a-high-school-teacher/

Commas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912709)

> Prof: Students 'think commas are sort of like Parmesan cheese that you sprinkle on your words

Can find the original source for this but the OP is afflicted.

Not "lowered". "Changed". (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912729)

You're appalled.

However, a Victorian looking at how you write (or how I write) would also be appalled.

And an Elizabethan would no doubt terribly berate the Victorian for not using the Latin.

20 yrs fm now ur kidz w be uzin teh txt slng 2.

A bit of context (1)

Hairy Fop (48404) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912733)

Having recently helped somebody through their Post Grad course it may be worth adding some context to this. It's quite common for courses like these to require a student to write a course diary, or in other words a blog post. This is for personal reflection on the material given and to verify with their tutor that they are understanding their lectures and other course materials.
The course materials related to the subject will be marked rigorously, but the blog posts will not require the student to maintain a high level of English in their construction.
 

Average students (5, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912739)

Average students attending universities with admissions standards that accept them will predictably attain - hold on now - average performance.

50 years ago average students didn't go to universities to get bachelor's degrees. Now they do.

So how is it a surprise that the standards are lower?

Lowering the bar. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912743)

I do believe the bar was lowered.

However, I don't blame universities; rather, the secondary education system in this country has been eroding their own standards for many years. I recently returned to an online university (not naming it, but be aware that not all are diploma mills), and the level of writing was atrocious. All of the errors the OP mentioned, as well as many others were present in the discussion forums. Professors were quick to point out the many writing aid services available to the students, and I witnessed many students' writing improve over the time I attended.

I cannot say what the causes of this erosion are, but I can say that until the US replaces its antiquated system (18th century) of fiscal support and local control of secondary education, we will experience further degradation of quality in our education.

Bright but can't write (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912749)

I'm working with a few graduates and I'm amazed just how atrocious their writing skills are. Even simple points or comments don't make sense.

One fella asked if we could simplify the QA write-up to simple multiple choices instead of written points. So I put him in charge of the project. He's still scratching his head to this day on how to simplify the form.

Even my children, who are in elementary school, seem to be given the "they'll figure it out eventually" treatment. Heck, I have some notebooks that were kicking around in my parent's basement from elementary school, I compared the two, and was shocked of just how little grammar and spelling is now marked. Back then missing a letter or a misspelling was 1/2 to a whole mark off. Now it's simply a circle with little negative effect. How the heck are kids supposed to learn if there are no repercussions on their marks?

I hear you with the paragraph-less, single sentence multiple page write-up. A whole wack of "and's", very few commas, and apparently the period now ends the write-up instead of a sentence. And what do they get? "Excellent content, good points". Good points? It's only one sentence. I can spend all day complaining about writing skills of kids these days.

You can probably thank the culture of the Internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912785)

Functional illiteracy is considered a right on the Internet. If someone points out a grammar mistake, he or she is accused of being a "Grammar Nazi." The top post in any discussion about grammar is invariable an imbecile joke with deliberate misspellings. It is extremely difficult to find a page on the Internet today that contains user-generated content but does not contain egregious apostrophe abuse, and anyone who tries to do things correctly "is (sic) OCD." Language is simply in a state of perpetual destruction by morons, and the latest crop is simply very efficient at making it seem like this is acceptable.

Yes, but there are other bars. Find them. (1)

retchdog (1319261) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912795)

If you want to have a better education, work with a professor on independent projects. If the classes are easy, it should be easy for you to impress someone enough to start working with their graduate students; even teaching universities conduct some level of research. This way you'll get a better education and, further, if the professor is at least somewhat known in their field, a strong recommendation will have great value. (I'm assuming you're at a fairly good state school; sadly, things get harder the further down you go.)

Or you can look for prestigious internships though, again, you'll need to impress them somehow. I don't know how this works since I didn't do it that way, but getting real world shit done in addition to getting good grades is probably a good plan.

Good grades have never been, strictly speaking, necessary for success (at least as long as you're not too picky about what kind of success you want...). However, today, neither are they sufficient. Although the cause of this is deplorable, I'm not sure it's a bad outcome all-in-all. This is what economic radicals call `creative destruction' (whether this is a good thing depends on which kind of radical you are). The meaning of grades has been devalued, and something else, quite possibly better, will take their place. Eventually. For now, one has to strive for vague, risky, ill-defined things because the dogma of the existing order is crumbling. It's not easy, but that's also good — it keeps away the dilettantes and hoop-jumpers.

However, I must note that your goal is to ``upgrade" to a BA, as opposed to, say, wanting to learn more about topic X. If that's all you want, what are you complaining about? Just lump it through the classes and grab your fake sheepskin in pleather case.

Agreed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912837)

The most shocking thing about my college experience was reading the gibberish my peers wrote. I don't know where the bar was set, I couldn't see it.

These are my 2 as a conspiracy nutjob (1)

lesincompetent (2836253) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912865)

This is all part of The Plan. The Plan is working. We, the sheeple. Just add 30% more creationism and we're all set.

A kid walks into a bar... (1)

drunk_punk (2841507) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912893)

My kid takes "computer science" classes in middle school. What they TEACH is typing... I think where ever the "bar" is, it's not even relevent anymore. Unless it's that one on the corner with the kick ass happy hour. That one rocks.

Assumptions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912899)

Here are a few possible factors that could explain writing incompetence:

1. The assumption that written word is equivalent to spoken word, as if the two forms of communication are interchangeable (i.e. "if I hear it spoken, then it's valid as written"). This couldn't be further from the truth, and has likely been exacerbated by social media. The slang construct "needs repaired" is a good example of this (compared to the valid constructs "needs repairing" or "needs to be repaired").

2. The assumption that popularity makes right, or that other people know better (i.e. everyone else writes this way, so it must be correct). Comma splicing is a good example of this (for example "I just left, meet me there").

3. The assumption that proper writing style is unimportant or pointless. This is also wrong, for the same reason that wearing a flannel shirt to a job interview is wrong.

Why should the students care? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912911)

It's a course about blogging for fuck's sake. People taking it are probably taking it because they have to not because they want to learn how to blog. Welcome to college, where if you were interested in something a bunch of barely related and intolerable classes like that on the way to your degree will snuff it out of you.

They're all 3rd year students taking a course about blogging, none of them are sober, none of them care, 80% of them are thinking about killing themselves because life is such a joke that in order to achieve their life goals they have to listen to someone lecture to them about blogging. This class is the exact moment in time where their new-found complete lack of respect for the people telling them how to live their lives comes into focus. "This guy gets up in the morning at 6 and commutes for an hour a day to teach people who aren't paying any attention about blogging, if I try hard enough I can be just like him."

You can either say the educational sky is falling, or you can realize that no one is or should be giving a shit about a state school blogging class.

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION IS TO BLAME (1, Insightful)

Dainsanefh (2009638) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912913)

Inner city teachers are required to pass their students or they might get shot by the students. The primary / secondary education system here is a joke. We need to start rounding up certain people and terminate.

However, unfortunately, one of their own is now living in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

MOD PARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912963)

Most insightful comment ever. Right to the point.

Generalizing from one assignment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912917)

If the students were expected to write something that passes for a blog entry on the Internet today, then they should be expected to use bad grammar/structure/spelling.

Every Student Left Behind -nt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912927)

Every Student Left Behind

That question was asked in the mid '70s (2)

RNLockwood (224353) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912929)

In the mid '70s when I was in grad school there was a discussion about whether education standards had been lowered and the general opinion was "yes". It was pointed out that the average grades in particular high school and university classes had been rising and that increasing numbers of freshmen were required to take make up courses in "language arts" as they couldn't write well. It was suggested that the proficiency level in the 2nd year of university corresponded to the proficiency level of high school graduates from 20 or 30 years before. One would think that the decline would have bottomed out by now; perhaps part of this perception of decline is just perception.

On the other hand this decline appears to be correlated with the "baby boomer" explosion and the introduction television in every household.

There must still be some records around of the required proficiency in written language skill from previous decades which could be compared with today's.

Everyone should go to university (not) (5, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year and a half ago | (#42912959)

There is a widespread belief in the US that everyone should go to college. There are two problems with this. First, the economy has a certain need for skills like carpentry or auto repair. College, with some exceptions, doesn't teach those. Second, not everyone is prepared for college, due to lack of motivation or aptitude or due to a failure of secondary education.

What I think you're seeing is that these unprepared students are being channeled into the university system. Two generations ago they might have gone to secretarial school or plumbing school or what have you and then into the workforce. One generation ago there was a movement for vocational education in the US to move that kind of training into high school and get the non-college-ready students career-ready instead. For reasons I don't understand, vocational programs first became a dumping ground for students with learning disabilities and/or behavior problems, and then were de-funded. This leaves us with little middle ground between ceasing education at high school, and four-year universities.

At the same time, high schools have been struggling to keep their dropout rates down and to impart basic literacy to their graduates. They're frantic to minimally educate the bottom quartile of students. Given limited resources (and, often, a statutory requirement to spend disproportionately on special-needs students), they're just doing triage. For those students who do go on to college, there seems to be an implicit expectation that high school doesn't need to make them perfect: their deficiencies can be corrected later, in college.

Back two generations ago, a college would take a weak high-school graduate and just reject her application, and she'd shrug and go on to a (perhaps perfectly rewarding) career in hairdressing or on an assembly line. Now, with the expectation that college is for everyone, economic forces ensure that there is a college that will accept such a student.

When everyone is expected to go to college, college becomes the new high school.

Interestingly, there is a lot of political will to make college accessible, but much less to put some teeth back into the high-school curriculum so a diploma actually means something.

London no different (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42912965)

Hi,

I work as a professional software developer, but do a lot (around 12 hours a week) private tutoring, mostly of university students. I continue to be shocked by the extremely poor (writing) skills of the students. Even worse, very frequently there'll be slides and labs from teachers with errors. Most of the students I teach hate IT because they find it very hard. Their primary motivation is to finish school so they get a degree. No wonder there's not a great emphasis on writing skills.

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