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College Students Lack Literacy

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the sad-but-not-surprising dept.

Education 687

Frr writes to tell us that CNN has a rather disturbing confirmation of what many of us have already seen in practice. In a recent literacy study it was found that "more than half of students at four-year colleges -- and at least 75 percent at two-year colleges -- lack the literacy to handle complex, real-life tasks such as understanding credit card offers." The literacy study took a look at three different type of literacy: analyzing news stories and other prose, understanding documents, and having basic math skills needed for checkbooks or restaurant tips.

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687 comments

Fuck US Students (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528136)

W00t fp ?

Complex? (3, Funny)

DigitalWar (864198) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528138)

Credit card offers are considered a complex task? What kind of world is this turning into?

Re:Complex? (2, Interesting)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528155)

Depends on what offer they mean- the basics where it says the interest rate, or the 5 pages of legalese in the full contract. The second is hard unless you have experience in legalese.

It's standardized. (5, Insightful)

Grendel Drago (41496) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528227)

If you've gotten a credit card offer recently, there's a medium-sized standard box they include on the black-and-white legalese page which tells you the real (not introductory) interest rate, for instance.

Despite this, some people will briefly glance at the color glossy flyer, see "ZERO PERCENT (introductory) INTEREST!" and be shocked, yes, shocked, when the rates hop to twenty-seven percent or something ridiculous like that.

Prostitute Schedule for Jan. 21 at the MBOT in SF (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528307)

Folks, check out the updated prostitute schedule [geocities.com] for January 21 at the Mitchell Brother's O'Farrell Theater (MBOT) in San Francisco. The MBOT is the most convenient way for you to buy a blow job, a hand job, and full service (i.e. vaginal sexual intercourse).

I kid you not.

Please establish a hypertext link to this message. Spread the word!

Flip over, read chart... (1)

RingDev (879105) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528308)

And laugh at the 21% interest rate. Honestly, the only literacy skill college students need when it comes to credit card offers is knowing which button turns on the paper shredder.

-Rick

Re:Complex? (0, Troll)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528323)

Yes. And this isn't surprising, since many college graduates from 30 years ago can't figure them out today either.

My father believes that APR still stands for "annual percentage rate", when most of the time it actually means "above the prime rate". And the prime rate isn't the actual Fed prime rate, it's the "Wall Street Journal" prime rate. This is the same generation that lost most of their houses in the mortgage scams of the 80s, btw.

This is vary ture (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528139)

My college studys lacked lottery traning, and so farr, I havent one teh lottery yet.

Easy Solution (5, Funny)

matr0x_x (919985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528140)

Formal contracts & documents should be written in Internet slang. "If you fail to pay your credit card debt we will take your car lol"

Re:Easy Solution (5, Funny)

Asmor (775910) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528156)

1337 Collection Agency: Debtors pwned

Re:Easy Solution (2, Funny)

Jace of Fuse! (72042) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528159)

OMG! U forgot 2 use teh word pwn!

Re:Easy Solution (5, Informative)

chillax137 (612431) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528258)

credit cards are unsecure loans, which means that they cannot take your property as collateral for unpaid debts.

moo (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528144)

penises

Patience (2, Informative)

NickCatal (865805) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528147)

Patience... Not Literacy... It takes too much time to read the fine print on those damn offers... Kids these days are too busy getting drunk....

God Bless College Life

Re: Patience (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528207)

> Patience... Not Literacy... It takes too much time to read the fine print on those damn offers...

And it may be the case that sometimes companies don't want you to understand an offer very well.

woah (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528149)

The bar is set so low these days. Everyone is just afraid to rubber stamp some dumbass as a failure.

Damn (5, Funny)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528152)

I should have went to a US college. I probably could have graduated there.

Re:Damn (4, Insightful)

Jace of Fuse! (72042) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528206)

Take a US college course online. I work with people bragging about how they're going to have a college degree soon and they know it's utter bullshit. The classes are practically impossible to fail from what I've seen (yet somehow people are failing them anyway).

When some of my friends say they will have "earned" their right to have a better job, I laugh at them. I laugh because they haven't earned anything. I tell them they haven't learned anything. They haven't even been to college. They simply bought a degree online. That is practically all it is. Buying a degree. No longer are you required to actually learn. It's similar to how high school has become daycare. "No need to learn anything in highschool, you can buy your education online later. Hope you can read tho. LMAO LOL!"

(Disclaimer: This specifically refers to the online courses in my area, and may not apply to whatever college you take online classes with.)

Re:Damn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528295)

I live in a rural area (no rape gangs, but some drugs, etc.), and I plan to tell my son that school is a good place to meet people from this county and find a few friends. Beyond that, he'll understand that real learning is an individual process, and that school really can't teach him much beyond the barest basics. This is fine with me, as there's plenty opportunity to play sports, go hiking and learn botany, etc. outside school.

Re:Damn (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528273)

"I should have went to a US college. I probably could have graduated there."

Could of. 'I probably could of graduated there.'

</anti-grammar-nazi>

Re:Damn (0, Flamebait)

WankersRevenge (452399) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528342)

me to!

- WankersRevenge@aol.com

College Deters Reading (5, Insightful)

Zaurus (674150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528154)

I, for one, am not surprised. I never read __less__ books in my life than when I was in college. I was much too busy trying to get the course busy-work done to do any reading, or much learning for that matter.

Fewer books (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528202)

___Fewer___ books, dammit.

Re:Fewer books (4, Insightful)

damian cosmas (853143) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528324)

Grandparent illustrates the point on education and literacy very well.

Not this one again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528158)

I've been reading stories like this for 25 years. I bet it's been happening forever, the new guys are never as good as we were!

pay it on time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528160)

Just pay your damnned bill on time, and you don't need to worry about the rest

Too True (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528162)

My wife is a Graduate Student at one of the Ivies, and it is amazing how many of the students struggle with putting sentences together in their lab reports. We've found that they manage to construct some "sentences" that would make one of my elementary school teachers cry. It's amazing that these people have the SAT scores to attend this type of school. Apparently the SAT's verbal component doesn't measure ability to construct sentences.

Re:Too True (1)

Aqua OS X (458522) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528218)

Are you talking about undergrad students she works with? Grad schools tend not to look at SAT scores. Admission tends to be based upon other writing tests, letters of rec, resumes, past work, undergrad GPA, etc.

Re:Too True (4, Informative)

jsimon12 (207119) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528224)

My wife is a graduate student at one of the local state schools here in Texas. And she tells me stories about students she has had that don't know how to use a ruler. A freaking ruler for crying out loud, I learned ruler 101 in 1st grade, after I stopped having to write with the giant pencils.

Re:Too True (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528328)

Heh, they recently added a writing component to the SAT, and the GRE has had a required writing component for a couple of years now(not like many people actually look at, but it's there. However it isn't very challenging, I got a 5.5/6 and I suck at writing)
The truth is that these kids were probably "coached" through the SATs. You can get high scores on them if you know the ins and outs of how to take them even if you don't really understand the material. The classes can be costly though...
Damn, the more and more I prattle on about this stuff the more I am reminded of how much the SATs really do resemble the business world...

Yay diversity! (3, Insightful)

The Only Druid (587299) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528163)

Oh, wait, you mean that by including all this concern for non-academic characteristics like sports, diversity (of background, not ideas), and the ilk our schools have lost the ability to test for the right skills?

I'm sure this thread will fill essentially instantly with anecdotal stories about how dumb everyone was at our colleges. Yes, great, whatever.

Frankly, I wish everyone could have seen the great 20/20 special on our school system last Friday. We're crippling our ability to compete internationally by focusing on the wrong things: we don't want kids to feel bad, so we've got helicopter parents; teachers don't want to worry about getting fired, so we've got horrible teachers' unions; we aren't willing to let some kids occasionally lose-out because a public school failed to compete with other nearby schools, so we don't have vouchers like most of the European nations; etc.

Now, someone will come complain about how vouchers are bad for schools (despite universally benefiting the quality of schools in Europe), how unions protect teachers (despite the fantastic proof of how bad such unions were by 20/20, including a 10 page diagram from the Unions showing how difficult it is to fire someone), etc.

Re:Yay diversity! (2, Interesting)

_Sharp'r_ (649297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528226)

They can watch it, until it gets slashdotted.

Mark Sanford (running for Gov.) got permission to put the show on his site at mms://sql2.slicker.com:1890/sanfordforgovernor/202 0.wmv

Good luck watching it until the /. effect takes over. :)

Re:Yay diversity! (1)

The Only Druid (587299) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528245)

Wow, that's a fascinating decision by both Sanford (making a rather aggressive stance regarding education by endorsing it) and 20/20 (not to mention ABC, in putting their IP up for free on a website).

Thanks for the link.

Re:Yay diversity! (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528240)

What the fuck are "helicopter parents"?

Helicopter parents... (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528319)

... are ones that "hover over" their children all the time. Think of parents who get obsessive about making sure that they have their "Baby on board" sticker prominently displayed (wtf are they *for*, anyway?) and child-proof locks on everything in site.

Re:Helicopter parents... (4, Funny)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528338)

"Baby on board" sticker prominently displayed (wtf are they *for*, anyway?)

I don't know about most people, but I intentionally ram cars that don't have babies in them.

Re:Yay diversity! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528321)

The 20/20 show was purely anecdotal, flawed reporting. But sensationalism sells, as the politician who has decided to put a copy up on his website demonstrates. It also fails to have any mention of the responsibility of parents in all of this. Or the kids. Or so-called NCLB using up funds to prepare students for standardized tests rather than actual learning. For example, it's not the teachers' unions' fault that school boards in certain parts of the country want to dumb-down the science curriculum in order to teach religion.

It is frustrating... (2, Insightful)

Sigmund Dali (925077) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528164)

to those of us who actually deserve to be in college and are spending rediculous amounts for it. Back in the day, college was considered for the incredibly capable. Now, when I sit in my lecture classes of 500+ people, and listen to the conversations around me, all I can think is how utterly useless my degree will be.

Re:It is frustrating... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528339)

*ridiculous

Tip Calculator (1)

anandpur (303114) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528165)

Math skills to calculate tip? what is internet for?
http://www.onlineconversion.com/tip_calculator.htm [onlineconversion.com]
http://www.pocketgear.com/software_detail.asp?id=5 910 [pocketgear.com]

Heuristics (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528291)

Smart people are good at learning heuristics and developing new ones.

For example, to calculate a 15% tip, you can take 10% (one tenth) of the bill, and add on half of that amount. Or if you're feeling generous, or if the math is easier, just take 1/6 (16.67%) of the bill.

People who aren't good at heuristics tend to catch computer viruses, fall for scams they've seen before, spread misinformation and urban legends, order informercial products and services, and get suckered in various other ways.

What colleges? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528167)

So my boss was passing this article around a few days ago to make fun of one of our new hires. The new guy pointed out that all colleges are not equal. Strangely the study doesn't mention what schools were part of this survey. Does anyone know?

Re:What colleges? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528267)

hmmmm, i wonder when they're going to come up with the study that
shows most managers don't have the basic skills to not be asses
to their employees

Re:What colleges? (2, Interesting)

xusr (947781) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528311)

Very good point; I was just about to say the same thing. I attend a small private college with exceptional faculty and (as a general rule) exceptional students. Small class size helps; one of my classes last semester had only six students. Of course, there are other obvious benefits of a larger school. Still, A few of my friends who recently returned from studying abroad in Europe have expressed a huge appreciation of our faculty here, saying that the classroom culture overseas is a far cry from what we enjoy here.

it goes both ways.

AIR (1)

snoozebutton (570866) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528170)

"American Institutes for Research" I'm guessing that means the study was limited to American schools? I'd be interested to see how Canadian or British students fared.

Eduflation? (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528174)

15-20 years ago a guy working on his PhD told me that that getting a PhD had become like getting a MA or MS had been a generation earlier, getting a MA/MS like getting a BA/BS had been, getting a BA/BS like graduating from high school had been, and so on down the chain.

I've always been tempted to dismiss that as just a "back in my day" story about walking to school in a snowstorm, but it's hard to dismiss certain facts. For example, Robert Graves tells us in his biography [wikipedia.org] that when he an ~8 year old, about 100 years ago, he was "doing ok with Latin, but having trouble with Greek".

And now people are having trouble with their own native language when they graduate from college...

litrase? (1)

42Penguins (861511) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528179)

Well, first, we all know that /.ers are in the 25% that ARE literate. Remember... a BOfH is really competant, just also evil.

Let me be the first to demonstrate my logic skills and literacy with this question:
CNN, why do you hate America?

They won't go without employment, though (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528181)

There's always the highly lucrative career field of Internet Trolling...

IM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528185)

Surely this has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that 99.9% of the students that I've seen are busy IMing and emailing on the laptops instead of, oh I don't know, listening to the lecture.

Wonderful use of the university wireless network. Why, in my day, we simply slept through our courses!

Tech + school = h2h lol k meat u at knew bar k?

Sleep through class + school = Greetings, dear sir! Would you like to partake of the spirits in yon spiritually sensitive establishment? Jolly good show, sir!

I'm not really sure which is worse.

My response (1)

TildeMan (472701) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528186)

As a college senior, I must say that reading this article really confused me. What was it about? Damn technical schools that don't teach me to read!

Re:My response (2, Funny)

!equal (938339) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528296)

You read the article?

How many students -read-??? (3, Interesting)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528190)

I mean, like read a -book- (that's not required for a course)?

I found that a great many folks (students, and in general) simply don't read anything that's outside of e/mail. That just means that, for the most part, they're -way- less `literate' than folks who do read books (for entertainment value).

And yes, `useless' novels do increase your literacy.

ugh (1)

DarkClown (7673) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528193)

I lack the patience to use my reading skills when reading a credit card application - eyes glaze over, hand it to my wife and ask her what it says.

I'm not surprised... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528195)

In one of the classes I teach, I had to explain to a student what the word "abundant" meant. Even her Mexican lab partner was rolling her eyes.

Here's another gem:

"The geology of Mesa, Arizona is significant because my family has lived there for several generations"

One thing missing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528197)

For full ironic effect, the posting of this article on Slashdot should have been done by none other than Cmdr "Don't whine about our poor spelling, lack of punctuation, and Yoda-on-crack syntax, because _we're_ the _editors_, dammit." Taco. ...then followed by a slew of uncapitalised comments from (and modded up by) slack-jawed troglodytes on both sides of the Atlantic.

Other than that, have a nice day.

Complex Credit Agreements (1)

clump (60191) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528200)

It does not surprise me at all that credit agreements are mentioned here. Confusing and misleading are ways that these agreements are deliberately written. The entire point is to make you believe the offer is good, whether or not it may be.

As many people as possible should be literate. I will, however, point out that creditors are notorious for being misleading and complicated. It is small wonder they do all kinds of crazy things to attract your average, semi-literate 18 year old college kid.

The bad news is.... (4, Interesting)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528203)

The bad news is that its not just college students. By the time that a student graduates high school, they should be able to do the things being tested here, never mind college. If all college is going to teach you is to function as well as someone with an 8th grade education 100 years ago, we have a really *REALLY* bad problem.

People, in general, are lazy, and learning to communicate is not a high priority for many. Learning to do many things is not a priority and until it is, they will not learn it. In all probability, some of those who can't make sense of credit card offers do know all the tricks for a dozen video games. I'm not saying that gamers are dumb, but that this demonstrates they are not stupid, just lazy.

The school system that my tax dollars help pay for should not cater to lazy students. They should be made to work hard, and learn as much as they can. So, with some trepidation that I've not considered every angle, I blame the school system(s) for the quality of graduates they produce. Yes, I believe that if a kid doesn't want to learn, let them languish behind the grill at a burger joint for a few years to get inspired to go back and learn something.

Re:The bad news is.... (1, Funny)

TallMatthew (919136) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528285)

The school system that my tax dollars help pay for should not cater to lazy students.

Yes, but stupid Americans make fantastic Republicans.

"He wave flag, he say Jesus, me like Bush. Where my beer? Where my pikup truk?"

Re:The bad news is.... (3, Insightful)

Debiant (254216) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528331)

I don't live in US, but I don't think it's just student being lazy. Much depends what people are required to do and what is given to them. Lot of education is being build on the idea of learning to do or understand some specific thing only.

What good education should be about, is teaching pupils about good common knowledge and deduction skills that make people to undestand how things connect to each other.

Intelligence itself is in fact much about how well one can handle wide wariety of things, it's mostly accomplished I think organizing information such way that it's both efficient to use and to remember. It's easier to remember why things work way they do, than to remember how happened in each specific case. It helps a lot if you also know wide variery of things, because in that case one can find common things between them. Bit like some comperssion algorithm: more there is common between diffrent things, more there is repetition and less space it takes to store and use.

However lot of schools teach just a profession and bits' of here and there without clear idea why. They teach how but not really why. Studends are left in a lone island with badly organized library that contains lot of information but where there is little help to find the relevant ones.
Such an enviroment creates just lot of people who do the just what is required of them. They do the mandatory, and not much else. Main thrust of any education should be about controlling and understanding issues at hand, not about repeating what has been told.

I'm inclined to think so called 'classic education' that was a standard about century ago, was much better and flexible in a long run than nowdays more practical and profession orientated education.

Re:The bad news is.... (1)

Bonhamme Richard (856034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528332)

Yes, I believe that if a kid doesn't want to learn, let them languish behind the grill at a burger joint for a few years to get inspired to go back and learn something.

I agree completely. As a student, I can tell you that there are few things more upsetting than showing up in a class all ready to go, and have some jerk who really doesn't want to be there talking or screwing around, because its distracting. If a student doesn't want to be in class, I don't want him there either, because it affects my ability to learn.

I've always thought that the real reason why private middle/high schools do better is because they can GET RID OF the people who don't want to be there.

Try making change... (3, Insightful)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528204)

Try being in a resturant during a power-outage or the ordering computer is down, and there's no calculator in the building. That's when you see the resturant staff really struggling trying to figure out the bill and then making change. As my Dad keeps telling me, the fine art of making change without a computer telling what the change is disappeared a long time ago.

Statistics (2, Interesting)

freddie (2935) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528209)

They always come out with some dire statistic proving that nobody reads, nobody understands math, etc. Its best to take it with a lot of salt, because these studies are probably financed by book publishers, or organizations that would benefit from higher investment in education.

I would question the benefits of education. The correlation between how much sex one and one's education is inversely proportional. Perhaps we should be celebrating how much more sex Americans are having thanks to the low-level of literacy.

I would comment.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528210)

but I cannot understand the article.:(

Not surprising... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528211)

It isn't surprising to see this happen but I don't know if slashdot has considered the full impact of this study.

1) Democracies depend on the fact that the populace is educated. Without education, a democracy degrades into a society where a leader's scare tactics can hurd a flock of sheep anywhere necessary. Concieveably destroying the democracy to the leel of a monarchy.

2) A move has been ocurring in our nation that more and more people are heading to college yet the quality of graduates keeps dropping. This forces the United States to open its borders to outside talent much as it did in the latter half of the 20th century. The influx of immigrants leads to further race polarization which is manifested in calls from politicians to close borders and give prefences to "Americans."

3) Americans ask for higher wages but are less qualified. This leads to outsourcing to overseas nations where workers ask for less and are more skilled.

I could go on but those three points are starting to lead to an alarming end result. The United States superpower status is in danger. Sure we can maintain some sort of power with our military but, as history shows, this is a futile method. Strength comes from education and hard work. Both qualities that are not harrolded as necessary in today's bling bling culture.

Re:Not surprising... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528232)

harrolded

It's "heralded." I wouldn't have pointed it out, save that we are engaging in a rant on the lack of literacy.

~~~

8th Grade Education (3, Interesting)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528212)

It used to be that you were expected to be literate after completing Grade School in the 8th Grade [goodschools.com] . Now all these new fangled education theories have come in with this result. God help you if you point out that the educational techniques of pre 1900 were far more effective than post 2001.

but then, the purpose of educational theories since 1900 has not been to create a responsible independant thinking citizen. It has been to create whatever citizen was desirable at the time, be it a willing worker, or a willing consumer. The end result is that we are now reaching the end of the rope.

Teaching professionals advocate throwing Money at the problem, sort of like in the IBM commercials. When the problem is as ineffective technique. But the teachers are illiterate as well. No wonder some people throw their hands up and go for home schooling, or other solutions.

Private v. Public (1)

Wilson_6500 (896824) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528219)

I have to wonder how private colleges would compare to public. The article mentions that the sample used (seems like a small sample size to me) included results from both schools. It seems to me that it might be worthwhile to sample each of those pools separately. Of course, it's hard to say if that would point to the caliber of students one type admits relative to the other, or if it ends up being a "quality of education" deal. I know that I never took "Table Comprehension 100," but just about _every_ class required the abilty to read a table and get information from it. Hell, though. In nuclear physics, we had to use a chart of nuclide decays, which is a little harder than looking down and across on a spreadsheet.

Re:Private v. Public (1)

falcon5768 (629591) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528283)

The problem with compairing private to public is that the pure nature of private institutions allow for it to be much better.

1) they can fail out whoever doesn't make the grade, its illegal to fail out a public school student

2) Private schools unless they take public money do NOT have to follow any public guidelines, the nature of which are 90% of the problem in public schools, because they require numerous insignificant tests and the teaching of pointless PC subjects while not focusing on the basics.

Fuh fuh fuh (1)

Wilson_6500 (896824) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528288)

Forgot to put this in the first time--duh duh stupid college graduates, right?

Anyhow, how difficult is it to calculate tips? 20% is divide by five, or double and move the decimal point if that's easier. For 15%, just calculate 20% and 10% (you can calculate 10% while doing 20% if you're so inclined) then guess at--I mean, estimate an average. Who cares about hitting 15% on the cent?

My problem is remembering _who_ to tip and _how much!_

On an unrelated note, if there was just one skill that I wish I would've learned back in middle school, it would be dimensional analysis. I constantly see people struggling with unit conversions trying to remember if they are supposed to divide or multiply by the factor. Dimensional analysis is simple, universal, and would banish all these conversion problems to the land of wind and ghosts... assuming people can remember the conversion factor.

Literacy or common sense? (3, Interesting)

gihan_ripper (785510) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528220)

more than half of students at four-year colleges [...] lack the literacy to handle complex, real-life tasks such as understanding credit card offers

Why is this supposed to be a test of literacy? It sounds more like they don't have much 'common sense', which is surely a good sign in an academic ;)

Note that this research comes from the Pew Charitable Trust, the same institution which told us that the gender gap is alive and well online [bbc.co.uk] , claiming that women use the Internet for socialising and that men use it for hunting down information. They are certainly making a lot of bold statements and getting themselves in the news.

This is demonstrated by... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528221)

...me and Slashdot in that wen I red it annalising news stories I sometimes see tew of them that are the same in a short periad of time.

I fought this was odd and it made me more confuesd as I cuddunt deside witch one I was supposed to reply to becuse their were tew.

Okay, a translation of the article for college kid (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528223)

Translation: Your dumb as shit but it is okay since the adults are even dumber.

Hidden subtext: It don't matter since all the tech jobs are outsourced anyway but you can't outsource the burger key at the McD.

Then again is this really new? Society has always needed far fewer bright people then it needs dumb fucks to do the low end jobs. High tech jobs can be outsourced, the guy picking up the trash has to be local. Worse if we get people who can understand credit card offers how are credit card companies going to peddle their wares? It reminds me a bit of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy where a bright young woman is cloned for an escort agency and at the same time 500 lonely ad-agency executives are cloned to keep the laws of demand and supply working.

Or to put it another way, just how many bright people can a society afford before you run out of dumbfucks to do the hard work?

Re:Okay, a translation of the article for college (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528301)

And when robots can do all the "dumb" jobs cheaper, what will we do with all the "dumbfucks"?

Ths artikle iz b0gus!!!!! (1)

Nova Express (100383) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528231)

D00dz! Ths artikle iz TOTALLY b0gus!!! R U kid'N me? Kidz w/poor litracy skillz????? UNPOSSIBLE! WTF? LOL!

Many (most?) students don't take math (1)

talksinmaths (199235) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528233)

Often times a non-science major is required to take no more than what amounts to a single survey course in math as an undergraduate. The class sizes for this type of course are huge, and tests are often multiple choice and given on scantron sheets. It doesn't surprise me that a lot of these students would show a lack of proficiency in math.

This is hardly surprising news. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528234)

American's are hardly the smartest people in the world. Yes, some smart people live there, but overall with comments [abc.net.au] like these featured in this Aussie commedy show nothing surprises me! (click the video links on that page to watch it!)

Re:This is hardly surprising news. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528314)

Like hell I'm clicking a .RAM file.
Realplayer is a god awful peice of trash.

The positive side of things (2, Insightful)

busmacedon (812797) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528235)

But isn't this great for those of us sufficiently endowed to take advantage of the feebs?

But the feebs outnumber us! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528350)

ut isn't this great for those of us sufficiently endowed to take advantage of the feebs?

Zombies don't look too difficult to outsmart/defeat, either, but what happens when there's enough of them to surround you? You become a meal.

Here's an example: Since we're outnumbered, the feebs were able to put their king, George W. Bush, into the White House, and keep him there for a second term-- putting all of our lives in danger for that whole time.

Not surprising... (1)

Ripiket (308318) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528236)

I'm a 22 year old electrical engineering student in my first year of studies. The majority of the students in my classes are between 17 and 19 years old. The students ask questions during lectures that make me wonder how they made it to university.

Here is a small list of what these students don't have:
- skills in algebra (Why are they registered for Calculus I?)
- sentence mechanics (I walked down the street and so far I never seen any thing.)
- social skills (Friendly people sit in the back corner. They snarl at everyone.)

No wonder they don't understand those crazy credit card offers.

It takes luck, IMO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528239)


Out of all the teachers I had ONLY ONE was truly dedicated to teaching us how to write. He had a self-published little book that had all the common style and grammar errors in it, and it was wierd just how accurate that book was in covering all my writing mistakes. He would sit with every student one-on-one and go through every paragraph of our papers making us read them out loud, pointing out unnecessary words, and showing where the errors are. He even pulled out books by famous authors and showed us passages where even they made the same mistakes and could be improved upon. He was awesome.

Not really surpriced.. follow the money... (3, Interesting)

luvirini (753157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528250)

... as in any other crime.

The pressure to get people's money and get graduates out the door really means that any college that causes someone to drop out looses thus money.

So ofcourse they try to make everyone pass.. nevermind the things they are supposed to be teaching.

The Answer (1)

HooliganIntellectual (856868) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528255)

Eveybody knows that the American educational system is messed up. Instead of blaming the victims of this system, we should really analyze what the problems are and what works in terms of solutions. The educational system is designed to make children hate learning. There is too much emphasis on discipline, order, tests, and grading. Kids that can't sit still are forced onto drugs. What we need is a system that encourages *learning* and exploration. This means getting kids to enjoy reading, which is a fundamental building block when it comes to lifelong learning.

Schools need to be deconstructed and integrated into the everyday life of the community, which would mean more kids getting out of the school into workplaces, musuems, forests and so on. The hierarchies in schools need to be eliminated--all useless personnel such as principals have to go.

On a related note, it should be pointed out that the "smart" kids who go onto Ivy League colleges aren't as smart as they think. Many of these kids are good at tests and playing the system. They tend to lack social skills and think they are god's gift to the world. Given that so many highly educated people will believe nonsense such as Saddamn Hussein having WMDs, we shouldn't set up the people who are good at school as some kind of role model.

What about college graduates? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528259)

What about old people? I bet they do just as bad or worse. I hate these studies that say, "Oh, kids are stupid, they don't know whatever" when there is no comparison to the general population.

ignore this (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528260)

This is just a story in search of a headline. The actual study is neither surprising, nor interesting.

It's a must (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528262)

Come on, I mean there is this comment from the 1870ies quoting:
"There are 2 Universities in Britain, 4 in France, 10 in Prussia and 37 in Ohio".
Somewhere illiterate folks have to study...

Cheers

42

Simplicity (1)

umbrellasd (876984) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528266)

Well, perhaps that is not all bad. If our young adults really are so lacking, it might force reform and simplification of these agreements. If you get a large enough portion of the population sucked into terrible contracts because they are dumb as posts, it is very bad for the economy and legislation is likely.

I've read every "agreement" related to money that I've ever made. Credit card agreements are long and complicated. Do I understand them? Yes. Do I remember all the details in the agreement right now? No. Does it matter? No. I use the card to purchase and I reimburse them at the end of the month or over time with interest. If I fail to pay, the card is frozen and I owe. That's the agreement. But that agreement turns into 12 pages of very fine print.

That's a big WTF moment for me.

I find myself wondering if this "study" would have had the exact same result 10 or 20 years ago and if it did, would it be more attributable to the average intelligence of those tested or rather to the increasing complexity of legalese in virtually everything.

When agreements you have to sign have 20 term definitions at the beginning of the document, you know there's a problem. WTF? Is there no commonly understood word for what the document wants to say? And then there's the other factor of, "Well if I want to use a damn credit card, I have to sign this agreement. And I could sign a different one, but they are all exactly the same. So do I even need to read it? Read one agreement for a credit card. If you do not agree, you might as well agree not to use any credit card anywhere. But if you really do need a credit card, you pretty much just have to agree. You can invest your time in reading every contract to the letter, but the returns are diminishing and it all starts to look like the same old shit.

You figure, 30 people I know have this credit card and they seem to get by all right. I guess it will be all right for me. That's just common sense, and it's pretty valid, too. If there were serious issues with a particular agreement, you would hear about it for certain, and if you did not, well the issue is probably infrequent enough and buried deep enough in the nebulous agreement terms that only a very few people (even the really smart ones) will notice it in advance.

Things are so complicated because a small percentage of the population does not operate on good faith. Therefore most of us our saddled with legal agreements that do their utmost to either screw us over, or protect the interest of the service provided in every conceivable way (which requires a devil's contract worth--more than a person can read in a lifetime--of text). Everyone knows how this works. You make a simple agreement with your customers. A couple of your customers are a really bad sort and they make your life a living Hell by ignoring good faith and exploiting ambiguities in your simple agreement. After you surive that--if you do--you modify the agreement with very detailed, very technical, hopefully unambiguous text, so no one does that to you again. Then that process repeats, and agreements grow and grow into a jungle of verbage.

Because there are some bad apples out there and the disciplinarian for them is our body of law which is even more nebulous, contorted, confusing, and technical than the broken agreement that caused the issue. Enter the lawyers.

Heh! What about the Egyptians? (3, Funny)

Aphrika (756248) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528270)

I'm reading this and thinking about the earlier story about humans being hardwired for geometry [slashdot.org] .

Maybe the Egyptians were onto something with hieroglyphics - we should have anything that looks remotely complex traslated into a series of small pictures and icons, or maybe even comics. Imagine that; a loan agreement graphic novel.

And as I type that, I'm looking at the giant icons Slashdot uses for its stories and thinking "hmmm... stick one of those at the top of each printed newspaper story and everyone'll figure out what it's about". For chequebooks and tips, well if you can't do that you either fail sociably or get stung badly. Maths, the choice is yours... probably.

I can never tell what to think. (1)

Grendel Drago (41496) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528279)

When I see something like this, or like that NSF survey of public understanding of science and technology [nsf.gov] , which contains some howlers [nsf.gov] (more than half of Americans--and Europeans!--think that lasers work by focusing sound waves, and more than half of Americans think that early humans lived alongside dinosaurs)... I can't help but be confused. I know this stuff; why don't most people? Any explanation along the lines of, "well, I'm a brilliant ubermensch, of course!" is ridiculous; what are the odds of that?

So, I'm confused. How do people never bother to learn to read, or to do math? How is it that these things are considered so unimportant? How did I end up valuing such different things?

I have been reading these responses, and (4, Insightful)

Descalzo (898339) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528297)

It's funny. Everyone knows they ANALawyer. Everyone is quick to say, "... but IANADoctor."

No one ever ends a rant on education with IANATeacher. Why is that?

Trend not mentioned. (1)

6350' (936630) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528304)

I sense a faint tint of "the country is going down the shitter" going on in the comments here. Let's note that the article does not mention a trend, but instead notes a point of data: our schools pump out people with X level of skills, as of the period when the sample was taken. No conclusions about a trend can be drawn from the study, leading to the possibilty that the generation before me was as much a bunch of idiots as mine.

Bad Example (1)

Compulawyer (318018) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528309)

"... lack the literacy to handle complex, real-life tasks such as understanding credit card offers."

A lack of literacy is a problem, but this example is pretty bad. Most credit card offers today have "features" like multiple interest rates that are applicable based upon various contingencies and multiple-month rolling interest rates. Most attorneys lack the literacy to comprehend these offers, let along the average college student.

Regents anyone? (1)

ShyGuy91284 (701108) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528315)

Although many argue that regents are unneeded because schools will form their own curriculum (that may be developed with other schools), they do ensure that people learn the basics. I've always assumed states other then CA and NY had equal education systems (if not better in some of the well-funded and educated school districts). But this appears to prove that idea wrong. At least with the old system I graduated with (they changed it recently), people could graduate w/ a Regents or non-Regents diploma, which seemed to keep someone's basic math/reading/writing/interpreting skills in check (I see why they had us analyzing documents with this problem now).

The Good News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528322)

The good news is that despite all of this, you can still become the President of the United States! What, me worry?

It's not just college students... (4, Insightful)

NerveGas (168686) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528325)

... it's nearly everyone. Last year, our management had some disputes with the building owners, and there was a lot of wrangling back and forth about terms of the contract. I asked one of the managers to let me look over the contract, I sat down with it for about fifteen minutes, and then explained everything to him. He had a hard time accepting that just some random joe (actually, a college dropout) could understand the contract, so he paid a lawyer to go over it, and the lawyer told him that I was correct.

    To be fair, I think that quite a bit of that came from a certain physics professor that I had. He was the head of the department, and I ended up getting him for about 8 of the physics classes that I took. He expected you to understand every nuance of what you had studied, and to understand it *completely*. Often he would ask questions that were seemingly impossible to solve, but if you looked at what he gave you and gave it enough thought, you would find that in every case he had given you everything you needed to know - even if it wasn't obvious that he had.

steve

Rarely is the question asked... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528330)

is our children learning?

What do you expect, American popular culture is anti-intellectual! Education is weakly meritocratic and is primarily a function of class. If you are middle class or above you get into college regardless of merit, it may not be your first choice college but you will get in somewhere if you can pay for it. If you are poor and want to go to college your friends mock you during the commercials for American Idol and you either learn how to navigate the bizzare world of student loans or, if you are lucky, you get offered grants. Is it any wonder that a significant number of American college students are illiterate? Most of them have lived sheltered suburban lives and have never had to struggle for anything.

Note: I work at a college and interact with college students regularly. I can see a direct correlation between wealth and intelligence. The majority of kids struggling finacially are busting their asses to learn and to keep paying the insanely expensive tuition costs. The majority of the stupid kids live off their parents and will muddle through college and wind up with decent jobs regardless of merit because they have a degree and their parents social network to land them their first job. I've seen it all dozens of times over.

English? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528335)

[...]to handle complex, real-life tasks such as understanding credit card offers.

And how exactly does this relate to literacy in english? I'd say those things require fluent understanding of legalese and bullshit, not english.

Nor do some of them understand basic math (1)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528337)

Having worked as a tutor in my college days (some decade + change ago) at a four year school, some freshman were admitted lacking even understanding of fraction and basic algebra. I pretty much lost all respect for compulsive K12 education in US then.

Of course, I am the one walking around saying 'I has a college educations,' but I digress...

I dun lack litarcee (1)

dethl (626353) | more than 8 years ago | (#14528344)

Englush classis hulped me rel gud. :D

not to worry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14528349)

There is always immigrants to carry you along.
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