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Mon Oct 13, 2014, 10:49 AM

Bachelor of Arts degree now equivalent to a high school diploma

Having taught on several levels in the US education system, including high school and university, I was not at all surprised when I read the following comment in the UK Guardian (online):
David Null 1 Jul 2014
(speaking of American education)
"Yes, you can get small classes at $40,000+ a year.... I used to teach at a liberal arts college. And also at a big R1 state university. I guess what struck me at the time was that students had to pay to get the level of education I had gotten for free in high school in Italy. All my students were taking courses titled 'Introduction to...' (chemistry, English lit, algebra etc) which made me wonder what exactly they had studied in high school. I got the impression high school was a parking station for hormonal teenagers where very little learning was accomplished, which meant that a postgraduate degree was the bare minimum to reach university level education."

While I do not paint all students with a broad brush, my 40 years of experience leads me to see much truth in David Null's statement. Furthermore, with the abandonment of public education for voucher systems and charter schools, I see high school education suffering even more. When we add that far-right religious fanatics are doing all in their power to re-write the curriculum to abandon fact-driven education and replace it with their own fantasy world, education in American public schools is breathing its last breath. I wish it wasn't true.

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Response to Thespian2 (Original post)

Mon Oct 13, 2014, 10:57 AM

1. In many schools, we teach to the lowest common denominator, 7th grade level material.

 

To pass the California High School Exit Exam, a student needs to provide ~66% or higher correct answers to Seventh Grade level questions.

Of course there are exceptions, some have very high achievement levels, but these are the exception, not the rule.

Proposition 13, poor funding, wandering directives, too many administrators playing with the money, social experimentation in the classrooms, overcrowding and inconsistent practices are among the causes of this.

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Response to Thespian2 (Original post)

Mon Oct 13, 2014, 10:58 AM

2. in terms of financial return, I'd agree, but high school is much more rigorous overall today

I'm in a region with lots of uber-competitive native and immigrant parents, yes, but the "reforms" and testing, as well as the increased competition for dwindling slots at the top 100 IHEs, has led to brutal competition in the high schools around here. I skipped two grades 30 years ago but today would struggle with some of the classes at my daughters' high school (it's a nationally ranked politically progressive public charter--but other public high schools around here are equally difficult, as in, 10 APs upon graduation difficult, and AP classes offered in 9th grade. Ugh!).

Interestingly, my eldest, now at an Ivy (on full scholarship) has to constantly struggle with career-related matters and classes that feel much less intimate. Her true liberal arts experience was at that high school, which was the last carefree time (with immense homework yes) she could actually discuss literature and philosophy with any abandon. Now it's all constant pressure to interview for internships, go to conferences, and keep up. I kind of wanted her to sit on the quad and argue politics for a few years, but she says she only does that with her high school alum. At her Ivy everyone's so friggin' competitive and busy, since they're the only ones with any chance to jump out of the dying middle class into a salary that actually pays the bills.

But I agree with you--in terms of what it means in the job market, however, the average B.A. is the marker the high school diploma once was, and requires lifelong debt servitude. Pretty feudal.

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Response to Thespian2 (Original post)

Mon Oct 13, 2014, 11:08 AM

3. That might be just to ease them in in the first semester.

You have students from various high schools all over the country, different teachers, different curricula... The first semester is used to get them all on the same page, to make sure they all start from the same point in the second semester.

For example: Math-classes when I studied.
1st Semester: Everybody's talking during class, nobody bothers to listen to the professor because it's so easy and you had all of that already in school. I was shocked how loud it was and how brazenly they openly chatted. I passed the exam without even learning.
2nd Semester: New content, only a tiny portion was already known. Way less talking and the volume is considerably lower. The exam was hard but feasible.
3rd Semester: Only 25% of the people around. Absolutely no talking. The exam was horror. Luckily, we only needed 2 out of 3.

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Response to Thespian2 (Original post)

Mon Oct 13, 2014, 11:20 AM

4. It really depends on the major

Typical 1st Semester Freshman engineering for example:
Chem I
Calculus I
Engineering Analysis or Design
Composition II
Engineering Seminar

This is the same as it was for me in the 1980s. My daughter spends 60-80 hrs/week on school work. She did almost as much in high school.

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Response to exboyfil (Reply #4)

Mon Oct 13, 2014, 12:35 PM

5. I am so glad your daughter is taking Engineering

 

To many students taking Philosophy, Sociology and Psychology. Such fluffy majors and then wonder why they can only get minimum wage. It's absurd and to have student debt on top of it.

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Response to yeoman6987 (Reply #5)

Mon Oct 13, 2014, 01:22 PM

6. Interesting one of the highest GRE

score majors is Philosophy. I had a Logic course in college taught by the Philosophy department. It was easily my hardest Social Science/Humanities course rivaling several of my science, math, or engineering courses. I also heard Philosophy majors do well on the MCAT, but I have not seen a table breaking it out.

Yes I am very proud of my daughter. She started mechanical engineering as an academic junior straight out of high school.

My other daughter likes Chemistry and Biology but not Math. She is planning on going to Nursing school with the possibility of eventually going on for Physician's Assistant or Nurse Pract. I am very proud of her as well. She is in Chemistry I and Anatomy and Physiology as a high school junior. She is already a Certified Nursing Assistant.

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Response to yeoman6987 (Reply #5)

Mon Oct 13, 2014, 04:42 PM

10. It is interesting that you think that philosophy is fluffy.

How would you approach the teaching of mathematical logic? Would you start with its purely abstract form or would you start with early attempts at developing logical systems and work forward from there? How would you address the differences between rationalism and empiricism without discussing philosophy? Science clearly depends upon an amalgam of the two with empirical results being the arbiter of what is "true", but how do you describe the scientific method without resorting to treating it purely as another dogmatic orthodoxy if philosophy is unconsidered?

Also, do you think that previously done psychological studies will not be useful in motivating future research in neurophysiology and cognitive research? How would one become aware of the psychology literature without studying psychology?

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Response to xocet (Reply #10)

Mon Oct 13, 2014, 05:39 PM

11. Hey if you can make a living with a

 

Bachelors of Arts in Philosophy. Best of luck. I predict working at a store.

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Response to yeoman6987 (Reply #11)

Tue Oct 14, 2014, 03:32 PM

12. You may be right in a narrow pragmatic way, but wrong if the larger scope of things is considered...

Philosophy is about developing questions and attempting to show others the possibilities inherent in questioning. The history of what questions led to what results is important if one wants to pass knowledge on with any meaning attached to it. Presenting answers without questions and context is not useful. It robs the student.

Engineering when badly taught is pragmatic to a fault. Even physics and mathematics can be taught badly when they are taught with the instructor's mindset firmly fixed on "Get 'er done.", "Just do it." or "Shut up and calculate."

To leave philosophy out denies the fact that one needs to appreciate the questions and their boundaries as much as one needs to know the answers and their boundaries.

Here is a semi-technical piece by V.I. Arnold that you might find interesting:


On teaching mathematics
by V.I. Arnold

...

The scheme of construction of a mathematical theory is exactly the same as that in any other natural science. First we consider some objects and make some observations in special cases. Then we try and find the limits of application of our observations, look for counter-examples which would prevent unjustified extension of our observations onto a too wide range of events (example: the number of partitions of consecutive odd numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 into an odd number of natural summands gives the sequence 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, but then comes 29).

As a result we formulate the empirical discovery that we made (for example, the Fermat conjecture or Poincaré conjecture) as clearly as possible. After this there comes the difficult period of checking as to how reliable are the conclusions .

At this point a special technique has been developed in mathematics. This technique, when applied to the real world, is sometimes useful, but can sometimes also lead to self-deception. This technique is called modelling. When constructing a model, the following idealisation is made: certain facts which are only known with a certain degree of probability or with a certain degree of accuracy, are considered to be "absolutely" correct and are accepted as "axioms". The sense of this "absoluteness" lies precisely in the fact that we allow ourselves to use these "facts" according to the rules of formal logic, in the process declaring as "theorems" all that we can derive from them.

It is obvious that in any real-life activity it is impossible to wholly rely on such deductions. The reason is at least that the parameters of the studied phenomena are never known absolutely exactly and a small change in parameters (for example, the initial conditions of a process) can totally change the result. Say, for this reason a reliable long-term weather forecast is impossible and will remain impossible, no matter how much we develop computers and devices which record initial conditions.

...

http://pauli.uni-muenster.de/~munsteg/arnold.html


The above is an inherently philosophical discussion.

Robbing mathematics of geometry is very similar to robbing science (and one's knowledge) of any philosophy.

So, yes, one may need to adopt the pragmatic view that you espouse, but at the same time one should realize that exactly this need is the result of a system that limits and devalues education.

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Response to Thespian2 (Original post)

Mon Oct 13, 2014, 01:34 PM

7. I have a slightly different experience and I'm approaching 40 years of teaching....

The public school my wife teaches in today is MUCH better than the public school I taught in during the 1970's. My school back then was not regulated, teachers had bachelors, there was little technology. Music, art, and languages, were options. Popular classes were shop and home economics. The only thing the community supported was the football team.

My wife's school today has mostly graduate trained and experienced teachers. All students get art, music, technology, and languages. The PTA meetings are standing room only. The kids are getting a public education as good as any private school. There are IB programs, AP classes, and even excellent vocational programs available (like managing hotels,airplane maintenance, and international real estate). K-12 schools that are doing a bad job are usually overcrowded, have trouble keeping good teachers, and the SES is low. Schools today can be excellent if the community supports them! Our district has passed three tax referendums in a row to support the public schools above the state contribution - including higher salaries and earmarks for the arts. This is not a "millionaire" county, but a mix of people who value education.

I attended and I've taught at a private university. My public university students on average are not as well prepared or motivated, but the BEST students at the public university are as good as you'll find anywhere. There are plenty of excellent, highly-motivated public college students.

My observation about the changes in public colleges lies with the administration/state government goals that have changed. Everything is bodies and bucks - class sizes are large, tuition is high, and individual attention is minimal. We have way too many adjunct and temporary faculty compared to 20 or 30 years ago. State governments don't feel the obligation to support higher education any more, because they want to turn universities into another way to make a profit.

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Response to Sancho (Reply #7)

Mon Oct 13, 2014, 02:17 PM

8. Sounds like you live in Severna Park, Maryland

 

I live in Arnold, Maryland which is part of that school district. Number 1 in the country. We pay for it though threw extremely high property taxes. Well worth it.

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Response to yeoman6987 (Reply #8)

Mon Oct 13, 2014, 02:43 PM

9. Nope, I'm on the west coast of Florida...

but I suspect it's similar everywhere. I don't think most people really understand how vastly different schools can be in the US.

Throwing money at education is not the only answer, but when parents and a community are really behind the schools they get a good return for the dollars. A community that is preparing kids well, sending kids to college, and attracting employers almost always has roots in good schools. A few mils of property tax is well spent. Crime is lower, people are healthier, and things just get better. I've seen it happen.

When you destroy the schools and run off the good teachers, no "charter school" or after school program or letting the state take over the school will turn it around. I get very tired of politicians attacking schools, universities, and hard-working educators. Our stupid governor has gone after teachers (pay, retirement, etc.), lowered the state contribution per student, and paraded a series of uniformed "Commissioners" of education through the DOE. They spend many millions on testing, charter schools, computer courses (required in Florida) and other ways to get the governor's friends some way to milk money from the budget.

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