Thursday, August 20, 2009

So you say you want a College Education?

I stumbled upon some interesting information this morning. We all know that various groups rate our nation's colleges and let everyone know that Harvard is THE place to be, or Texas A&M is still a podunk school! Well, there's a new group in town, and I like they way they think!

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni has decided to rate America's colleges by their own standards, and it has nothing to do with a college's long and distinguished pedigree, nor how much debt you must amass in order to be snooty enough to attend there.

They examined core curriculum.

You know -- those boring classes you try to get behind you, in your first 2 years of college? Those courses in writing and math and science and history that feel vaguely like high school? The courses you'll REALLY need for your employer someday? Yeah, the core curriculum.

Only, many big-name universities and elite colleges are NOT REQUIRING these core courses anymore. Or, they allow other, specialized courses to meet the requirement. Or, worse yet, they simply allow the student to formulate his own curriculum. You know, individualize it ... because we should all be able to get what we want, right?

[Side rant: being able to get exactly what you want has become the mantra of American life. I can go into an ice cream store and get EXACTLY the combination of ingredients I want. Individualized. I can customize everything from my perfume to my kitchen cabinets. Everything is "do it my way." No one in America is expected to conform himself to anyone else, ever. That would impinge on our individual rights and freedoms. ARGH! This is what we're coming to!!]

This new group, the ACTA, knows better. They know that students succeed when they DO fulfill a core curriculum, and ACTA is very particular in what courses qualify to meet their definition of this "core." On the website I've linked to above, click on the "What Will They Learn" article; it's a download. LOOK at the listing of schools, and WHY Harvard, Yale, and Brown each earned an F!!! But the US Military Academy and Texas A&M both earned an A!!

I asked Adam why the Military Academy earned an A. He said that students there, once they declare a major, have all their course work determined for them. It's set. A school where you have to stand at attention in a uniform all day, and polish your own shoes, is not a school to allow you to customize your coursework for your personal pleasure.

The bottom line is that your average 19 year old is often not able to discipline himself to take the course that he SHOULD take. She can't resist that fun pottery class or rock-climbing class that the roommate gets to take. It's too easy to delay that biology class until 2nd semester of your junior year. I know. I did that.

If you want to search for your school, or request that your college be added to the study (as I did), here's the website with that option.


  1. Verrrrrrrrrry interesting. HUNH! (And I'm totally on your page with everything being individualized. It's out of control, and we as a culture are becoming more and more selfish and entitled by the day. Sigh...)

  2. Thanks for the link, MK, and your right-on comments. My daughter managed to go to a college that had a stringent core curriculum *and* cost an arm and a leg!

  3. Yes, GJ - there are quite a number that give both the pleasure and the pain!! Argh. I don't know how these college kids will pay off all these loans.


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