Herb London gives an incisive account of a newly published book Academically Adrift, by sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa. Their thesis is that student performance on basic skills generally do not improve during their college years. They find, in sum, that more than a third of the 2000 college seniors surveyed were no more adept at reasoning and writing than they had been in their first semester.
London’s take on this travesty and its debilitating consequences?
Decades ago Thorstein Veblen argued that most college students are “trained in incapacity.” If one were to rely on the Arum, Roksa study, it doesn’t appear as if students today are trained in any way, shape or form. The university experience has become a trivialized way to enter adulthood or perhaps attenuate adolescence. But on one point there isn’t doubt: undergraduates are actually learning very little and if one were to consider this learning a precondition for competitiveness, the United States is falling behind other nations, even as the number of graduates increases.