Phi Beta Cons

What It’s All About

I’d like to add a few comments to George’s post on the freshman composition course at UNC-Chapel Hill. For me this epitomizes what our fight is all about — the absence of any coherent understanding of what undergraduate education should be.

UNC-Chapel Hill is one of the top five public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Yet again and again, the Pope Center uncovers evidence that teaching there is negligent or shoddy. Take Ashley Russell’s freshman composition class, “Writing in Humanities.” The first unit was blogging, the second involved attending and writing about a couple of lectures at a school festival, and the third was a series of class discussions about a smattering of essays (or essay fragments). “I blogged my way to an easy A,” she writes. “I came out with the same writing skills as I went in with.”

In addition, we’ve written about online classes from which the teacher was largely absent, about a class where the student improved her grade when she started attacking George W. Bush, and about Marxism masquerading as geography (not to mention the professor who got her students to rewrite the U.S. Constitution, which she views as inferior to other countries’). Other evidence of low academic standards is the fact that some students get most of their “difficult” courses out of the way in a couple of years and mostly have fun the rest of their college career. And if we switch to UNC’s chief rival, Duke, one of the crystal-clear conclusions from the fact that a young woman wrote a mock thesis analyzing her sexual relationships is that college kids have time on their hands.

Jane S. Shaw — Jane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...

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