I came across this post yesterday at one of my favourite blogs — Ivory Tower Blues (ITB) — by two Ontario professors. They and I have been complaining for some time now that far too many of today’s post-secondary students are completely unprepared for college or university.
In their most recent post, however, I was surprised to find out there is someone — who actually represents university teachers — who is denying the problem is any worse than it was in the past. The name discussed at ITB was that of James Turk, the Executive Director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers.
That said, I have no doubt that the unreadiness sentiment is held by more professors throughout Canada and the U.S., than not. In fact, not long ago, I published an article here at Crux of the Matter titled “How to write a college/university essay” — in response to similar complaints in the media.
So, what exactly are the problems? Are high school students being granted credits for little or no work based on the Ontario government’s “no-fail,” policy? Are high school students being allowed to complete independent study and/or make up courses with little or no supervision? Are university teachers expecting more from their students now than in the past? Or, is it some of all of the above?
Whatever the case, before anyone is tempted to blame everything on high school teachers, I would ask visitors to first check out this link to the high school curriculum chart for English — up to page 26 of 221 pages. It clearly shows the kinds of reading, research and writing skills that are supposed to be taught in Ontario’s high schools — no doubt similar to what is expected elsewhere. But, are those skills actually being taught to all students who will attend college or university?
Then, there is the “attitude” problem which may appear as though students are unready. For instance, as far back as the mid 1990’s (when I was still teaching undergraduate students), I began to notice a new pattern of behaviour. I referred to it at the time as “the chip on the shoulder problem.” Students would miss 50% or more of their classes and then seem surprised when they did badly on an exam or paper — often saying they had expected an “A.”
The crux of the matter is then, apart from the few who dismiss the charge of student unreadiness, why are so many college and university professors today finding that students are not prepared for the rigors of post secondary study?