University professors and researchers call the phenomenon “student disengagement.” Which makes me wonder whether or not there a correlation between that issue and elementary and secondary “no-fail” policies? I mean, it has long been suspected that today’s university students do not have the same commitment to their schooling that their parents or grandparents had, but until now, few have asked why.
I have my suspicions of course, that the culprit is the education system’s trend away from any type of real competition at the elementary and secondary levels, combined with no-fail policies (e.g., such practices as not taking marks off an assignment for lateness or incompleteness or promoting or “transferring” a student to the next grade when a student is not ready).
I mean, you can’t give all children a medal or a ribbon for effort, or promote students when they haven’t earned that right, and then expect them to want to excel or be fully engaged in learning later in life.
The blog “Ivory Tower Blues” is writing an historical series on this issue, which I will be writing about as they go along. To begin with, they discuss a report released last month from the National Bureau on Economic Research in Cambridge MA, that found that students in the 1960’s treated university as a full-time job and put in an average of 40 hours a week, course time and studying combined compared to 27 hours in total now.
When thinking about 27 hours, remember that full-time university is usually five full courses of 6 hours each or the half-course equivalent (for a total of 30 hours for lectures, seminars and labs). Meaning, that 27 hours doesn’t even cover all the course time, let alone opportunities for studying and doing assignments.
So, as I suggested above, in my opinion, the disengagement so many post-secondary researchers are talking and writing about are simply symptomatic of the feel good, warm and fuzzy no-fail policies implemented by the various Western territorial, state and provincial governments over the past few decades. As a result, there just isn’t a commitment to excellence anymore and high school graduates have learned to expect “A’s” for a “C” effort or credits for little or no work.
Well, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the “minimum effort for maximum gain” expectation has moved into the universities. Whether they call it “no-fail” or disengagement, it definitely is a trend that does not bode well for the post-secondary students themselves or their future employers.