What students know when they come to us

Right Wing Nut House, not the most propitious of names, discusses a study on what college students know about history. It turns out that they don’t know quite a lot.

Why this is an issue.

The original study, from Common Core, makes this clear.

In reality, however, a deep lack of knowledge is neither humorous nor trivial. What we know helps to determine how successful we are likely to be in life, and how many career paths we can choose from. It also affects our contribution as democratic citizens.

Our students don’t have the foundational information to succeed in being an educated person. They’ve got to, somehow and somewhere, go back and get this information.

I think this is a solid argument for general education requirements in college.

This vacuum is hard for teachers to understand.

This, I think, is one of the things that is hard for college teachers to accept. We remember what we were like as college freshman. Surely we knew these things (Adolf Hitler and the Bill of Rights). And even if we don’t remember what we were like, we know so much now that often when we assume less knowledge, we don’t assume enough less.

That’s an issue for our students. It is good to have high expectations, but it is not good to have overly inflated starting expectations. If the students can’t climb the cliff, they won’t be able to hike to the top of the mountain.

I was surprised at what they did know.

I looked at some of it and was actually surprised by the English-related info that some of them knew.

44 percent think that The Scarlet Letter was either about a witch trial or a piece of correspondence [which means 56% know what it is]

38% knew that Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the Canterbury Tales, a poem written in Middle English and containing stories told by people on a pilgrimage. [I thought most high schools introduced this.]

57% knew that Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities took place during the French Revolution. [This was a book I had to read in high school. Apparently it is still being read.]

So they still know some about English.

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