Thursday, June 30, 2011

Have colleges failed?

In his review of Academically Adrift, Louis Menand writes:

If students are studying less it may be because the demands on them are fewer. Half the students in the study said that they had not taken a single course in the previous semester requiring more than twenty pages of writing.

In an age of tweets and blog posts, having to write, much less read a paper that is more than 20 pages sounds quaint if not downright antiquated. In many ways, the academics who study the students who go to college are just as out of touch as the colleges they study. Implicit in the argument is that a 50-page paper is not just more demanding and challenging but is better for the students. But why stop at 20? Why not 500? The student who is challenged to make a point and can do so in 20 words or less succeeds more than one who needs 200 words. Those who need to use 200 words or more are training to be politicians (or academics).

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