Even landscape technologists need critical thinking skills.

6 05 2010

“Degrees of Speed” over at the Washington Monthly should have been a nice follow up to anyone who saw College, Inc. the other night. After all, it includes jaw-dropping statistics like this:

The average tuition at a for-profit college is about $14,000 annually, nearly six times more than at community colleges, and some charge as much as $25,000 a year. Students attending these schools often tap out their available government grants and loans. Some even wind up taking out private loans with double-digit interest rates and stiff terms.

Unfortunately, the whole article is built on this premise:

[M]ost colleges and universities, community colleges included, see themselves as academic institutions first and workforce-training centers second, and they structure their curricula accordingly. Even community college students headed for job-oriented degrees—in, say, landscape technology—must pass an array of general education courses in math, English, science, and the humanities. These courses are vitally important in providing students, especially recent high school graduates, with the critical thinking and communication skills they’ll need to succeed in today’s demanding economy. But they don’t necessarily make sense for the many recently unemployed adults who have already developed such skills during their years in the workplace.

The article is called “Degrees of Speed” because the authors think unemployed workers who go back to community college should get their educations faster. But has anybody considered the fact that the reason they go through at a “molasses-like” pace might have more to do with their lives than their educations? That would explain why there’s a niche for taking ridiculous simulacrums of classes online at home in your pajamas. Or maybe their educations would go faster if they liked their classes more.

While reading the comments to Historiann’s post on this subject, I learned something else I didn’t know: The University of Phoenix has a Humanities Division. If they, of all people, think history, English and the like have a place in the most utilitarian of all educations, why on Earth should community colleges get rid of them?

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7 05 2010
Historiann

Jonathan–thanks for bringing this article to my attention. NPR had an abysmal report on for-profit unis last night on All Things Considered–it was remarkably agnostic on the topic, and blithely proclaimed something like, “critics wonder whether students at for-profit unis will ever get jobs that will allow them to pay off their student loans, but we could say the same about students at traditional unis these days.” No documentation, no facts, no stats. It made Frontline’s College Inc. look like Fernand Braudel’s La Méditerranée et le monde méditeranéen à l’époque de Philippe II in terms of density and documentation.

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