There's been a push recently to measure college outcomes. One recent test showed that American colleges are failing spectacularly, especially in terms of teaching history and civics.
For the past five years, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute has
tried to measure how well colleges and universities do in giving their
students a basic understanding of America's core history, key texts,
and enduring political and economic institutions.
The results aren't pretty.
of the 14,000 incoming freshmen tested failed the 60-question
multiple-choice test, getting just half the questions right. Worse,
they barely know any more when they graduate, with seniors scoring 54
percent correct. No school, not even Harvard or Yale, got above a 69
percent average among seniors. Worse still, in some schools, students
did worse coming out than going in.
Actually, the schools that performed the worst on this test were elite colleges.
My dad sent me this link along with some sarcastic remarks about Harvard professors who just spew on and on about irrelevant research or don't show up to class at all.
I'm not sure about these findings. I suspect that there are some politics involved, but I thought I would pass this info along.
UPDATE: Apparently, ISI is a conservative organization. Tim Burke explains.
– Evaluating college education is HUGE topic right now. At my last university, there were many committees and meetings aimed at creating tests of student knowledge. Colleges are under pressure to demonstrate they are providing students with an education. There is, however, little consensus about what they should be teaching.
– I always taught my introductory sections with the idea that 90% of the students would never take another political science class. So, I went heavy on democratic theory, the importance of participation, and basic knowledge of government. I'm not sure that I was typical.
– Most students aren't taking political science or history classes anymore. If they're enrolled in business or professional schools, there are limited opportunities to take those classes. Also, schools are pulling down the old liberal arts requirements, because of pressures from other departments. So, it's not entirely surprising that students can't answer questions about the Lincoln-Douglas debates.