The Baton Rouge Advocate published an editorial a few days ago titled "Get ahead in colleges like LSU, without all the hard work."
The editorial quoted Benjamin Haines, a graduate student at Louisiana State University, who has discovered that many LSU students arrive on campus without the basic skills they should have learned in high school.
"In my anecdotal experience as a teaching assistant at LSU," Haines wrote, "many young college students aren't equipped with the requisite writing or literary tools necessary to produce passable writing, a product of a failing secondary education system, rather than an indication of students' abilities.
Haines continued with this condemnation:
Especially here in Louisiana, professors, instructors, and teaching assistants fight a daily uphill battle against a decrepit secondary educational system in which students are failing to receive the necessary literary skills to excel at the next level of learning, and business-minded university administrators that accept students who aren't genuinely qualified into their rolls.
As a professor who spent twenty-five years in public universities, I can attest that Haines' rebuke of secondary education is on the mark--at least here in Louisiana. Many students graduate high school without a basic understanding of grammar and punctuation and no clear idea about constructing a paragraph, much less a well-reasoned analytical or research paper.
And Haines is right to blame university administrators for admitting students unprepared to do college work. University leaders are desperate for tuition dollars and are willing to foist clueless young people off on hapless professors and instructors who are faced with three choices:
1) They can flunk unprepared students. Students whose GPAs plummet will eventually be expelled on academic grounds.
2) Professors can turn their university courses into remedial classes, which will require them to teach students basic literary skills they should have learned in the sixth grade.
3) They can indulge in grade inflation and give every student a passing grade. I fear that this is the option most college instructors are taking.
What happens to the unprepared students who go to college? Some become discouraged and drop out. Others will soldier on, drifting into soft majors with low academic standards. Often these misfits stretch out their four-year degree programs to five, six, or even seven years.
With grade inflation and declining academic standards, many unprepared students will eventually obtain college degrees without learning anything useful.
What will they do then? They will stumble into the adult world of work with a mountain of student debt and no practical job skills.
But not to worry. People who get worthless college degrees can always go on to graduate school.