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April 14, 2014

"Students Seeking Skills, Not Degrees"

Well . . . yeah. It's about time.

A rare sign of sanity in higher education: students are doing an end run on the ‘time served’ model of degree attainment at colleges, and instead are attending university in order to pick up only the skills they need.

April 08, 2014

"10 Lessons of an MIT Education"

From 1997, but is relevant and useful today. I'd certainly show it to any high school students thinking about attending MIT. Sample:

Lesson One: You can and will work at a desk for seven hours straight, routinely. For several years, I have been teaching 18.30, differential equation, the largest mathematics course at MIT, with more than 300 students. The lectures have been good training in dealing with mass behavior. Every sentence must be perfectly enunciated, preferably twice. Examples on the board must be relevant, if not downright fascinating. Every 15 minutes or so, the lecturer is expected to come up with an interesting aside, joke, historical anecdote, or unusual application of the concept at hand. When a lecturer fails to conform to these inexorable requirements, the students will signify their displeasure by picking by their books and leaving the classroom.

Despite the lecturer's best efforts, however, it becomes more difficult to hold the attention of the students as the term wears on, and they start falling asleep in class under those circumstances should be a source of satisfaction for a teacher, since it confirms that they have been doing their jobs. There students have been up half the night-maybe all night-finishing problem sets and preparing for their midterm exams.

Four courses in science and engineering each term is a heavy workload for anyone; very few students fail to learn, first and foremost, the discipline of intensive and constant work.

Bonus from the same author (on teaching and on being a mathematician): "Ten Lessons I wish I had been Taught".


March 31, 2014

"This Ridiculous One-Paragraph Essay By A UNC Athlete Got An A-Minus"

Another bulletin from what we're so pleased to call "higher education". 

(What's worse: a "paper" that's just one paragraph or that there are five mistakes in that one paragraph?)

(The whistleblower, Mary Willingham, has a blog,, with UNC-CH history professor, Jay Smith, here.)

See also "NCAA in Turmoil: Why UNC Can't Get Past Its Fake Classes Scandal".

"Why Did NYC’s Top Public High School Admit Only Seven Black Students This Year?"

This is a truly excellent point:

Every year, The New York Times writes about how ridiculously low this number is. This year is no exception. The difference this year is that NYC has a new mayor who based a big part of his election campaign on getting rid of the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT), the sole criterion used for deciding which students get into Stuyvesant, as well as the other seven specialized high schools (an eighth, LaGuardia a.k.a. the “Fame” school, requires an audition instead).

The mayor thinks the test is the problem and believes as yet unspecified “other criteria,” like possibly grades, recommendations, portfolios, interviews, community service, etc. . . should be used instead.

In my opinion, the test is not the problem. The problem is that the majority of New York City’s middle schools are doing a horrible job preparing their students for the test.

March 29, 2014

"What Is The Citadel?"

Twenty-plus year old Sports Illustrated article I ran across. Interesting.

(Also interesting is Citadel's "Tips for Incoming Freshmen From the Class of 2014". For an update on the article's theme, see here.)

March 24, 2014

"The SAT Upgrade Is a Big Mistake"

Peter Wood convinces me:

But alas, as the Common Core Standards emerged, it became apparent that they set a ceiling on the academic preparation of most students.  Students who go through schools that follow the Common Core Standards will be ill-prepared for the rigors of college.  That is, unless something can be done on the other end to ensure that colleges lower their standards.  Then everything will be well. . . . 

The life-preserver that the College Board is throwing to the Common Core is a redefinition of what it means to be "college ready." The SAT after all is a test aimed at determining who is ready for college. An SAT refurbished to match what the Common Core actually teaches instead of what colleges expect freshmen to know will go far to quiet worries that the Common Core is selling students short.  If the SAT says a student is "college ready," who is to say that he is not?  

The new changes in the SAT are meant first to skate around the looming problem that students educated within the framework of the Common Core would almost certainly see their performance on the old SAT plummet compared to students educated in pre-Common Core curricula. 


Update to "Free college math textbooks"

Free textbooks authored by William G. Trench (previous link) have now moved here

March 23, 2014

"24 Painfully Accurate Teacher Hashtags"

Made me laugh.

March 19, 2014

An anecdote supporting the education-as-signaling model

Megan McArdle:

When I was starting at the University of Chicago, back in 1999, one of the career-counseling people said something I’ve never forgotten: "We could put you guys on a cruise ship for the next two years, and you’d still get the same jobs."

She was stating, in a rather funny way, something almost everyone knows: Most of the economic value of an MBA from an elite business school comes from demonstrating that you can get into an elite business school. The rest comes from the classmates you meet, networking and project experience you get. Something close to zero percent of the value comes from your classwork. 

March 12, 2014

"Higher ed’s failure to deliver qualified graduates to business world starts in first grade with the public school monopoly"

Mark J. Perry:

Unless and until the public school monopoly and the teachers unions are reformed, universities will continue to provide four years of largely remedial education to high school graduates ill-prepared for university-level learning, and will continue to deliver college graduates lacking the necessary skills and required competencies for success in the business world.

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