Last week I listened in on the online seminar by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, the writers of Academically Adrift and Aspiring Adults Adrift. After reading Excellent sheep by William Deresiewicz, these books are a breath of sensibility. While Excellent Sheep is entertaining, it lacks the data driven conclusions Arum and Roksa are able to use. It was encouraging to hear, that academic rigor pays off in critical thinking, reading, and writing skills that are carried out to work life. But the lack of rigor in undergraduate education largely makes it a privilege of few. Educators are at the key positions to make academic rigor everyone’s right. The university as an institution should wholeheartedly support this.
Changes in assessment are one aspect we can change along with connecting education to life again. I don’t know how Scranton based systems would support this kind of rigor. I first encountered these mysterious coloring sheets as an exchange student and again when preparing to take the GRE. I did not learn anything from those exams unlike essay based exams I was used to.
Filling ones life like a Scantron sheet with shades of gray within strict lines is not an option anymore. Information is available to almost everyone with an internet connection. Possessing that same data inside ones head in pretty packages is nothing special or even useful. It is the creative application and the potential for going beyond what we already know, which are valuable. Changing the culture of institutions to favor rigor and offer more learners the privilege of understanding and thinking a better future, should be our priority in education.