1. Almost everyone is suited to college.
2. College’s principal function is to prepare a student for a specific occupation.
3. Everyone should complete college in five years or less.
4. Colleges should meet all student needs.
5. Popular professors are good professors.
6. College courses should be entertaining.
7. Student evaluations improve college level education.
8. Colleges should accommodate all ranges of personal beliefs.
Each of these “myths” is widely held by a great number of college students and their parents, as well as by a significant segment of the U.S. population. Each has a grain of truth behind it but is effectively misleading if not totally false.
Not everyone is suited to college, either in terms of intellectual ability, ambition, inclination, and determination. While everyone needs a skill set to succeed in providing for himself or herself, the traditional college education isn’t always the best place for each individual to obtain that skill set. Often, for some individuals, it’s absolutely the worst place.
With the increasing cost of college, more and more students have to work to pay for their education. Working means they have less time to devote to studying an often these students either take lighter course loads or drop out for a semester here and there to obtain the money to continue. Others, such as in Utah, often take off several years for various reasons, including church missionary work, voluntary “sabbaticals,” or even just to “find themselves.”
College is not a vocational school. Most college-educated young people graduating today will change jobs and/or fields at least several times after graduation, yet some state legislatures and others, such as accrediting bodies, are now “grading” colleges on the percentages of graduates employed in their undergraduate field of study.
Colleges are now required to provide an ever-greater range of “personal” services to students, going far beyond course advisors to counseling, special arrangements for test-taking, study-abroad programs, even design-your-own course/major options. This proliferation of “services” is a significant factor in increasing college costs. At the same time, students are less and less willing to spend time outside the classroom in pursuit of their studies. Even so, the demands for more “services” and options continue to grow at the same time as colleges and universities are trying to reduce the instructional costs by utilizing more adjunct professors and fewer full-time faculty.
There are good professors and popular professors. Some few popular professors are good, and quite a few not-so-popular professors are good. Studies show, however, on average, that the very most popular professors are the least demanding and easiest graders.
Likewise, education is about widening the students’ knowledge bases and skills, and for most students, that process is often uncomfortable. Courses that are primarily entertaining seldom stretch the students to improve their capabilities and understanding.
A rather wide range of studies show that the more student evaluations are employed as an evaluation tool, the greater the likelihood that the curriculum is being dumbed down. The age period when most students attend college is that period of their life when they’re the most self-centered and, therefore, the most resistant to change. It’s also the period when they need to come to grips with the fact that they are not special and that they are not the center of the universe. That’s a large part of what a good college education does. Students at this age evaluate based largely on what they want, not what they need. Giving them what they want is the easy way for colleges to fill seats… and create empty and/or closed minds.
When I taught, I had students who were offended by the beliefs and the words in certain assignments, and who wanted special assignments in place of those works assigned. There have been numerous court cases of students demanding not to have to read passages that conflicted with their personal and religious beliefs. A college education is not about restricting knowledge, but about exposing students to a wider range of information and opinion. They’re not required to agree with it, only to be exposed to it so that they know what it is and what it represents.
If these “myths” continue to proliferate, colleges will continue to become more like high schools… and neither the students, nor society, need another four years of high school.