Um, any article that uses a supermarket tabloid as a reference---as well as seems not to know what "the National Enquirer" is, as late as 1975---has serious credibility problems. It's much like referencing articles in Playboy magazine. Whenever a student, invariably male, tries this in a paper, I write, "Never use fuck books as scholarly references."
Indeed, and that ridiculous reference to Berkeley, a place noted for its Marxists, pederasts, and stoners.
And cyclotrons, synchrotrons, and plutonium, if you're being patriotic about it. There's even a transuranic element named after the place.
Hey - I published a letter in Playboy, discussing an interview with Norman Mailer.
Do you list it on your CV? If so, do you mention the photo of Miss Valvoline on the opposite page?
I did indeed. Our President thought it hilarious, our very religious Provost not so much.
It would be interesting to know what "an acceptable three-page thesis" and a representative piece of writing demonstrating "critical and objective" thinking would have looked like in 1975. Fashions in both writing and thinking do change (for instance, if I were looking at a piece of legal writing from 1975, I might well have reason to suggest that it shows evidence of an unacknowledged, and unexamined, male perspective -- not exactly critical or objective, at least as viewed through my early-21st-century lens. And who knows what a mid-21st-century reader would/will find in my prose, should any of it survive, and should anybody still be reading stuff then). One thing remains true: writing labs (now usually called writing centers) are a very good idea.
I'm kind of happy if students can write three paragraphs now, let alone three pages!
Newsweek's 11/8/75 cover story was titled "Why Johnny Can't Write." Lead sentence: "If your children are attending college, the chances are that when they graduate they will be unable to write ordinary, expository English with any real degree of structure and lucidity."In August, 1976, the Los Angeles Times published a three-part front page story, "Drop in Sdudent Skills Unequalled in History," stating that the drop in student literacy "encompasses all ethnic groups, all economic classes, and both private public school students, at most achievement levels in all regions of the nation." The Times went on to say "the decline has indeed invaded the nation's universities and colleges where, unabated, it has continued on through at lest the baccalaureate level."And on and on. Pick a time in American history and you'll find the same thing. In a comment to another CM post, someone has already pointed out--correctly--that one of the earliest extant pieces of writing, a pottery shard with cuneiform script, says the same thing: Kids today can't write.
I guess we're all done here. Goodbye. See you over at TMZ.com.
So that decline in SAT scores starting in the late '60s and continuing to this day isn't real, then? It's news to me. In my current class on physics for engineers, I am seeing something disturbing I haven't seen before: they have real trouble with writing their names on their homework.
Trouble as in not being able to spell their own names?Or trouble as in not bothering to write their names on their papers? That's just sloppy, and can be mitigated by an application of the lash (5-point deduction for not putting your name on your paper, if I can determine whose it is; otherwise you get a zero). My students are nobody's geniuses -- one of my colleagues was in despair today over the amount of time it takes him to grade their lab reports -- but they put their names on their papers.
The answer is #2. I try to remedy it by giving no credit to any papers with no names on them. So far I've been able to make every one stick, but the fighting involved is invigorating, to say the least.And of course, I wouldn't dare try this, if I didn't have tenure.
I'd love a comparison of actual student placement writing samples from 1975 to make a better assessment than the "National Enquirer."
It is specious logic to compare COMPLAINTS about student writing and the ACTUAL writing itself.Everyone asking for a side-by-side comparison is on the right track.Those of you making the excuse that the complaints are all the same seem to be missing something that the first group is trying to point out.
Jesus H. Christ, but I'm starting to think that y'all are as snowflakey as the students you (and me, too) love to complain about. I'm really sorry, Myth, Contemplative Cynic, et al, but I just can't provide you with a set of representative papers from 1973 so you could put them side-by-side with papers from today's students. But, take my word for it, most students back then couldn't write a lick.Listen: Y'all are NOT the first generation of college teachers who have had to put up with underprepared, sulky, complaining students. Get over it. It's part of the fucking job. And, sure, CM is a good place to vent about the damn job, but if there'd been a CM back in the 50s or 80s or whenever, it'd look pretty much like the one in 2012.
Silverback McDeadwood had a meltdown.
Except there wouldn't have been a whole lot of babbling about technological overreach, I suspect. (Or were proffies of the 70s all wildly terrified of an impending takeover by electronic typewriters?) And the adjunct quagmire was only in its infancy back then. And universities tended to be run by people who recognized the key differences between a university and a corporation. Students may not change much (which I recognize even as a relatively fresh-faced newbie to the profession), but the conditions in which we are expected to deal with them have certainly devolved in ways that few would have predicted three or four decades ago.
Beginning with the introduction of digital electronic calculators during Christmas of 1972 and continuing into the '80s, a debate swirled over their approriateness for use in science and mathematics classes, particularly what constituted cheating, particularly with programmable calculators. Now, of course, I'd be lynched if I suggested banning calculators, but then not a one of even the engineers can program them anymore. Yet my students continue to buy and clutch the big, fancy things, even though they rarely use them for more than simple four-function calculators. It's as if they are magic talismans. But then, that's exactly what they are.Electric typewriters were mainly just sources of jokes, about hhhow eeasy iiit could bbbe tto tttype errors bbecause of hhow mmuch mmore sensitive tthe kkeys wwwere.
"Silverback McDeadwood had a meltdown."An ad hominem (and ageist) slur is the best you can come up with, Myth?Let me be real clear here: Students, especially younger ones, can be a pain in the ass. But they were a pain in the ass decades ago. They lack some basic skills today, and they did back then. There's no such thing as The Good Ole Days.If you think there was, then you're simply misinformed. But if you think you're somehow entitled to a roomful of committed, well-prepared, enthusiastic students like those from some mythical Golden Age of Higher Education, then your sense of entitlement is as snowflakey as your students'.
I'm not sure which website you have been reading, but I don't think most people on this blog have the tiniest shred of hope to have the kinds of students you just listed. Most of us would be happy if our students were respectful and made a good faith effort to learn. I can handle ill-prepared student if they are at least decent to me and don't ceat. I understand not everyone is as excited about Hamsterology as I am, but that doesn't mean they need to text under the table all class long. What is difficult to tolerate is an illiterate jerk who comes late to class, disrupts class, doesn't read the book, doesn't do the work, pretend he knows everything, misses the exam and then complains he "didn't learn nuthin." And when I try to deal with these poor behaviors, the admins encourage me to give him a second chance, or be more gentle with his ego. I agree there was no "Golden Age" but in the case of what happens inside the classroom, as a student I never saw or heard some of the things I deal with now.
We started off with a discussion of whether students today write more poorly than they did in the past. I don't think they do.I really don't know ifstudent behavior has changed much because, fortunately, the working-class students at my school don't act as if they're entitled to anything at all. Of course, they come to class irregularly and unprepared. They don't always do the reading or other homework assignments. But they never act as if any of that is MY fault. And sure they sometimes don't pay attention or they fall asleep or they talk when I'm talking or they text in class, but when I call them on it, they stop--at least for a while. And they don't pout afterwards.
@Philip: I humbly propose that your perceptions aren't typical. Here in Fresno, I also get many working-class, first-generation college students. Even though their writing and other academic skills are so deficient because of their backgrounds, it quite literally can drive me to tears, at least they don't blame me when they don't do their homework. This a very refreshing respite from the highly entitled, consumerist attitude far too common among middle- to upper-class college students today, some of whom I also get, and about whom most of the other commenters here are complaining.Heaven knows that bad writing was quite common in the '70s. My undergraduate roommate during my first year in college in 1976 was a very clever engineering student who couldn't for the life of him tell the difference between "you're" and "your," and I still have handwritten letters from him that prove it. He subsequently went on to a fine career as the founder and president of a computer software firm: since 1985 he's written a monthly article in a major computer magazine, and his wife (vice president of the firm, in charge of marketing since she was a business major) jokes that, "He provides the content, and I turn it into English." (And yes, she does get credit as co-author.)For some insight on how things have changed for most (but apparently not all) of us over the past few decades, see the online article "The New Generations: Students Who Don't Study," by Henry Bauer, available here:http://www.bus.lsu.edu/accounting/faculty/lcrumbley/study.htmI think this documents the problem better than "Generation X Goes to College," by Peter Sacks, which is almost entirely anecdotal, but a better documented case would be of interest. Since the original argument here concerned writing, we might take a look at how SAT Verbal scores have changed over time.
It can only be anecdotal evidence, of course, but I've taught for 28 years, and spent a number of years as a writing program director. I have essays from students from the 80s, 90s, 00s, and 10s, and I would bet my life that a comparison of papers by any reasonable soul would show a decrease in writing ability - on any scale.Vocab. Definitely. Sentence construction and variety. OMG yes. Logic. Okay, I don't have to tell you this, right.And Philip is right, we have ALWAYS complained about students, and old people since Ancient Greece have been annoyed by youngsters. But if I compare the actual essay writing from a previous generation or two to the current one, it shows a steady decline. That's just me, though. But I've always taught first year writing, and have spent a portion of my career for entire college populations.
@Cal: Could you please transform this into a vidshizzle so I don't have to read three whole paragraphs? Or at least highlight the parts that will be on the test.
You're right that my perceptions/experience may not be typical. Students at my community college have been among the poorest in a relatively well-off county for decades. I haven't seen a steady, decade-by-decade decline in their writing abilities, and neither have my colleagues. I think another part of what's going on is that college students aren't the same as they were during other decades. I was one only a few dozen kids, and the only Latino, from my working-class high school who went directly to college. Today, the same high school is heavily (98%) Latino, and it sends about half of its graduating class (which is at least twice as big as mine was) off to college. So comparing college students from then to those today is really apples and oranges.Finally, for a look at how people really wrote during the Good Ole Days, check out C.C. Fries, American English Grammar, (1940). It contains numerous examples of the unedited writing of people from all walks of life, from the executive/professional class on down.
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