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United States Education The Almighty Buck

Many Colleges Fail to Improve Critical-Thinking Skills: WSJ (wsj.com) 203

Freshmen and seniors at about 200 colleges across the U.S. take a little-known test every year to measure how much better they get at learning to think. The results are discouraging. From a report: At more than half of schools, at least a third of seniors were unable to make a cohesive argument, assess the quality of evidence in a document or interpret data in a table (Editor's note: the link might be paywalled; alternative source), The Wall Street Journal found after reviewing the latest results from dozens of public colleges and universities that gave the exam between 2013 and 2016. At some of the most prestigious flagship universities, test results indicate the average graduate shows little or no improvement in critical thinking over four years. Some of the biggest gains occur at smaller colleges where students are less accomplished at arrival but soak up a rigorous, interdisciplinary curriculum.
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Many Colleges Fail to Improve Critical-Thinking Skills: WSJ

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Critical thinking skills don't make one rich. Social skills and connections make one rich.

    There are a few exceptions, but generally speaking one climbs the executive ladder via connections and social skills, and that's where the money is.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by DickBreath ( 207180 )
      Daddy's money is what makes one rich.

      Also Daddy's money and connections are what enables one to graduate from a business school and yet be unable to read, write or speak in complete sentences. Critical thinking skills aren't even in the same universe.

      Subsequently, one can then become president without the need for daddy's money. For advice on whether to pull out of the Paris climate change agreement, call on a Fox News reporter for advice. I didn't even know she was an eminently qualified foremost
  • trying to fool citizens with fake news. Come one, WSJ! If students did learn critical-thinking, to whom would you sell the fake news story?
    • Fox News makes up stuff and calls it news.

      CNN doesn't just make things up and call it news.

      CNN calls it BREAKING NEWS.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    A populace capable of critical thinking would not be easily herded into reactionary mobs. Only a few of us actually want that. Many others talk about critical thinking, but just claim that anyone who disagrees with them hadn't learned critical thinking.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Not even posting this under my own name because I know damned well a shitstorm is what I'll get for my trouble. No thanks.

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who has noticed this, but it saddens me at the same time.

    Corporations, Rich People, Governments, organized religion -- they don't want people learning how to 'think'. They may allow them to learn certain things so they'll be productive and useful workers, and so they can afford the Bread and Circuses that keep them occupied when they're not making thei
  • Because (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gti_guy ( 875684 )
    Critical thinking is not a part of STEM. Be careful what you try to cram down everyone's throat.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by HornWumpus ( 783565 )

      Just understanding the laws of physics gives any STEM grad a huge advantage over a liberal arts students in bullshit detection.

      Critical thinking in liberal arts schools is just another indoctrination. Test is how well they agree with the teachers opinions.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Just understanding the laws of physics gives any STEM grad a huge advantage over a liberal arts students in bullshit detection.

        Because those physicists who search for elusive particles and then say, "Isn't God grand?" aren't spewing bullshit.

        Critical thinking in liberal arts schools is just another indoctrination. Test is how well they agree with the teachers opinions.

        Except the opposite is true. Those who graduate from liberal arts schools, on the whole, have better critical thinking skill [kansas.com]
    • It's not STEM anymore, it's STEAM now... Because apparently you can't focus on the technical stuff without pissing off all the artsy folks.

    • Re:Because (Score:5, Insightful)

      by habig ( 12787 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @03:18PM (#54562191) Homepage

      Critical thinking is not a part of STEM.

      I hear this a fair amount, and am puzzled. As a physics professor, I'm trying to teach students problem solving skills (usually the engineering and science students). As an astronomy professor, I'm trying to teach students (usually the non-scientists taking the survey astro courses) how to apply the scientific method to figure out what's going on up there and have a functioning BS detector when it comes to pseudoscience.

      The definitions I've heard of this "Critical Thinking" meme seem to indicate that these are the sort "top of the learning pyramid" skills that go with "Critical Thinking", but somehow science remains a mindless technical skill in the eyes of many.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        I hear this a fair amount, and am puzzled. As a physics professor, I'm trying to teach students problem solving skills (usually the engineering and science students). As an astronomy professor, I'm trying to teach students (usually the non-scientists taking the survey astro courses) how to apply the scientific method to figure out what's going on up there and have a functioning BS detector when it comes to pseudoscience.

        The definitions I've heard of this "Critical Thinking" meme seem to indicate that these

    • Critical thinking may not be part of STEM. But it seems useful enough that it should be crammed down everyone's throat. Why would that be so bad?

      Shakespeare is not part of STEM and high school crams that down people's throat. It does not help one write code any better.
  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @02:40PM (#54561871) Homepage

    The article I read did not give enough specifics (I skipped the paywall one).

    So you can't tell if a good school merely failed to improve rather than had their students fail.

    Everyone should have critical thinking skills, and if you don't have any, then college should teach you that skill. But that is NOT the only thing a college should teach. Once you have that skill, there are many other skills you need, from pure knowledge, to creativity, to social skills (beyond drinking), pattern recognition, basic computer usage, among other things.

    In particular, I would be SHOCKED if Ivy league schools showed significant improvement in critical thinking. It's exactly the kind of thing they love their incoming students to already have, and the ivy league schools have gotten so selective that they can pick the students that already have that.

    • I wasn't taught critical thinking at college. In my day, if you weren't capable of it you didn't get it. See also: belt, onion, Morganville.

    • by macraig ( 621737 )

      Everyone should have critical thinking skills....

      And yet it remains quite the rarity in humans, including those spat out from expensive universities with highly coveted reputations. What is common rather than rare? Self-delusion is commonplace. It crowds out critical thinking, since the two cannot coexist. Tribalism is comorbid with that self-delusion, and nurtures it to the detriment of critical thinking. The so-called top universities actually nurture tribalistic thinking. Critical thinking goes out the window more often than not; it's simply not

  • I once taught math at a "Top Tier" college and was absolutely appalled by what I saw: kids cared more about whining for better grades than actually working for them. I once had a student who got upset that I deducted 1/3 of her quiz grade because she left one of the questions blank (out of three). She could not understand, for the life of her, why I would do such a thing. Another complained to the chair that I gave him a poor grade on his final project (half was blank, and what was written managed to contra
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Additionally, for my exams, I tried to focus on applying concepts we've learned in class, yet many of them had noticeable difficulty doing anything that wasn't directly regurgitated from class.

      Well, analogies seem much easier when you know the answer. For example, take a basic feedback loop. I can understand what it means in an electric circuit, or in social economics (wages drives costs drives prices drives wages), nuclear physics (one fission reaction becomes two become BOOM), learned behavior (have a doggy treat) and geopolitics (we provoke, they counter provoke, actually it's just BOOM too) but if you haven't really tried to see the parallels it's pretty hard. A lot of students feel overwhelm

    • I remember this one TA session where a student and a TA (pretty sure it was a TA) were discussing the marks this kid was given. He was absolutely flabbergasted that the marker took off one mark for the wrong answer. Saying in high school his teacher would always give him 100% no matter the correctness of the answers that he gave.

      I was just sitting their in awe that he got any marks for a question with the wrong answer.

      And I remember this one professor who stated upfront. "I will remark anything you ask me t

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @03:12PM (#54562173) Homepage Journal

    The original medieval concept of a liberal arts education was that it prepared you intellectually to perform the duties of a gentleman. This is why mathematics played a major part in the liberal arts. First you mastered grammar, logic and rhetoric, then you tackled the mathematical disciplines: astronomy, music (theory of harmonics mainly so that counts as another dose of math), arithmetic (Books V - X of Euclid) and geometry (Books I - IV, XI - XIII).

    Only after you'd mastered all that material were you considered prepared to go onto specialized advanced studies (sadly, your choices were limited pretty much to theology, law or medicine).

    Now from my geekish perspective this medieval curriculum looks a hell of a lot more rigorous than anything any modern American university offers. I'd update the math curriculum, add some basic courses in physical and social sciences and finance and you'd be graduating people fully prepared to be kick-ass citizens.

    But universities act more like vocational schools. Even if you major in art history, they train you as if that's going to be be your job. And employers treat universities not as educational institutions, but as certifiers of social class.

    It's no wonder that universities don't improve critical thinking skills. You're supposed to pick them up by osmosis.

    • Only after you'd mastered all that material were you considered prepared to go onto specialized advanced studies (sadly, your choices were limited pretty much to theology, law or medicine).

      How do you overlook philosophy, the most central and general of the post-quadrivium disciplines, out of which all of the modern disciplines split, which is why terminal degrees in all the modern fields (besides those old specialties you list) are called "Doctor of Philosophy", or "PhD".

      Going off on a tangent here but this is a pet interest of mine and you mentioned it: if I were to update the medieval curriculum, I would:
      - keep the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric)
      - complement it with a mathematical an

      • by hey! ( 33014 )

        Well, my point isn't that the medieval curriculum was perfect. Only that it was more rigorous.

        Now as for philosophy, sure, but probably nothing highly technical until more basic skills have been acquired. Surely some epistemology and ethics.

        • The long second part of my post was just a followup to your comments about how you'd improve upon the curriculum. I didn't think you were saying it was perfect, I was just joining your discussion on how it could have been even better.

          But the main thrust of the first short point was just that, in your list of things people would study after finishing the trivium and quadrivium, you skipped the main thing people usually went on to study, which was philosophy, which is why all the different things people go on

  • If only we had chapter 11 and 7 for student loans then the banks would force the schools to lower costs / time and teach real skills with less fluff and filler.

  • by HalAtWork ( 926717 ) on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @04:00PM (#54562603)

    College would be great but it's important to teach this as early as possible so that kids can also learn to properly grasp the concept and use it effectively, and to be taught how to argue without fighting early on.

  • Do employers really want worker drones to have critical thinking skills?
  • "College-educated, still dumb as a box of rocks."

  • For some reason the education system still live under the illusion that people actually learn anything useful using rote 'learning'. How in the world are you supposed to remember and use this information in a sensible way later on, when you have no context or practical relations to apply it to while studying?
  • Can we all agree that the vast majority of colleges? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    Can we all agree that the news reports have very frequently been talking about how Trump voters are less educated?

    So, now we see that all of these more educated people are lacking in critical thinking skills. Oh, the irony!

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