Whoa there!

This just in from the Sweeping Generalizations Division here at OMT. On a recent  Minnesota Public Radio show,

[S]cholar Susan Jacoby, said it isn’t right to say people are either college educated or not because a lot of people have some college experience, likely from a community college, but they never finished their degree. “One of the things we’re leaving out here is that we’re a country in which a majority of people are not four-year college graduates,” she said. “One of the things you have is a big middle, that’s gone for a year or two of very bad community colleges. That, while they might prepare you for a job or they may not, you’re not learning very much in them.”

I picked this up from the website summary. I’ll need to listen to the feed, but this last bit appears to be a claim wholly unsubstantiated by evidence. Must the opposite of anti-intellectualism be snobbery?

Addendum: If these issues are close to your heart (as they are mine), it’s worth the seven minutes of audio linked below. In particular, graduation rates (and other measures of success) at community colleges come into the conversation. This got me thinking about the fact that community colleges, by definition, have open enrollment policies. A huge part (but not all) of the population attending community colleges consists of students who would not be admitted to a standard 4-year state institution. In what sense is it fair, then, to compare graduation rates at community colleges to those at 4-year institutions? We certainly should have some measures to understand whether community colleges are being successful, and whether they are improving. But the idea that graduation rates at community colleges should be in any way comparable to those of 4-year institutions is silly. And when those rates are substantially lower, it is absurd to offer this as evidence that the education being offered at a community college is subpar. Such claims can be rephrased this way: Students at community colleges are failing at courses the four-year universities wouldn’t let them take. We give students a shot; you reject them. How is this evidence of subpar education?

7-minute follow up conversation on MPR


One response to “Whoa there!

  1. “very bad community colleges”, huh? I think the college I work at provides a far better education than most of our students will get at a UC. I don’t know about the CSU’s. Yep, she’s not very smart about her pro-intellectualism, or pro-elitism.

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