In 1987 Allan Bloom the landmark “The Closing of the American Mind,” then last year Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa published their landmark study of collegiate learning, “Academically Adrift.” So starts an article in the National Review on October 15th, 2012. I won’t dwell on the article other than to extract a key metric. (Those of you interested in learning will find the article refreshing in its candor and I believe enlightening.)
The key metric I want to refer to is the “Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA). The CLA measures what American undergraduates learn in college. In the work of Arum and Roksa they find that 36 percent showed “small or empirically non-existent” gains in “general collegiate skills” – critical thinking, complex reasoning, writing, and computational skills – after four years of college. Rather astounding don’t you think? The article goes on to identify some of the reasons for these poor results. I don’t think you will find there is much that is a surprise to you.
Meanwhile in the Texas legislature there are efforts underway to pass a law requiring all students at public colleges and universities requiring all students to take the CLA during their freshman and senior years. “Every institution would be called to account for how much students learn under their tutelage.” “The CLA would ultimately serve as an alternative credential to the bachelor’s degree.” “This would help students, parents, and legislators to take a more open-eyed view of the current state of higher education.” This might also begin to allow more parents and educators to come to the conclusion that specific technical learning is an important alternative to the sacred cow thinking that everyone should have a college degree. The time is now.