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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA, colleges must teach critical thinking skills

    To the students who emphasize partying more than studying, spend lectures on Facebook and simply go through the motions when it comes to the academic life, you might want to reconsider your priorities before it’s too late.

    A recent study titled, “Documenting Uncertain Times: Postgraduate Transitions of the Academically Adrift Cohort,” by Richard Arum, a professor of sociology and education at New York University, found that college graduates who scored in the bottom 20th percentile on a critical thinking test were three times more likely to be unemployed straight out of college than the test’s top 20 percent.

    The low scorers were also twice as likely to live with their parents and much more prone to severe credit card debt. And these are just a few of the study’s unnerving correlations.

    Basically, students who didn’t apply themselves, challenge themselves or take advantage of their expensive educations are now suffering because of it.

    While going out and experiencing the college social life is important and sometimes mandatory after a week’s worth of studying and stress, it shouldn’t be the foundation for your critical thinking. Where you’re going tonight, who you’re going with, what you’re wearing, who’s buying and all of the other questions regarding imminent drunken adventures should be afterthoughts — as in thoughts after your studies.

    But it’s not just students. It’s easy to throw all of the lazy, underachieving students under the bus, but it’s also unfair. Universities and professors should also be held accountable for students’ mediocre critical thinking abilities.

    The critical thinking test, more formally known as the Collegiate Learning Assessment, was distributed to about 1,000 students across 29 colleges and universities. The results also found the above disparities were more evident between graduates from highly selective institutions, like Stanford University, and students from less selective institutions, like the UA.

    The UA has been nationally recognized in certain areas of study, but it’s also notorious for letting just about anyone in. If the school doesn’t set high standards for itself, then its students might not either.

    As for the professors, a captivating and thought-provoking lecture doesn’t consist of reading verbatim from a PowerPoint presentation, and then posting the PowerPoint online. The professors who let students roam Facebook, skip lecture, turn in late assignments and do the bare minimum, are just facilitating students’ lack of critical thinking.

    Make students get involved in lecture, make them discuss, and make them apply their readings and what they’re learning. Make them not want to think about their nightly escapades.

    Unfortunately many UA classes are simply too large to get students that involved. It’s unreasonable to think one professor can hold an intimate class discussion with 1,000 students.

    According to the UA Factbook, in 2010 there were 31,957 undergraduate applications, and 23,134 students were admitted. That means that around 72 percent of the people who applied were accepted. But were they prepared? Just because applicants meet the low standards of acceptance, can the school actually provide them with a quality education at that scale?

    It’s nice that the UA offers an education to thousands of people. However, at what point does this generosity begin to hinder the actual education of the students? Simply having a degree is not going to get someone very far these days. Students need be to be at least proficient, if not the best, at what they do in order to get the job.

    Even though students are primarily responsible for their decisions, the university and its professors play major roles in their outcome.

    College should prepare students not only for the job market, but also for life. Spoon-feeding information to students, never requiring them to do any critical thinking, and then throwing them into the world is like throwing a kitten into the lion’s den.

    — Kelly Hultgren is a junior studying journalism and communication. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.

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