In “Low Graduation Rates and the Total Lack of Student Effort” (Phi Beta Cons Blog, 09/25 01:52 PM), David French writes:
A week ago I was on a Southwest flight from Dallas sitting next to a very pleasant middle-aged woman who was busily grading papers. As I finished watching one of America’s greatest cinematic masterpieces on my (brand-new) MacBook Pro, I glanced over at some of the work. It looked identical to the work I see from my ten-year-old daughter and her classmates: Mostly simple sentences, a few dreadful spelling mistakes, and virtually no complex analysis. Unlike my daughter’s classmates, however, this teacher’s students skipped entire sections of their tests — failing to answer half the questions.
I was just about to open my mouth and say, “Fifth grade?” when I caught myself. Instead, I said “What grade?”
“Yes. In suburban Chicago.”
I almost choked on my peanuts.
I thought of this exchange as I read Richard Vedder’s Minding the Campus essay on low graduation rates. Out of every 100 American students who enter high school, only 20 get an undergraduate degree. This is a remarkable failure rate, especially given two factors that Richard mentions: (1) grade inflation (no one flunks anymore) and (2) soaring amounts of financial aid.
Why so many failures? I think the heart of the problem is — to use Richard’s phrase — the “willingness to work.” Simply put, American college students are lazy on a scale that boggles the mind. It’s a laziness that starts early and develops year by year as “breathe-in, breathe-out” promotions (just stay alive and you’ll get through) allow students to not only progress from kindergarden to twelfth grade, but do so with a solid “B” average. It’s a laziness reinforced by the extraordinarily low academic demands of even elite universities. I studied half as hard in law school as I worked my first year in the “real world.”