Nevertheless, the proof is in the pudding and to anyone my age who has taken the ISI test, Harvard's D+ average is a shock.Yes, the ISI test was designed to generate stories that invite us oldsters to compare ourselves to today's students. Eric Foner can argue (speciously, I think) that Columbia's kids are better at analysis than facts but that's not the defense to be made of these college students.
The larger question is what has happened to the student body culturally and sociologically.
One kind of story that came out of the VT shooter coverage was the mental health crisis on campuses, the lack of capacity for all the students seeking or needing psychiatric help based on stress. I was captivated by this odd combination (college = stress) having myself graduated as a lazy dual major from a party school filled with devil-may-care heirs and heiresses. I needed to understand stressed students.
To summarize my reading, today's student body appears to be filled with children from:
* Broken homes (more progress reports, different expectations, less money)
* Foreign shores (less locally to relate to)
* Families where little English is spoken (comprehension and expression take effort)
* Families in which the kid is the first-ever college attendee (no one at home can help them).
Additionally, aggressive multi-cultural recruiting has inserted many kids into a society they find unfamiliar and disorienting.
Most interestingly, psychiatry's evolution into pharmacology has enabled a significant segment of the population (that would never have attended college in the past) to test their drug-enabled coping skills in a university setting.
"In the past with bipolar or severe depression, you were considered impaired enough not to be able to go (to school,)" said David McBride, director of student health services at Boston University. "With new medications and new treatment, they're well enough to be in school."(And yet Mark Grimsley, who blogs about his polar disorder, has not only graduated from college but thrived as a professor.)
Psychology Today says that nine percent of enrolled students take their issues to a counselor and of these, "Directors find that 40 percent of their clients have severe psychological problems." Note that nine percent includes only the self-selected troubled youth. UCLA "found that more than 30 percent of students feel overwhelmed a great deal of time." The NASPA Journal had this eye-opener:
According to the National Survey of Counseling Center Directors at 274 institutions ... 85% of center directors reported an increase in “severe” psychological problems over the last 5 years, including learning disabilities (71%), self-injury incidents (51%), eating disorders (38%), alcohol problems (45%), other illicit drug use (49%), sexual assault concerns on campus (33%), and problems related to earlier sexual abuse 34%. They estimated that approximately 16% of counseling center clients had severe psychological problems ...So, these, too are test takers.
The college students taking the ISI quiz perhaps represent a social mosaic many of us would not at all recognize as "collegiate." Many kids now major in "coping." They are not going to work to get the significance of the Missouri Compromise, they're going to work to get through their day instead. It's sad.