Thursday, January 19

From the NSS* files

Scientists are on top of it, let me tell you. They have surmised that college students are clueless about many of the mundane tasks involved in responsible adulthood. Well, blow my bloomers off!

Study: Most College Students Lack Skills
AP Education Writer

WASHINGTON -- Nearing a diploma, most college students cannot handle many complex but common tasks, from understanding credit card offers to comparing the cost per ounce of food.

Those are the sobering findings of a study of literacy on college campuses, the first to target the skills of students as they approach the start of their careers.

More than 50 percent of students at four-year schools and more than 75 percent at two-year colleges lacked the skills to perform complex literacy tasks.

That means they could not interpret a table about exercise and blood pressure, understand the arguments of newspaper editorials, compare credit card offers with different interest rates and annual fees or summarize results of a survey about parental involvement in school.

The results cut across three types of literacy: analyzing news stories and other prose, understanding documents and having math skills needed for checkbooks or restaurant tips.

I don't know who to blame (George W. Bush?**), but I know I sure as hell made it out of college without many more real-world skills than I went into college with, and I don't consider myself to be an intellectual slug.

I mean, are they serious? Interpreting tables about exercise and blood pressure? (I don't know any full-fledged adults who would do any better with this, because we're all fatties who don't exercise. Also, college students don't exercise, and if they do, it's probably not to lower their blood pressure and charts are probably not involved.) Comparing the cost per ounce of food? (Have they seen what kinds of groceries college kids have to buy? Comparing costs is a luxury many college kids only dream about. Hmmm, will the chicken-flavored Ramen be more filling per ounce than the water-flavored Ramen for the same price?) Comparing credit card offers? (Who the fuck from age 18 to 88 understands credit card offers? College degree, no college degree, rocket science certificate, WHO?!?)

I just don't see what the big surprise is here, unless you wanted to argue that we dumbshit college grads are a drain on society or something. These kinds of skills are (sometimes) mastered once you get out into the real world, away from the insulation and distraction of the micro-world of college, when you don't have time to focus on your health and your finances because you're not spending your time A) drinking 'round the clock at frat parties to avoid the DTs B) working full-time to pay the bills AND going to school full-time and still managing to pull decent grades or C) Taking so many classes that an outside life is truly not much of a possibility. Sure, it would be nice to coast right out of high school able to dance the complex dance of adulthood and all its boring little flourishes, but let's face it, most of us are mildly retarded until we turn 30 and are lucky that we have the mental faculties (most of the time) to keep the laces on each shoe from dooming us to our clumsy, painful deaths before we even make it down the ramp from the graduation stage.

However, despite the supposed dearth of common-sense skills, there is a bit of good news in this story, apparently:

Overall, the average literacy of college students is significantly higher than that of adults across the nation. Study leaders said that was encouraging but not surprising, given that the spectrum of adults includes those with much less education.

Also, compared with all adults with similar levels of education, college students had superior skills in searching and using information from texts and documents.

I suspect that what this means is that even toddlers and drooling post-adolescents have mastered the art of Googling.

Now, I'm not going to take up for my generation or the idiots in this study (of which I consider myself one, to an extent). We are a bunch of spoiled, rude, narcisstic, self-centered heathens, so I'm not going to say, "Cut us some slack here if our brains explode while trying to figure a tip at the Cracker Barrel." What I will say is "No shit we can't do anything right! Who didn't know that?"

For Chrissakes, I ate a Lunchables last night because the Subway in my building had closed and I'm too much of a dumbass to bring my own lunch to work because I can neither cook nor get up in time to pack a lunch and make it to work by 3:30 in the afternoon. And I consider myself to be a relatively bright young woman.

*No shit, Sherlock
** I'm kidding, numbnuts.


Blogger nashgirl said...

I am utterly surprised at all the things that college DIDN'T teach me. Although I know that college isn't supposed to prepare you for the real world of bills, rent, tips and whatnot, I would hope that's stuff you glean during your college years. Honestly, I've always considered the real use of college to be not the practical experience that you gain because you can get that anywhere, but the ability to acquire and utilize knowledge. We graduate with a pretty extensive knowledge on how to organize notes, work with others on projects, develop plans and act through with them, find and use research materials. You know, all that shit that middle managers are looking for. So what if I spent four years in school and I need my cell phone calculator to figure out a tip. At least I have the satisfaction that I can throw down more than 15 percent cause I have a job.

Fri Jan 20, 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger theogeo said...


It seems like a lot of the stuff they're talking about is knowledge that maybe you learn in high school (in math and economics and health classes) but that sort of drops from your consciousness once you start shoving all the college stuff in (granted it's unrelated to health, economics, and math).

I'd like to see a comparison of college grads and high school grads to see if both groups are equally ignorant or if going to college makes you temporarily dumber when it comes to real-world tasks.

Fri Jan 20, 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger nashgirl said...

Oh and I eat those cheap frozen meals for lunch everyday, which is like an adult equivalent of Lunchables.

Fri Jan 20, 12:20:00 PM  

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