Let’s apply critical thinking outside the classroom

We should not deceive ourselves. Common sense, gut instinct, insight, or intentional thinking cannot defeat critical thinking.

In an interview with Fox News, Connecticut Democratic Gov. Chris Murphy called Michael Kinsley a negligence. He obscured an uncomfortable truth.

He described the Democratic Party’s “dramatic increase in education” as “focusing on colleges on the pretext of debt.”

The underlying problem of today’s student loan crisis, the governor says, is the “cost of the degree”. “If the college continues to spiral upwards, we will be in a perpetual cycle of debt forgiveness.”

Economist David H. Feldman and b. As Robert Archibald argues, it is almost impossible to control costs at the academy, not just because of Baumal and Boein’s cost theory – which says it is extremely difficult to increase productivity in the personal services industry – or because of benefits, energy, financial aid, and inflated technology. Due to the breadth of curriculum, student support services, faculty compensation, facilities and, yes, research and administration, expectations increase in virtually every college domain.

Or, as it turns out, public disinvestment can be blamed primarily for tuition increases. SHEEO, the only published report by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association on state higher education finances, repeatedly raises the question of whether tuition increases are largely the result of state investment in public colleges and universities.

Between 1995 and 2020, inflation-adjusted state funding per student for higher education decreased by a total of 3 percent. As America’s new vice president for education policy Kevin Kerry puts it: “There is no nationwide public disinvestment crisis. It didn’t happen. “

In nominal dollars, state and local support for higher education increased from $ 72 billion to $ 109 billion between 2005 and 2020. The most widely publicized fall in state investment in higher education was the per-FTE inflation adjusted to the dollar, the highest in 2000. Using this baseline, inflation-adjusted state spending in 2020 was 14.6 percent below the 2001 level and 6 percent below the 2008 level.

These figures mask the wide diversity of the state. In 2020, 18 states equaled or exceeded their 2008 inflation-adjusted allocations, while 12 states were 20 percent or more below their 2008 levels, most notably Arizona, Louisiana and Oklahoma.

At the same time, in the three years since 2001, state-funded financial support to the FTE has grown exponentially and now stands at an all-time high on inflation-adjusted terms.

But as Kerry noted, many of the demands for a massive reduction in the cost of state higher education focus on a specific time, from just before the Great Depression to just before the recovery was complete, a time when enrollment is rising rapidly and every FTE inflation is consistent for higher education. State spending has fallen sharply. In contrast, in the 8 years leading up to 2020, inflation-adjusted state spending per FTE increased.

Since college enrollment has plummeted and state spending has returned to most states, the previous recession looks like another example of the boom and bust that has long marked higher state spending.

In other words, the reasons why tuition grows so steeply are far more complex than any general-minded story suggestion.

My take-away: The reality is complex. We over-simplify at the cost of truth.

Which leads me to two more ideas that I think are like underscore. Events that seem too good to be true are probably not. And common sense often leads us astray.

On my first day at Texas Systems University, I learned a little about the dangers of wishful thinking. The Public Relations Office introduced me to some of the most disturbing events in my life:

  • The list of state spending priorities includes higher education, criminal justice, K-12 education, Medicaid, mental health, transportation, most of which fall under constitutional, statutory or judicial order.
  • It would be a big mistake to tell a legislator that the state is failing to invest enough in higher education. Such a claim would almost certainly provoke the following reaction: State spending on higher education has increased rapidly.
  • That if state spending covers a declining portion of institutional spending, it is only colleges and universities that are receiving less state revenue. This is also because colleges and universities have expanded their budgets rapidly.

We must always be careful that our predictions or instincts are not confused with the truth. Here is an example.

It creates a kind of intuition that remedial courses provide the best way to ensure that all students who are less prepared in mathematics or English succeed in advanced college classes. Yet this insight turns out to be false. Remedial courses not only discourage students and reduce their financial support, but also provide an alternative, necessary remedy that gives students extra support in a credit-bearing course, producing long-term good results.

We constantly hear that critical thinking is most in demand. If this is true, then let’s demonstrate that skill in more detail. For this we need to make all claims subjective, no matter how interesting or intuitive, to stop critical scrutiny.

Let me give you some examples.

I am increasingly hit by the output of articles in the higher education press that seem to be designed to provoke, excite or annoy. Here are some examples:

This hyperstyleized, dishonest ritual is useless for everyone.

Is it true that letters of recommendation are “mostly a waste,” “Kabuki theater without artistry”? Are departments equipped to evaluate every potential applicant in their doctoral program or for a faculty position without such a letter?

Certainly not a letter that explains the significance of job seekers’ research, describes their methodological skills, compares them with emerging people in the field, or comments on their scholarly potential.

The characters that fail to do these things are, in fact, driven and a waste of paper or pixels. Letters that lack formulaic or specific details should be discarded. But serious characters that describe a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses require intensive verification.

Instead of throwing letters of recommendation out of hand, our letter writers need to maintain a much higher standard of professionalism.

I sometimes joke that I will teach for free, but the grades must be paid. Grading is a difficult, demanding and ungrateful job, and grades, we are told, are thematic, arbitrary, unequal and stressful. Not only does grading vary widely across disciplines, but, it is claimed, it impoverishes and discourages students and weakens education.

In fact, the recent Inside Higher Aid article concludes that “grades are making students physically, mentally and emotionally ill.”

Yet the grade serves many positive purposes. They are informative, telling students how they are doing. They allow trainers to identify students who are struggling. The grades are also inspiring, encouraging students to study and master the required elements. Also, grades are diagnostic, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and evaluative, providing a measure of students’ skills and knowledge.

Serious grading should take into account not only the level of achievement of the students, but also their effort, engagement and intellectual growth. If done correctly, instructors will need to share their criteria prior to effective grading practice; Performance appraisal in different ways; Instead of just memorizing and memorizing, focus on high-order skills, such as analysis, application, and synthesis; And Sequence Assignment and Assessment in a way that allows an instructor to assess the students’ required skills and growing knowledge skills.

If I truly believe that instructors will write highly distinct, detailed descriptive assessments of students’ learning and progress in multiple levels, I can consider them an acceptable alternative to grades. But given how many faculties it is difficult to grade, I doubt this kind of approach is measurable.

The author of this article acknowledges the problem “with the idea that once you have fixed a certain number of pages for a weekly lesson, you have accomplished something like ‘academic rigor’.”

True, but potentially misleading.

On most accounts, professors are hiring, and students are reading less books (and even scholarly articles). This reflects the intense pressure to reduce the cost of textbooks by replacing books with online or open learning resources. It also reveals a growing recognition among instructors that many students view textbooks as a “growing optional purchase”, which in many cases can be replaced by research on the web.

In addition, it indicates a growing belief among many faculty members that the amount of lessons that students will actually receive is very small – currently 6-7 hours per week on average. Even in the humanities section, a significant portion of their students do not read the texts themselves and rely on either Wikipedia or Sparknotes or something similar.

How, you might well ask, is this different from the previous generation’s reliance on the Cliffs note? For better or for worse, it has fundamentally changed the type of activity that occurs in many classes, with short sections replacing text around long and complex texts and replacing other activities entirely with text. Undergraduates’ use of library resources also seems to have declined, not just actual books and journals, but even online databases (as opposed to open Internet access).

Of course, we can encourage students to read more if the allotted books and articles are really integral with the course and with the academic achievement of the students. We must, for example, go beyond the information or explanations that are easily available on Wikipedia to highlight and annotate students’ curriculum lessons and add comments to text paragraphs or respond to prompts. But if students realize that reading is not essential, we should not be surprised if they do not.

“The quality of a well-powered synchronous (i.e., live, pre-recorded) online class,” said a Brookings Institution senior fellow who is a professor of electrical engineering, law, public policy and management at UCLA, “We can compete now. বAnd in some cases we can transcend — human-human equivalent. “

He emphasizes that such classes are superior to face-to-face instruction in various ways. Online learning can support a wide range of learning styles and address a wide range of student needs. The chat window can offer an endless stream of insights, feedback and web links – a mode of engagement and interaction that has no analog in private class. Online instruction makes it easy to invite guest speakers.

All are reasonable, yet none of these claims are substantiated by empirical evidence. The data we have indicates that highly interactive online learning works well for some students, especially those with strong organizational, goal setting, self-motivation and time management skills and less so for others. But more research will be needed to determine whether online learning can reduce equity gaps and what learning strategies can produce equivalent learning outcomes.

Malcolm Gladwell observed his 2005 bestseller Blink: The power to think without thinking, Insights and Snap judgments may result in right decisions in some situations, but in others they point us in the wrong direction. Whenever possible, we should make our judgments and decisions based on critical thinking: rational, logical and open-minded analysis and evaluation of relevant evidence and conflicting arguments. We must first identify, evaluate and question the information. We must think about the implications of our judgment, including the moral consequences. We must recognize our underlying biases.

In today’s social media environment, the fastest way to become a celebrity (or notoriety) is to make bold claims. But this claim is not always kept. We need more subtlety and respect for the complexity of our public debate.

It is not enough to teach our students about critical thinking. We have to practice what we preach.

Steven Mintz is a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin.

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