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Trustees | General Education

College courses that don’t challenge students can hurt them. They need to go.

WASHINGTON POST   |  December 6, 2015 by Jay Mathews

William Stearman, a former adjunct professor of international affairs at Georgetown University, bemoans “the thousands of fraudulent courses that plague our institutions of higher learning.”

I could have chosen a course more demanding than celestial navigation. The NSSE findings notes that older students, coming back to college after living and working in the real world, take their college time more seriously and are more likely to have challenging courses than undergraduates in their teens and early 20s.

I have spent the past three decades reporting on how few high school courses challenge students. Almost no public schools require long research papers. Only about half of U.S. students headed to college take college-level courses while in high school.

That may be one reason why so many are reluctant to challenge themselves in college. They are frightened by what might happen, so the colleges accommodate them with the frothiest academic fare. This would be a good time to rethink those bad practices.

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