College Kids Not Learning Much Other Than How To Take Their Meds

Illustration for article titled College Kids Not Learning Much Other Than How To Take Their Meds

Learning is down! Psychiatric medication is up!

Two unrelated stories come together to create a major downer. First, according to the American Psychological Association, the number of prescribed psychiatric medicines given to college students has increased by more than 10 percent in 10 years. Of course, one hopes some of this is due to better detection and more comprehensive treatment, rather than purely an upswing in depression.

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It would also be interesting to know at what point in their college careers students are seeking psychiatric help — not least because a new report suggests that the first two years of college are something of an academic wash for a large percentage of students. Says USA Today,

Instructors tend to be more focused on their own faculty research than teaching younger students, who in turn are more tuned in to their social lives, according to the report, based on a book titled Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. Findings are based on transcripts and surveys of more than 3,000 full-time traditional-age students on 29 campuses nationwide, along with their results on the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a standardized test that gauges students' critical thinking, analytic reasoning and writing skills.

45% showed a minimal "gain in learning" after two years of college, and studying was way down, too. Of course, an emphasis on non-academics is important, too, as is easing the transition from home to college life — not a priority a few decades ago. That said, the fact that students are getting the shaft due to professors' research is a depressing indictment of the current academic system. The "good" news? Students in the study still earned an average 3.2 GPA.

Mental Illness Up In College [NY Post]
Report: First Two Years Of College Show Small Gains [USA Today]

[Image via Shutterstock]

DISCUSSION

The research- focus mostly hurts undergrads because lower division courses are being taught by vastly underpaid and under-supervised adjuncts and TA's. Since their entire livelihood spins around 1 year or 1 semester appointments, adjuncts are often driving around town teaching at multiple schools. They are thus more likely to grade easily, be less able to communicate with their students, and they are also disconnected from the overall philosophy of the department they are teaching in. Students are unable to build deep relationships with them because these one-time mentors might not be hired back.

It is a terrible, terrible situation for both teacher and student.

Maybe if administrators were genuinely concerned with undergraduate education then tenure would stop depending on fancy research grant awards and publication numbers. This would vastly help the psychological state of most asst profs AND improve education over all.