It’s convocation season. This tends to bring out the best in faculty, students, staff and parents at universities, and the worst in journalists.
The latest salvo is from Margaret Wente (Globe and Mail) “Is our students learning?”
Using the admittedly troubling findings from Academically Adrift, she proceeds to pound on the ineffectiveness of learning at universities. She joins a long line of folks to do this. Is this accurate? Are the data correct.
Perhaps. A definite maybe. And then again, no.
I don’t have any rigorous data to counter her screed; I do have my own personal experience. I see students in first year, during their academic career, and then as they graduate. I also have the privilege of meeting alumni from many graduating classes. Bottom line is very, very clear: their experience at university (and specifically at Guelph I should add) changed their lives, enriched their thinking, and nurtured them as better people.
Measuring this transformation isn’t something that occurs at the end of 4 years. Such short term thinking is typical of politicians not the columnists that normally criticize such a perspective.
I won’t say that the research data on student learning doesn’t trouble me; it does. It does for all of us. I do think universities in Canada do a sensational job with the resources available to them. Students are not just learning, they are transformed. Ask the alumni.