The Government Yoke
I agree with Richard Vedder when he says that the writing and critical thinking skills of seniors are only slightly more advanced than those of freshmen (“The Government Yoke,” April). Why is this? From my 20 years of experience as a university professor—teaching at all levels, from freshmen to graduate students—I think the emphasis on teaching facts and particular skills needed for specific jobs is the problem.
This is why I doubt that computer-based teaching methods will ever replace good teachers who are able and willing to develop critical thinking skills in their students. It does take a lot of time and a lot of interaction. At the University of Arizona, each student was required to take an English proficiency examination before being admitted to upper division status (between sophomore and junior years). This consisted of writing an essay based on the students’ experiences relating to a topic they could select from a short list. They were given two hours. The essays were judged by teams of faculty members from across the university.
There are ways to markedly improve and to evaluate critical thinking skills. What is lacking is making this a priority at today’s universities.
Associate Professor, University of Arizona, retired
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