Who Doesn’t Learn?

There’s so much interesting evidence coming out from the Social Science Research Council report on college learning.

The study, which measured students’ knowledge when they left college relative to their knowledge when they began, is oddly the first ever attempt to look at college progression in terms of actual learning.

As I wrote yesterday, it turns out many Americans aren’t learning very much at all in college. Some students are learning, however, and they’re mostly students taking traditional courses. According to a piece by Sara Rimer in the Hechinger Report:

Students who majored in the traditional liberal arts – including the social sciences, humanities, natural sciences and mathematics – showed significantly greater gains over time than other students in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills.

That is welcome news to liberal arts advocates. “We do teach analytical reading and writing,” said Ellen Fitzpatrick, a professor of history at the University of New Hampshire.

You know who doesn’t learn? It’s students with those practical, vocational majors, those that are supposed to exist as preparation for jobs.

As Rimer writes: “students majoring in business, education, social work and communications showed the least gains in learning.” College, in fact, may have just been a waste of time.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer