STUMP » Articles » Save the Humanities: Don't Let People Get Cheap Credit! » 3 December 2015, 17:51

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

Save the Humanities: Don't Let People Get Cheap Credit!  


3 December 2015, 17:51

That’s what this guy claims at any rate:

The crisis of the humanities undoubtedly has many causes. It is, indeed, a market crisis, but not one of our own making, nor is it one we humanists can solve by offering newer, sexier courses, or even by promising free doughnuts to students who enroll in our old ones. Belt-tightening isn’t the answer, either.

The only way to solve the problem is to restructure the market — to push back against AP3, dual enrollments, and don’t get me started on the online courses from the Arthur Murray Dance Studio and School of Humanities, for which students now get college credit. This pushback can be accomplished through changes in general education and graduation requirements that level this unlevel field. Until that happens, the crisis isn’t going to go away.

Funny, other departments don’t seem to die on AP credit. I didn’t take either Computer Science nor Chemistry because of AP credit I got. I don’t hear any of those subjects crying over lack of students… and some of them aren’t even required topics at most colleges! I

Earlier on:

Even worse, in a growing number of states — 17 and counting — students who don’t want the hassle of dual-enrollment courses can simply get a 3 on the Advanced Placement test to receive college credit — an idea that must have been piloted in Lake Wobegon. Does anyone really believe that a 3 on this exam is a genuine substitute for college work? I doubt it, but for politicians who object to the humanities on principle (and, not incidentally, for the College Board), “AP3” is the gift that keeps on giving.

Given what I see constitutes passing in humanities courses, yes, I do see a 3 as probably being up to par.

There’s dual enrollment:

or those of us at public institutions at the mercy of vindictive state legislatures, the deck has been stacked against the humanities by a set of mandates. Take “dual enrollment” courses, for example. These were created to allow small numbers of students to get college credit in specially designed high-school courses. Recently, however, they have exploded as legislatures have made it easier and easier for students to get dual-enrollment credit, including removing caps on the number of dual- enrollment courses a student can take and by eliminating student and textbook fees for the courses.

As Alex Lichtenstein, a historian at Indiana University at Bloomington, pointed out recently in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives magazine, just 132 students took dual-enrollment courses in Indiana 10 years ago. Today the number is well into the thousands, though the quality control for these courses hasn’t kept up.

Did you know that there’s no quality control in college classes?

I didn’t see you bringing that one up.

But let’s look at the dual enrollment issue in Indiana, which is state-specific:

Nevertheless, in the two years I have spent overseeing ACP offerings for the history department at IUB, I have come to have grave doubts about the utility of the program, despite its noble intentions, the dedication of the program’s teachers, and, in our university’s case, rigorous standards and oversight. DE has a long history in the state, dating back to the 1970s, although it was not enabled by legislation until 1987. Its initial purpose appears to have been to make college courses available to the select group of high school students really ready for college work. Just 10 years ago, only 132 students in the entire state took US history in high school for college credit. In 2005, however, the state revised the system “to encourage more students to enroll in dual credit by eliminating barriers to enrollment.” In the past decade, the push for DE in Indiana has expanded considerably, driven by the perceived necessity to encourage college attendance and to speed up college completion rates by providing college-aspirant (rather than college-ready) students a “leg up” at a low cost.

Today, nearly 3,800 Indiana high school juniors take IU’s ACP US history for college credit. (Even more enroll in DE programs overseen by community colleges, Indiana State University, and the state’s private universities.) The real leap in numbers came after the state mandated that beginning in 2009–10 every high school would offer at least two ACP courses, with US history as one of 10 “core subject areas.” Since then, annual enrollments in both halves of IUB’s US history survey on campus have declined, from over 1,700 to barely 500 today (see figure 1). Moreover, the number of DE credit hours offered now impacts a high school’s College and Career Readiness rating, which in turn contributes to the A–F “accountability” grade received by all schools in the state. Consequently, there is a great deal at stake at the local level when it comes to increasing the numbers of dual-enrolled students. Meanwhile, at $150 for two three-credit courses, ACP offers students and their parents a hard-to-refuse savings over the $1,700 cost of the same courses at the university itself.

Sounds like a good thing for the state to be doing.

In any case, while I can understand being concerned about the quality of the high school classes being given for college credit, let us be clear that there’s precious little quality control on any college classes.

I’ve taught at NCSU, NYU, UConn, and a junior college I forget in NYC… and I’ve never had anybody check on my teaching. Or independently test my students. I’ve taught math, computing, and writing. I rather imagine that high school teachers get more supervision than I ever have as a teacher.

I really doubt anybody is checking the classes of the humanities’ profs for quality, either.

So that’s just a silly complaint.


But let us hear the woes of not having students forced to take your classes… when I was in college, some of the most popular classes were in departments that you couldn’t even major in (at the time).

The Psych 101 class I took was very popular, too — not for being easy, but for the prof being really good at lecturing and really making it interesting. I tried signing up for one of his higher-level classes, but it was oversubscribed, so I picked a different psych class, figuring hey — maybe this would be interesting. It was bullshit and I dropped it after one week.

Then there is my addiction called The Great Courses…silly me, yesterday I clicked on one of their ads again, and ended up buying lectures on Japan and Churchill. I’m such a sucker. (no, really, I love Prof. Fears, may he rest in peace.)

Some of those people are great — you’ve got to realize, in many cases, it’s not the particular subject, but the professor, who can really sell the subject.

If you’re hurting because people aren’t forced to buy what you’re selling…. then, plainly, your product sucks.

So maybe you’d be better off learning how not to suck so much.

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