Paul's Reviews > Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses

Academically Adrift by Richard Arum
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Jun 21, 2011

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Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses is a detailed collection of statistics and cross references to additional research compiled by the authors. While the book contains 259 pages, the relevant information it presents is limited to the first 144 pages. The remainder is devoted to the bibliography and validation of the authors’ statistical analysis.

The book can be summarized by three basic themes:
Education is not equally available or of the same quality across socioeconomic lines.
Students don’t want to study and want the easiest path to a degree.
Educators promote this behavior because they don’t hold students to standards.

The book offers that students today have high aspirations but simply no plans for reaching those goals. They are “adrift” not only academically but in their lives. They have no drive and expect a degree to be handed to them. Some of the statistics presented as backup were a bit startling. The average college student sends only 27 hours per week on all academic activities; going to class, studying and working on assignments. This is less time spent on academics than the typical high school student. However, this lack of effort isn’t reflected in their assessments as there has been little change in the average GPA of college students or graduation rates over the decades. Universities are simply handing out degrees to students that haven’t earned them.

Both students and faculty are to blame. A number of student interviews are quoted in the book and show that students want to put in as little effort in their studies as possible and spend more time socializing and having fun. There is little incentive on the students’ part to work hard because educators don’t push them to perform. Some “ivy league” schools are noted as inflating grades so that the average GPA of their student population stays higher than average. This does a disservice to their students and could lead to a depreciation of the very brand image they are attempting to bolster.

The majority of the book details the dire situation in which we find the educational system today. The last chapter does offer a few solutions. These include: better preparing students for academics prior to reaching college, pulling back on the notion that every student needs to go to college because some simply won’t be able to keep pace, holding higher education faculty to higher standards and improving curriculums to include more reading and writing which was shown to increase critical thinking skills.
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