Graduation at University of Virginia

There is a standardized test known as the College Learning Assessment Plus (CLA+) that has been administered in many colleges and universities to their students twice -- once in their freshman year and the other time in their senior year.


The test's purpose is to determine how well the students properly use and apply critical reasoning. The test scores as well as the averages are rarely shared even with the students, much less the public.


But what has been recently learned is that overall, students' critical reasoning is seriously lacking when they enter college, and not much has changed by the time they leave.


Dr. Joseph Roksa, a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, is an expert on CLA+.  He says that employers use critical reasoning to hire the best employees they can get.  And if, for an example, the University of Virginia isn't able to supply those who do well on the CLA+, the university will lose its ability to compete.


The irony, of course, is that the major selling point of higher education is that students will learn how to find and use empirical information to derive a defensible conclusion.


My interest in argumentation and debate seemed to fit how my brain was meant to work, as I began learning how to use it as an "academic sport." That all began under a high school speech teacher named Arthur Graham.


In college, I gravitated further to argumentation and debate, under the theaching of Dr. William DeMougeot.  We won the national collegiate debate one year, beating out Princeton's team.


Lawyers are taught critical reasoning and it hinges on credible evidence, and the discounting of, for an example, hearsay.  And when they try to slip a "fast one" on their opponent, the judge will rule on the objection.


But what is interesting is that there is no reason to believe that the jury hearing the case has any expertise at using critical reasoning to decide the case.


What I have learned has been surprising to me.  Social media has shown me how many of my friends and acquaintances have very limited critical reasoning skills. Most of them have college degrees, probably at least half have advanced degrees.


Of all of the subjects that are taught in schools -- from grammar school through college -- probably the most important is critical reasoning.  And the tests seem to prove that subject and skill are in the back seat of education.


And colleges and universities are, in the main, not doing anything to Come to Jesus on that important part of education that they owe all of their students.


Since 1966
214 503-8563


Comment balloon 2 commentsBILL CHERRY • June 07 2017 12:50PM
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