Monthly Archives: July 2013

Critical thinking: Not in College

“Almost two-thirds of students show no improvement on critical thinking after four years of college?  What are they doing there?”  asks the New Hampshire Union Leader’s Sunday editorial.

The editorial cites a Harvard Business Review article by Andrew McAfee that included a study that tracked 2,300 full-time college students.  After two years, 45% of these students showed no significant improvement on the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a written test of critical thinking.  After four years of expensive education, 36% had no improvement.  Even students who did manage to get what their parents thought they were paying for showed improvement that was “quite small.”

I’m not sure how the Union Leader got two-thirds out of the above stats, but even still, the figures are discouraging and alarming.  The editorial concludes that subsidized student loans are funding too much partying, and the value of a college education is falling.

Two questions come to my mind.

1)  How is it that kids who party more than they study pass their courses?  A party culture among kids is one thing.  A permissive academic culture that accepts substandard work is another.

2)   How can we be pouring so much of our resources into a degree to get so little out?  Forget about job prospects, but not even some sound reasoning?  Critical thinking is the foundation for thoughtful citizenship.  College isn’t the only way to obtain this skill but it has long been a dependable one, until now.

Parents, I suspect, are now caught in a paradigm that is beginning to shift.  We all want our kids to go to college, but will they be better prepared for the world coming out than when they went in, or just four years older, deep in debt and with a drinking habit?  Sadly, it’s a very real question.

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Filed under Sandown Issues

Campaign to stop non-public session abuse: Step One

Loyal readers will know I am on a mission to have a statute subsection dealing with non-public sessions rewritten. On June 20th, your school board went into non-public session to discuss the replacement/condition of modular classrooms, an unjustified reason for a non-public session, unless (and I’m joking here) our modular units contain terrorist fighting gear, which might explain their high cost.  Tomorrow I will be posting this letter to a representative on the Judiciary Committee of the NH legislature as step one in my mission.

July 2, 2012

Rep. Joseph Hagan,  Chester, NH 03036

Re: Abuse of Non-public Sessions, RSA 91-A:3, Part II, (i)

Dear Representative Hagan:

Thank you for your time on the phone today and your encouragement to send you a written statement.

I am concerned about the abuse of a non-public sessions provision in RSA 91-A:3, Part II (i) which is as follows: Consideration of matters relating to the preparation for and the carrying out of emergency functions, including training to carry out such functions, developed by local or state safety officials that are directly intended to thwart a deliberate act that is intended to result in widespread or severe damage to property or widespread injury or loss of life.

 This provision was cited as justification for a non-public session by the Timberlane School Board on June 20, 2013 to discuss the condition of module classroom units in the district. You can see this meeting on the Vimeo online service: http://vimeo.com/album/255898/sort:preset/format:detail . The provision was cited at 1:55 on the recording, (one hour, 55 minutes) followed by a unanimous vote thereafter. Clearly the board was invoking safety, very broadly construed, to avoid speaking about the condition of the units in public, information the public has a right to know.

 As a matter of background, my interest is simply in stopping the abuse of non-public sessions.  I do not have a child in the Timberlane district, nor do I have an opinion about whether the district needs new modular units.  I hold a seat on the Timberlane Budget Committee as a representative for Sandown, and I blog on school board affairs at TimberlaneandSandown.wordpress.com.

 I am hoping you will assist me in pressing legislators to rewrite the non-public session provisions to make stretches of interpretation unambiguously disallowed. In my experience, non-public sessions are used whenever they can be without reference to the spirit of necessity. This is why it is imperative that legislators explicitly restrict interpretative stretches, such as one citing Part II (i) whenever an uncomfortable safety issue comes up for discussion.

Furthermore,  some fine or other consequence should be added to the provisions so that boards will be more respectful of the law, its spirit and intent. An instruction to the Attorney General to prosecute violations with conscientiousness should also be considered in a rewrite.

 Thank you for your assistance. I hope to hear from you when the legislature is again in session.

 Best regards,

Donna M. Green

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Filed under Non-public session abuse