Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Should You Sue Your College?

My previous writings, for example, THIS, have documented the frighteningly small freshman-to-senior value-added that colleges provide in reading, writing, critical thinking, etc.

I think back even to some of my graduate students at prestigious U.C. Berkeley, and a surprising number even of them had poor reasoning and writing skills.

A letter I received today reminded me again of higher ed's obscene willingness to grant a degree without regard to whether that degree certifies even minimal competence. This person has a master's degree from a California State University. Here's what she wrote:

Subject: previouse advise
Importance: High
Hi Marty
You and I spoke over the phone. During a talk show you had with Ron Owens back in 2005. I was accepted to three school at San Francisco State the school of Social Work, School of Public Health and the school of Public Administration..You advise me to choose the school of Public Administration because this field was going to take many in terms of government policies and new procedures in becoming more streamline in customer service. I graduated with my Masters in 2007 and I have found that this degree is worthless…….I have worked for the state for over 10 years and this degree has not helped me……. now I feel like I am stuck and extremely frustrated. What can I do now??? (I changed irrelevant details and deleted her name to preserve her anonymity.)

I'm not a lawyer, and perhaps there are reasons why such a lawsuit might not prevail but I believe that millions of students might investigate suing their alma mater for malpractice, breach of contract, or defective product.

For example, in admitting an unqualified student into a bachelor's program and/or pushing him or her through without the student having acquired bachelor's-level competence, it seems to me that the institution breached its implicit contract. That contract asserts that if you pay your money and pass your courses, you'll graduate in four or five years with a degree and bachelor's-level skills in reading, writing, critical thinking, mathematical reasoning, plus expertise in a major. Yet that often does not occur.

If colleges don't lose expensive lawsuits, they have little reason to change their ways. After all, they prefer to educate students as cheaply as possibly so there's maximum resources available for what they care about: research and maintaining their fat-salaried, bloated administrations.

Might you have a case against your alma mater? Any lawyers out there want to give me the thumbs-up or thumbs down on whether this could be a winnable case? A class action?


themotherlode said...

I find this troubling on two fronts. The glaring one- this woman has zero skills writing. But I know she is part of a large group of college educated people who can't string together a sentence to save their life. What a joke. (My skin also crawls when I hear a college graduates say "hisself" and other like verbal abominations.)

The other thing is the "Let's sue someone" thinking. (This I believe, is another product of the indoctrination process part and parcel of our public school system.)

This poor woman would do well to to hire a tutor (she sure as hell doesn't need more college,) and take a long look in the mirror to contemplate the common denominator in her failings.

But of course, that would require reasoning and the acceptance of personal responsibility.

I know you're an atheist Marty but I'll say it anyway...God help us all!

ST said...

Was this woman Asian? I've noticed in their writing, they'll leave off the -(e)d in verbs indicating past tense, and also will leave off the 's' for plural.

In Chinese, there is no indication of gender (and I suspect no plural), so my co-worker who has fairly good English, will mix up her he's and she's when talking about people. In their e-mails, they are always indicating present tense for verbs, and singular for adjectives.

Anyhow, if this person's second language is English, it also may be why the sentence structure is a little inaccurate/choppy, too.

Just thoughts, I know I've seen some bad writing from born and bred Americans, too.

As far as the lawsuits, it will probably never happen. School is a profitable business. A lot of products and services are sold because of the story they tell. College promises a good story. Until people really stop believing that story, they won't stop buying the product.

Marty Nemko said...

No, she is not Asian. And it shouldn't matter, a bachelor's degree, let alone a master's degree should reflect a certain level of ability to write and most importantly, to think.

Anonymous said...

I have little sympathy for someone who complains about their graduate education. Someone should have life experience (i.e., a refined BS detector) before sinking money into a graduate program. It amazes me that people put more research into buying a cell phone than into a $50,000+ graduate degree.

For undergraduate programs though, it is different. At the undergraduate level--particularly lower-tier public universities--you have impressionable 18 year olds who don't have the life experience to filter out the BS. You have whole departments--heck, whole schools--that basically retain atheletes and lackluster students who would otherwise drop out. Its the usual suspects: psychology, sociology, poly sci, communications, etc. Then there are the ever reprehensible "Engineering Technology" degrees--basically, where you do the work of an engineering degree but you can't become an licensed engineer.

Hopefully, as the internet evolves, it will do away with the "traditional university" and make learning more accessible to everyone. Until then, many universities are on par with a used car lots.

Cornhusker said...

Excellent post by December 22, 2010 9:57 AM. Thirty-years ago I was a freshman at one of those lower-tier public universities. I majored in communications and political science. What a mistake! Fortunately, I acquired a BS filter and have not pursued a graduate degree.