Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Dumbing Down the Curriculum at Harvey Mudd College

The article is behind a paywall, but Gail Heriot offers us an excerpt. It appeared in the

It’s all about the mismatch. It's what happens when universities admit students to fill diversity quotas. It's what happens when diversity candidates cannot compete against their classmates.

In some schools they gravitate toward courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences. At Harvey Mudd College they do not have that escape hatch. The school, one of America’s best STEM-oriented colleges… obliges students to take classes in science and math and engineering. The result: they fall behind and drop out.

Now, administrators at Harvey Mudd College are considering the worst of all possible solutions: to dumb down the curriculum in order to continue its diversity policy. Thus, the students who were admitted on the basis of their ability will be punished for the school’s policies.

Here is the excerpt:

When Art Reyes received a generous scholarship to attend Harvey Mudd College, an elite engineering, science, and math-oriented institution in Claremont, Calif., he and his parents, both immigrants from Mexico, were thrilled. An alum warned him that tackling the intense coursework would be “like trying to drink water from a fire hose,” but the high-school salutatorian felt up to the challenge.

Reality soon caught up with him. With six classes and a lab in his first semester, his days and nights often stretched to 2 or 3 a.m. Sleep-deprived and stressed, he found himself slipping behind his classmates with whom he was wading lockstep through a notoriously challenging core curriculum. By his sophomore year, he had to take a semester off to catch up at a community college. His self-confidence was shattered.

Reyes later learned that he had plenty of company in feeling overwhelmed by the college’s academic requirements. In complaints first to mental-health counselors and then to outside evaluators, students described feeling like they had little time for showers or sleep, much less extracurricular activities or time to reflect.

The problem was particularly acute among the growing number of first-generation and minority students whose frustrations exploded to the surface last year after a leaked report quoted professors complaining that the college’s focus on diversity had caused standards to slip.

Students protested, classes were canceled for two days, and a period of soul-searching began. This year, Harvey Mudd, which is part of the Claremont Colleges consortium, is taking a hard look at its core curriculum and the mental-health and counseling services it offers students.

A curriculum committee is considering how to ease pressure on students without sacrificing rigor. But divisions remain among the faculty about whether this is a good idea, or just pandering to students who lack the work ethic or preparation needed to succeed.

As Heriot points out, the key phrase is “without sacrificing rigor.” It’s an illusion… one that will cost the brightest students and will eventually cost America. Will we be more or less competitive in science and technology if we dumb down curricula in order to allow less qualified students to survive? Has excellence been sacrificed to diversity?

Do you think that our competitors around the world are dumbing down their curricula in order to promote diversity?


whitney said...

Everytime my major city needs a major project, new bridge, replace a water main, I wonder "are we still able to do this?"

Deana said...

These colleges need to decide if they want to be associated with excellence or a super cool eco-friendly bridge in Florida. It really is that simple.

Sam L. said...

Mudd is now clearly in it just for the money. Who still cares about educating?

Anonymous said...

Will there be any discussion of "mob decsion-making" allowed?