Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Students, Studying, and More Lies

A little over 80 years ago, when I was an undergraduate, several respectable folks told me that I should expect to study two hours outside of class for every hour of lecture time. I figured that wasn't too bad. I had about 16 hours of classes each week; so if I studied 32 hours, that would leave me with plenty of time for my part-time job and lots of leisure. Hah!

I attended Carleton College in Minnesota. Students there were called "bookers" because they studied so much; the most popular date was to invite someone to go to the library to study together. At the end of my first year, someone did a survey, asking how much we studied. As I recall, I exaggerated a wee bit and reported that I had studied an average of 35 hrs/wk during that year. I was shocked to see the final results of the survey: on average, students at Carleton reported that they studied about 50 hrs/wk! Either they were better liars than I was, or they worked harder. Either way, no wonder I was in the bottom half of my class.

This fall, following what had been said to me back then, I informed my intro students that I expect them to study about two hours out of class for every hour of lecture. Judging from some things that even the good students have said (or posted to their personal blogs), not many are studying this much. And the students here are no different from others all across North America, or so it seems from this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (Thanks to Professor Banaian for the link)

One puzzling thing about the article:
About 40 percent of students say they earn mostly A's, with 41 percent reporting that they earn mostly B's.

Really??? 81% of students, on average, receive (I can't imagine they "earn" them) As and Bs? How is that? Are they all taking sociology courses? Or are they lying about how well they're doing? Or has there been tremendous grade inflation in most schools? Or are today's students just really really smart? Or what?

And if students receive As and Bs with so little work, what on earth are they doing with their spare time? Are more of them working longer hours at part-time or full-time jobs so they can afford to attend college or university? Are they watching more television? Socializing? Web-surfing?
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