Those Who Can’t…

Since Shannon is blasting Ed Schools and their graduates, I figured I’d put in my 2 cents. I’m not in the Academy anymore, so I don’t have to play the nicey-nice games of pretending that every department’s research is equally valuable to society, and that all Ph.D.s represent the same intellectual effort on the part of the Ph.D. holder. I once I read a comment about how Education Ph.D.s resent that graduate students and professors in other disciplines, especially science, intimate or outright state that Education Ph.D.s are stupid. I’m certainly guilty of that. Where’s my data?

Well, let us get some figures, shall we? Like my advisor used to say, an argument without numbers is a religious discussion. Whom are you trying to convert? Take a look at this, and scroll down to the section titled “How Difficult Is Admission To A Good Program” (the title is on the left-hand sidebar). There is a chart of majors and their average GRE scores. Out of 28 programs reported by ETS in 2002, which one scored #28 in the mean total GRE score? Public Administration. Wow, we give political and bureaucratic power to these bozos? But on topic, which one scored #27? Yep, you guessed it, Education. Education schools were spared the ignominy of last place only by the sheer ineptitude of those wishing to enter government service. And it’s not even as if they had bombed the Qual section, the average Verbal score was lower than any Engineering discipline except for Industrial Engineering. (Engineers, for those who are uninitiated, are reputed to not be able to write worth beans. Unfortunately, this stereotype is often deserved.)

20 thoughts on “Those Who Can’t…”

  1. In defense of my brethren, verbal scores could be low for Engineering (especially my field of electrical engineering) because, for a high percentage of those taking the test, english is their second language. In fact, most of the grad students I knew received their undergrad degree from a foreign instituion. Around my college I saw more adverts for English proficiency exam classes than for GRE classes.

    Also, at the UC’s there is at least one program the Education could tower above: Ethnic Studies.

  2. I’d like to second GFK’s point. At the Industrial and Operations (IOE) Dept. of the University of Michigan, which is currently ranked in the top three in the world, I’d guess that at least half of the undergrad students, if not more, either weren’t from the US or else used english as a second language.

    With this in mind, it might be wise for Humanities and soft science and “english” academics to consider the following: The IOE engineers might only barely pass the liberal arts classes they’re required to take as undergrads, but they pass. Were liberal arts students to be required to take basic engineering courses (including programming), it’s probable that the vast majority would fail. Before english majors turn up their noses as the flat prose of engineers, perhaps they should consider the computers and ipods and cell phones and other engineering related gagets they use every day and pause to ask themselves whether the world at large is better served by yet another snappy essay on Keats or Longfellow, or rather by the practical produce of engineers who don’t write so great.

  3. Re: Engineers and writing skills.

    Generally IQ scores represent a mean between verbal and nonverbal reasoning ( not always but on many tests) and gaps between the scores in each area are not at all unusual. I had a student whose verbal score, while well above average, lagged over fifty points behind his nonverbal reasoning.

    As an upper elementary student his interests included college algebra and learning computer programing languages. Even when he matured though, his writing was never better than adequate in the sense of being technically correct but often unclear; yet he was clearly a highly gifted individual. His conversational skills were also, to put it kindly, stilted, but his insights were still worth hearing.

    I suspect that in the aggregate, engineers as a class would show a similar ( if less pronounced) differential.

  4. That was an interesting table, however, I wouldn’t use it as a base for your conclusions. Look at Architecture, for example. Do you really think architects (ranked 21) are dimmer than those applying for Religious Studies (16)? And applicants in Medicine, Business, Civil Engineering, etc are bozos compared to Philosophy (9)?

    All this table shows, graduates of practical discplines, those where you can reach success after achieving undergraduate level, don’t bother with PhD applications. I would even say, between 2 undergrad architects, the one who will apply for PhD in Architecture and the one opening his own firm (let’s say, in 10 yrs after getting Bachelor Degree), the former is better off, by all measures. Unless the latter doesn’t need the money or suffers from real-life phobias…

    Industrial engineers: have to agree with all, however painful the subject. My own, home-grown would-be industrial engineer is very, very bright in all matters but writing/communicating. He’s made marked progress, however, after 2 years in Univ. of Michigan (hello, Mr. Crawford!). Must be the noble influence of all those girls in the Arts and English programs, near by…

  5. SO, the Sphincter Spelunking AuSSiNaZZi CENSOR

    is hiding his tadpole dribbled face over here now. Well mr. John Jay Gay Ray, I AM from Chicago and you are a Lemmiwinks.

    BTW we’re all there @ Kims. You should stop by once in a while and let me abuse you in from of the ‘old gang’ once again.

  6. Tatyana – actually, your point rather reinforces mine. In fields where an apprenticeship option opens the door for career advancement that does not involve 5 or more years of indentured servitude, many of the best and brightest won’t be applying to grad school. Engineering is a good example – I really do not think that Physics undergrads are on average that much smarter than engineering ones, I’d lay odds that the average EE is smarter than the average physics major. However, I do believe that the average Physics major applying to grad school is smarter than the average Engineer applying to grad school.

    Engineers can probably maximize their lifetime earnings by skipping grad school, whereas jobs for undergraduate physics and chemistry majors pay for crap, so the best physics students are represented on that table. Most of the bright engineering students who graduated with me avoided grad school like the plague, and these were guys who could run rings around me in math.

    Architecture is probably another field where the best and brightest would rather gete hands-on experience than a Ph.D. Music and the other performing arts are probably the fields where the Ph.D. talent is lowest when compared to the best practitioners in the field.

    The point here is that the legal certification process makes it impossible to get into teaching except by jumping through the hoops set up by these grad programs. There is not “Industry” to siphon off Education Ph.D.s. So here we have the best of the best in the field of Education faring poorly, even on the verbal section, against cohorts ranging from the best (Physics) to middling-good (Engineering, Architecture) of other fields. And, as some have pointed out, most of these Education Ph.D.s have English as a second language, whereas that is not true in Engineering or Science.

    To the other loon – dude, I have not a clue what you are talking about. John Jay is a pseudomym I picked specifically for the Chicago Boyz, I’ve only been using it about a month.

  7. Not nearly to the degree of the science and engineering programs. When I went for my MBA, about 40% of the class was foreign. The Americans who majored in business marveled at how many foreigners were in the program – I marveled at how few.

  8. John-

    You stated the truth beautifully. I would just simplify your article by saying that most people who want the status of a college degree and cannot hack it in another area can enroll in education or psychology programs. I find most modern day teachers cannot even do introductory math and have English skills slightly better than the students they teach. The modern day American school teacher is trained to be a bureaucrat – full of designing and conducting “needs assessments” and “learning plans.”

  9. I thought the scores for “business” were surprisingly mediocre. “Analytical” substantially less than philosophy snd less than history and English; “quantitative” about the same as philosophy and far lower than economies; “verbal” less than architecture and sociology.

    If we were talking about practicing businesspeople these numbers might be understandable, since many business skills are tacit rather than explicit, but these are people who are probably mostly destined to be b-school professors. Very strange.

  10. David Foster – don’t forget the advertising types will bring down the quant scores a bit. So will the HR types. Some B-schools take the GMAT in lieu of the GRE, so maybe this is a skewed sample?

  11. I can third the English comment.

    I can also add that many engineers are also from the midwest, where english is taught very poorly. I’m still trying to figure out basic grammar and didn’t really understand what an adverb was until at Michigan (IOE 2000).

    I scored an abysmal 550 on the verbal section for the GRE. [Also contributing to the low score is that I just read slowly.]

  12. MBAs traditionally required good undergrad grades but, more importantly, real & successful business experience. Undergrad business was different.

    A dozen years or more ago, business was generally considered a remarkably easy major & what was expected academically from marketing & management majors was on a par with ed school. Running the kind of business I did, I saw plenty of their papers and that conventional wisdom seemed to be true. (Unmotivated or not too swift girls went into one, guys into the other.)

    The requirements for business have remained the same (easiest math requirements,any science will do, only lower level English, etc.) but because they are so popular, the grade point (albeit in easier subjects) has to be really spectacular. Our transfer students need a 3.8+ to get into a 4-year business program at the big universities – while engineering will take some with 2.8 or 2.9. Some of that may be allowance for non-native speakers, but then again, engineering requires the most rigorous math, physics & chemistry we can teach.

  13. Maybe this comment is a little late, but
    where I earned my Eng BS, Industrial Engineering was the section where the Industrial Technology Ed majors (think shop teachers) were assigned. Perhaps other engnieering colleges are the same?

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