Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Quick and the Ed: Cruel, But Not a Hoax:


There's a good higher education article in the The Atlantic this month, not on-line yet, titled 'In The Basement of the Ivory Tower.' It's written by an anonymous 'Professor X,' an adjunct English instructor at both a small private college and a community college in the northeast. The gist is that many of his students are woefully unprepared for even the introductory courses he teaches. So he must fail them, exposing, in the words splashed across The Atlantic's cover, 'Higher Education's Cruelest Hoax.' Either that or, as the article's blurb puts it, the 'destructive myth' that 'a university education is for everyone.'

One thing's for certain: this piece will be catnip for those who like to adopt the contrarian too-many-people-are-going-to-college-these-days position. This is an especially attractive stance for elitists and/or people who spend a lot of time searching for opportunities to loudly begin sentences with some variation of the phrase 'I know it's not politically correct to say this, but...' as if this denotes intellectual bravery of some kind. The article's sad story of one Ms. L, who says she was 'so proud of myself for having written a college paper,' only to be crushed by a grade of 'F,' will be used as evidence that we are not doing people any favors by letting them into college. Charles Murray has apparently written a whole book about this--adorned with blurbs from Jonah Goldberg, Bill Bennett, P.J. O'Rourke, and Tom Wolfe no less--to be published later this year.
I love it when Kevin Carey gets pissed off.

There is a whole spiel about how adult non-traditional students are big dummies, the system failed us, we can't write sentences, colleges makes lots of money off of us, Charles Murray is evil, some students shouldn't go to college, that's B.S., poetry and Hamlet are a waste of time, adjunct professors are underpaid, etc, etc, etc, bla, bla, bla...

Writing as an adult non-traditional student, it's true. Many of us are big dummies. You should see some of the crap posted in my online and evening classes, especially when I was taking them at a community college in South Carolina. I finally transferred to an online four year college school/program that targets military students and the quality of my classmates has increased immensely.

Of course us online students have to be at least smart enough to navigate online classes. We also have to be fairly self-motivated to complete the classes, and the vast majority of us are holding down decent enough jobs to be able to afford the tuition.

Ironically, I want to get my bachelors degree in order to get a job earning less that I would if I stayed doing the same thing I am doing now.


NYC Educator said...

Ya know, you don't see a lot of people pursuing jobs that will earn them less money. I hope, though, that this is a job that will make you happy.

One of the things I've learned from being a teacher is that life is much, much better when you love your job.

And by the way, if you were an idiot, you wouldn't be able to write as you do. When I was pursuing my master's (in teaching ESL), I sat next to a guy who couldn't spell the word "grammar." If he ever completed the program, he was going to teach newcomers "grammer."

That freaked me out a little.

Parentalcation said...

I always had issues with the word grammar...

I am going to school in order to become an elementary school teacher. I could make a lot more money inspecting the pipeline here in Alaska when I retire, but I have this crazy fantasy about teaching 3rd graders multiplication tables and fractions.

rightwingprof said...

In my experience, non-traditional students (we used to call them returning students) are as a rule the hardest working. I've seen no evidence that they're stupid(er), or brighter, for that matter. But they work hard, perhaps because they're paying for that tuition, instead of their parents.

NYC Educator said...

If you like little kids you will love this job. I'd rather teach than inspect a pipeline, but maybe that's just me.

As for spelling, I can forgive a lot, and our system is very much without logic as a lot is not phonetic. But words that are vital to your particular field, well, you just have to memorize them, painful though it may be.