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Re: Another piece from Academe Today for you to consider


Richard Damashek <[log in to unmask]>


Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]>


Mon, 14 Aug 2000 15:19:00 EDT





text/plain (61 lines)

In a message dated 8/14/00 11:25:50 AM Central Daylight Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:

 A complementary problem that was not mentioned in the summary: The
 assumption that "everyone should be able to attend college" becomes,
 insidiously, "everyone should have a college degree." That is a grave
 injustice to the myriads of people whose talents lie elsewhere. It leads
 to the attitude that one is unworthy unless one attends college.

 Our big problem is that our society has not developed an equally-valued
 path for the development of other talents. Trade schools are unfairly
 thought of as repositories for those who can't qualify for an academic
 path. When I interview a prospective student who pretty clearly does not
 have everything it takes to get a degree, am I not hypocritical if I
 encourage them to spend a few thousand dollars and a couple of years of
 their life to discover it? But what good alternative recommendation can I
 make? It is a matter of much concern to me.

I recognize the problem as well. Yet, and this is an important yet, I will
never forget my guidance counselor in high school who advised me not to go to
college because it would be too tough for me. I was a B+ student in high
school and went on to do better in college and in graduate school. Had I
listened to that moron, my life as I know it now would never have

The point I wish to make is that so many, many people have no idea what their
potential is in terms of brain power, people who have not had quality
educations and/or have never been told they have a brain never get a chance
to explore the riches of higher education.

Fortunately for me, those are the people I teach. Their average age is
35--and talk about underprivileged! They have never had a chance for much in
life but poverty and low self-esteem.

Viola, someone says you can go to college and succeed. Not quite believing
the line, they begin. Most of them discover they can make it. Most of them
discover they have been cheated all their lives by people telling them they
can't do it.

I think we face a real danger in trying to tell people what they should do
with their lives, unless, of course, it is "follow your bliss"--the famous
words of Joseph Campbell--words I try to live by and inculcate in my

I don't think the issue is vocational training as a solution for
underprepared college students. I think the issue is what do you want to do
with your life. Will college help you achieve that end? If college will help
you achieve your objectives, then by all means give it your best shot.

I don't want to be in the position of making other people's decisions for
them and part of the process of denying them opportunities they have never
had before. For me, that role is the direct opposite of the role a learning
assistance professional should play.

Richard Damashek, Ph.D.
Director of Academic Support Programs
Calumet College of St. Joseph
Whiting, IN

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