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I agree with Eric and John.  I think we have to be very cautious about
determining "who does and who doesn't belong" in college.  There are so many
"other" variables involved in academic achievement (those things that Hunter
Boylan refers to as "noncognitive" factors, etc.).  Some individuals whom I
never thought would succeed (on the basis of academic skills) have indeed
acquired a college degree; on the other hand, some that I thought would earn
degrees have chosen not to.  I guess you could say that I am "pro-choice."

In our society where egalitarian values are espoused and esteemed, I like to
think that everyone can have the opportunity to pursue a college education
and it smacks of elitism to try to decide who can and who can't exercise
that option.  I do, however, also think that faculty must maintain high
standards and that the integrity of the curriculum and degrees must be
safeguarded.  Obviously, if a student makes numerous attempts and cannot
master the curriculum and meet the standards, then college is not a good
option nor is it the only option to "success."  I believe that there are
multiple intelligences (with only some suited to academic pursuits) [H.
Gardner; R. Sternberg; and others].

When some college presidents tell faculty that 70 percent of their students
must earn a "C" or better in class or the faculty will lose their jobs, then
(obviously) there is a real problem in maintaining standards and securing
integrity.  I have colleagues who report that this has happened on their
campus.

In Texas we have a real problem because so many of our high school graduates
have not had access to the college prep curriculum in high school.  We have
a serious shortage (about 5,000+) of qualified high school teachers and in
many counties, students cannot take college prep algebra or science
courses.  Studies done in Texas show that although college prep writing
courses do not harm students, the real benefit (in terms of SAT, ACT and
TASP Test scores and subsequent college GPA) comes from college prep math
and science courses.  One official has concluded that students in Texas
colleges and universities -- by and large -- do not need remedial work, that
is, remedial in the sense of repeating what they had in high school.  Most
of our students were never exposed to the appropriate curriculum and must
receive their first exposure in college through developmental coursework.
This  requires some "new thinking" or "paradigm shifts" for many of us.


IMHO,
Gail Platt
Eric Kaljumagi wrote:

> In my mind, there is an advantage to further education for anyone.  The
> question is whether or not that extra education aligns with the
> student's abilities, goals, and desires.
>
> If I take myself as an example, I will likely never complete a doctorate
> degree.  This is not because I do not desire additional education but
> because the degree is only 10-20% likely to help me should I choose to
> find a job superior to the (very nice) one I have now.  Frankly, I think
> it unwise to devote so much of my family's resources to what would
> likely amount to personal improvement alone.  Such resources are better
> put towards my family and my children's future college costs.
>
> I agree that it is not necessary to obtain a degree in order to
> "succeed" in life.  Although people benefit from the formal series of
> courses known as college to some extent, each person needs to
> individually decide whether the time and money required are worth the
> additional assistance that experience will provide.  Some will guess
> wrong.  My brother, for instance, is the only employee at his company
> who possesses a BA degree (which is in a different field).  His job
> requires none of his gained knowledge, and he feels his four years at
> college were largely a waste of time.  To him, his college experience
> was not worth four years of time and $20,000 of debt.  Clearly, he
> believes he would have been better off if he had not attended college.
>
> I disagree, however, with the notion that the educational community can
> accurately tell in advance who will benefit from college.  I routinely
> deal with people who are well motivated to learn and I strongly believe
> that the educational system should not impede this desire.  Not everyone
> can attend the research universities due simply to the great costs
> involved (the University of California system, for instance, requires
> over $10,000 of state assistance per student in addition to nearly as
> much from the student in the way of fees in order to maintain its
> laboratories and research staff) and consequently they will always be
> forced to be "selective".  However, providing the opportunity for higher
> learning to some degree is arguably an important role of a democracy,
> particularly one which wishes to encourage the under-represented.
>
> Since most high school students have at least some indecision regarding
> their future, I suspect that career counseling could be improved at the
> high school and early college levels.  I often wish that someone had
> given me hard figures in high school instead of just "pep-talks".  If I
> had known that a particular job had a particular starting salary and my
> chances to get one were X% if I didn't get a degree and Y% if I did get
> the degree I would have been better able to decide what course to set.
> As it was, a good-sized portion of my success building my career was
> simply luck.
>
> Prof. Eric Kaljumagi
> LAC/Math
> Mt. San Antonio College