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 <<Why then the low completion rate?  We could spend a whole day comtemplating this question ( and perhaps we should) but basically the success of each individual student is just that. It depends entirely on their personal motivation and not upon our herculean interventions. You cannot make a student learn if they do not wish to. You cannot threaten them, cajole them, humor them, or go to their houses and turn off their tv's. They must want to learn, and then we can help them.>>

That's a wonderful way to feel better and I'd agree if the word "entirely" were left out.  In my experience it's more complicated than that. 
 
Helping them is still a pretty major challenge. What is the success rate for people who use the services you have available?  And do you see a connection between these lower and lower level math courses and student motivation?  
 
I work with students who *are* motivated and their success rate is only somewhat higher. 
 
<<    And the saga continues two more times. We have added an arithmatic course that we euphamistically call prealgebra and believe it or not we have added a course before this one called fundamental math. >>
 
Are you basically trying to say here that  the school is stooping lower and lower, but the students aren't reaching up to take the hand - and that it simply must be their attitude that makes them so unskilled?   (Misspelling arithmetic and euphemistically adds a certain irony to the paragraph.)   
 
In my experience, one of the most common major frustrations for students - and, very possibly, a contributing factor to that lousy success rate -  is that the teachers really do find it hard to believe that they don't already understand certain basic stuff.  It's more than the daily bruising of the ego - the instruction is permeated with incomprehensible gaps.  No matter how low you go, if the course is only euphemistically basic, it's not going to reach the students, no matter how motivated they are.   
 
I have often pondered why people seem so much more psychologically vulnerable when it comes to mathematics.  Perhaps it's partly that constant message that "I can't believe I have to *teach* you this," - and usually it's not taught, it's simply mentioned, because the teacher doesn't *really* believe the student doesn't know it, and so s/he gives it a cursory explanation (perhaps dependent on other information the student doesn't have) and then quickly moves onward and proceeds as if that explanation had been internalized, digested, and applied to previous schema.  So, once again, the student gets the message that s/he's an ignorant, uncivilized outsider looking in, decides to go watch tv, and the teacher thinks "How *did* you get to college? It can't be my job to make up for that... must be your attitude..."  
 
Susan Jones
Academic Development Specialist
Academic Development Center
Parkland College
Champaign, IL  61821
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