I agree absolutely that poverty, in and of itself, is NOT the "cause" of
unprepared students.  It's more the catalyst that launches a whole bunch
of causes.  What we see with students who "choose" to be unprepared for
education is an attitude which society as a whole must address.

I live in New Mexico, one of the states which ranks lowest in education
and per-capita income.  I see many students who feel that education is the
white man's way of cultural genocide.  There are many groups which feel it
is "uncool" to be educated.  I am NOT saying that NO ONE from these
groups values education, so don't bash me for this statement, please.
This attitude continues to influence student motivation and retention, and
it sorely needs to be addressed.

Many of my students feel that, education or no education, they don't have
a snowball's chance at the "American Dream" because of racial
discrimination.  My primary job seems to have become cheerleading rather
than English tutoring, although I do my share of that, too.  We are often
told that "you are not counselors" so "you should keep the students on
task."  To a certain extent I agree.  After a while, one can tell the
whiners from those whose problems are seriously interfering with their
education.  I can teach the latter "The Writing Process" til I'm blue in
the face, and it won't soak in because their self-esteem is in shambles.
That's a huge part of the reason we put together a "Student Success"
workshop which deals with "7 habits of highly successful students," "time
management," and "positive thinking."  Students need to hear that there is
no "magic" formula for becoming a successful student; they need to hear
that educators have faith in their students' abilities to succeed.  They
need to hear that there are TOOLS which will work to improve their
academic success.  They need to hear the stories of "people who succeeded
in education in spite of poverty," racism, sexism, learning
disabilities, whatever!  Without. I might add, moralizing about how good
today's students have it compared to, say, Frederick Douglass!  There
tends to be this attitude of "When I was a kid, we had to walk five miles
through snowdrifts to school, and we were GLAD to do it."  This seems to
me to end up blaming the student who "only" deals with poverty, divorce,
gang violence, drugs, and etc. in pursuit of his/her education!

Each person has his or her own reality in life.  What may seem
insurmountable problems to one may be duck soup to another and vice versa.
Students "choose" not to learn because they don't think they can make a
difference in the way society works. Students "choose" not to learn, not
because of THEIR failings, but because of OURS, as educators and as a
society!  Learning is a natural process, something we all begin doing from
the day we're born.  Learning does not depend on whether you have low,
average, or high intelligence.  We all do it all our lives.  Academic
learning (at whatever level) stops when some obstacle is put in the way.
That obstacle is usually societal expectations of one's "place,"
"intellect," "aptitude," "perceived benefit to society," and so on.  Who
is to say that JFK had more to contribute than Frederick Douglass, or
Jaime Escalante, or some struggling student WE may think is disruptive and
incapable of learning but who may turn out to be the next Winston
Churchill, George Washington Carver, or Thomas Edison?

I am a proud Pollyanna when it comes to this concept.  I firmly believe
that ALL students can LEARN to succeed, given the tools, given the
understanding, and given someone who gives a hot damn about them as
individuals who have individual hopes, dreams and ambitions!

Peggy Keller
English Instructional Technician
Assistance Centers for Education
Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute
525 Buena Vista, SE
Albuquerque, NM  87106

"Whether you think you can or you can't, you're right."  --Henry Ford

On Wed, 21 Jan 1998, Dennis H. Congos wrote:

> I am puzzled by the perception of some of my colleagues.  History is full of stories of
> people who succeeded in education in spite of poverty.  I think we are going for a red
> herring when we blame poverty for poor grades.  Poverty does not cause learners to
> choose not do homework, choose not do do reading asignments, choose to
> misbehave in class, choose to be disrespectful to teachers, choose not to complete
> exercises in class, choose not to attempt to write papers, etc.  It has to be something
> else affecting these learners.
> What social mechanism has the greatest influence on learners?  There lies the
> problem and the object of our remedies.
> Dennis Congos
> __________________________________________________________
> Dennis H. Congos
> Learning Skills Lab Facilitator & Certified Supplemental Instruction Trainer
> Academic Learning Center
> 103 Garinger Building
> Central Piedmont Community College
> Charlotte, NC 28235
> 704-330-6474
> email: [log in to unmask]
> NADE Homepage:
> CAD and SI Homepage:
> Learning skills: The only indispensable knowledge in college.
> Learning skills:  The tools for doing the job of learning.
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