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Colleagues,

I began a response to this thread at 8:03 this morning and am only able to
get at it 12 hours later.  The thread has ravelled wonderfully but past
many things I wanted to snip, weave and respond to.

It began this morning with Dennis Congos >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.

Much has been said about individual motivation and responsibility, about
being at-cause for our success or lack of it, about not taking the victims'
or defeatist role.  I agree with all of this in principle.

>I agree that  >Poverty does not cause learners to
>choose not do homework, choose not do do reading asignments, choose to
>misbehave in class,  . . . . etc. <   That  would be as insightful as
>saying that money has a conscience -- it does not.

HOWEVER, history and demographics very clearly show us a distinct
relationship between the corrosiveness of poverty and depressed academic
success in populations.   Much of this thread has given me the impression
that  (e.g.) if most single mothers on assistance wanted badly enough to
get into and succeed in college, they surely would.    Sure, I know some
who have.  I know many more who want to just as much but who are not able
to juggle (and keep on juggling) the economics and resources to simply
sustain that opportunity.

It is a terrible and degrading mistake to arrive at a conclusion that
individual motivation and desire easily overshadow economics in the
equation of academic opportunity and success.     The cult of victimhood
and blame aside (and yes, it is well and robust in this time), there are
very many people outside academic walls who would be in if they could.
But before they can they honestly have to slay the many hydra head of
powerful economic challenge (childcare, reliable transportation, health and
elders care/problems, uncovered daily living expenses, etc).    Hope,
(self)confidence and enduring energy are primary elements to the compound
of sustained motivation.

Perhaps it is because I work in a community college (rather than
university) population, but across the board the two biggest retention
factors at this level are academic foundation and ecnomic maintenance.  I
can't tell you how many students I've disenrolled due to financail duress.
This doesn't even reflect those who didn't get here to begin with.   But
I've worked in social services and know very well that there are a great
many out there who would be here if they could.

Most of us on this list have had considerable education and opportunity.
I would ask each of you/us to very honestly look at what steps, priveleges
and assets allowed you to get to this point, strip (almost) every one of
them away, add a couple long-term burdens and then carefully re-estimate
your odds of getting there.

Poverty is very strong medicine.  No accident that it correlates so highly
lower educational levels (to say little of subsequent social ills).

So, let's do the math.  Yes, > >History is full of stories of
>>people who succeeded in education in spite of poverty,

. . . but the number of them doesn't even come close to discounting poverty
as a major significant restraining effect.   I know too many bored,
unmotivated or misdirected students of privelege and too many eager and
hungry minds wanting an opportunity to  . . . .  well to keep my mouth shut
I guess.

nuff said.  Off my soap box.  Thanks to those of you who actually read this
far through it.

Dale Zeretzke, Counselor
Grays Harbor College
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-------------------------

"The best teacher lodges an intent
 not in the mind
 but in the heart."

            Fugitive Pieces
            Anne Michaels