A Spanglish blog dedicated to the works, ruminations, and mongrel pyrotechnics of Yago S. Cura, an Argentine-American poet, translator, publisher & futbol cretin. Yago publishes Hinchas de Poesia, an online literary journal, & is the sole proprietor of Hinchas Press.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
TEACHING GRADE 13
A friend of mine in Tennessee who I haven't talked to in years came across an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education titled "Teaching Grade 13". Written by David M. Perry and Kathleen E. Kennedy, the article attempts to squeeze a difficult answer about how responsible/liable a college should be in getting remedial students, students who come from poor-performing high schools, up to snuff, in terms of content difficulty and proficiency. For example, "According to the 2009 ACT College Readiness Report, only 23 percent of high-school graduates have the requisite skills to earn at least a C in entry-level college courses in the four general areas of English, mathematics, science, and reading. That means that 77 percent of all graduating seniors have serious deficiencies in one or more areas" (par. 1)
The first thing I would like to do is question what their criteria for college-ready is because colleges are full of spectators or students that just get by and don't really imbibe in the research and love of investigation. Do they mean these students? Not, really. The article makes several mentions of the No Child Left Behind Policy which is educational legislation enacted by Bush Two which many educators have big problems with. What I have big problems with is people not being able to call it as they see it. For example, the majority of legislation for No Child Left Behind targets failing schools, and if you have ever taught in this country you know of the huge disparity between urban and suburban schools. I think I would be oblique if I didn't point out that in the U.S. failing schools equal minority-heavy urban schools. So, how much of this has to do with race and ethniticy? And, how much of this question has to do with class?
And class permeates the thinking in this article as well because how many people once they enter college are one hundred percent ready to delve into the numerous academic calisthenics that college-level work requires of its students? I know that I was certainly deficient, but at the same time I realized pretty quickly that if I didn't take command of my weaknesses, they would eventually take command of me. So, I searched for answers and didn't wait for answers to come to me; I gave my inquisitiveness a purpose and used ink as my currency.
I guess the question I am asking is how much of this should fall on students, even if they come from crappy schools and get substandard high school educations. But, the greater question is when did college professors start becoming so us and them; I understand that there are skills that are more appropriate coming out of a high school teacher's mouth, but if a professor cares about his students, and genuinely wants them to learn then they will not make differentiation such an issue. The problem is that many professors come in thinking they are above teaching certain skills, as if teaching those skills would lessen their academic prowess. I have seen it numerous times, where a professor will not lower themselves to teach a class on emphasis in composition or active voice for fear that students will get the wrong idea and think they are actual teacher!
Lecturing has been the mode for eons, but it does not work for everyone. Just because the greeks invented it and it was adapted by most cultures, why should it be the only dominant mode in education. Another timely idea that this article brought about was the idea that in the digital where information is so accessible and easy to manipulate, what is the role of content-knowledge. In other words, what skills should we be teaching our high school kids so that they will excel in college. Obviously, the curriculum is staid, especially in the face of new digital realities. but, what exactly should change and where should we placed our educational emphasis?
At least Perry and Kennedy know something has to change. They offer a solution: "We need more tenure-track experts in basic skills to teach remedial courses and advise faculty members". I propose making professors actually vary their mode so that lecture is not the only trick they know. How about a little socratic seminar, a little discourse?