Sunday, April 30, 2017

Week 11: Declining by Degrees

I'm actually writing one of my final papers on the convergence of open access, social justice, and basic writing. Many of the issues raised in this film are ones I will address in my paper, such as a) finances, b) attrition rates and retention, c) students' backgrounds (educational performance, socioeconomic status, race, and more), d) remedial education in community colleges, and e) open access. Making colleges "open" to anyone who wants to apply gives the public the impression that education is equal and therefore, socially just. Not so. Having attended, tutored in a learning support center, and taught reading and writing at a large community college, I saw firsthand a diversity of students with a plethora of goals, attitudes, and abilities. I saw students achieve success who I thought were unlikely to, such as the young pregnant woman in my reading class who delivered her baby during the semester and returned to take her final exam and passed. I saw other students try hard and fail, such as the young man working a 40+ hour job and taking five (!) classes who got so far behind on his work, it was impossible for him to pass my class. I saw a nontraditional student develop strong English skills over the course of a year, and she worked diligently on application and scholarship essays that earned her admission to a competitive nursing program as well as a scholarship. As a student, I saw classmates who didn't give a flying frisbee about their classes and only distracted those of us who were trying to learn.

All of this is to say that while I acknowledge the many issues that plague the current state of higher education, I disagree wholeheartedly with the idea that it is declining, especially as more nontraditional and "unprepared" students are attending. College education is no longer for the wealthy and elite; open admissions were instituted in the 1960s and 70s as a remedy to that practice. However, giving students the ability to attend college doesn't also provide the ability to succeed. In order to do that, students, especially nontraditional and under-prepared ones, need learning support such as tutoring services, careful and frequent academic and financial advising, and teachers who are invested in pedagogy as much as research.

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