There’s a wonderful article on college education in the June 2008 issue of The Atlantic. The June issue isn’t up on the web yet, but should be soon. The article is titled “In the Basement of the Ivory Tower,” and is written by an anonymous adjunct professor of English 101 and 102, Professor X. The blurb before the article reads, “The idea that a university education is for everyone is a destructive myth. An instructor at a “college of last resort” explains why.” I found myself thinking Yes! Yes! Exactly! as I read this article.
No one is thinking about the larger implications, let alone the morality, of admitting so many students to classes they cannot possibly pass.
I’ve had some wonderful teaching experiences, but I also know what Professor X is saying. How are we to teach the designated composition curriculum to those who are barely literate? Or to those who have never used a computer? Sure, a student might think they need to get a degree, but if your reading level is such that you aren’t ready for high school, and you lack the schemata to organize new knowledge, then what? The student works hard, perhaps, but they can’t pass the class. In college, we should not be giving ‘A’s for effort. Students need to master certain knowledge and skills before moving onto other courses. I could say a more about this, but I’ll stop now for fear of offending anyone. However, do go search out Professor X’s article. He says it all better than I can.
The front cover of The Atlantic reads “Higher Education’s Cruelest Hoax.”