The lens in which I see education is from the secondary level. As stated before, I relate everything back to my experience with my students. However, for this reading, I thought of me and my experience going through college and my hopeless frustration with the education system and with the media.
The GI Bill is not mandatory. A soldier has to choose at MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) whether or not they want to contribute to a future college fund. Depending on how much money you’ll want/need when you exit the military determines your monthly contribution the first year of service. My choice was $100. It is a very good deal--$1200 for $10,000 dollars in return. (This data is from my personal experience entering the Army twenty years ago.) I was told that I would not be able to change my mind later. So, I signed up for the GI Bill. It was the reason I joined the military to begin with, to pay for college. I contributed in 1992, but did not take advantage of it until 1998. There are other constraints, too; most importantly, it expires. Once you leave the military, if I remember correctly, I had ten years to use it, or I would lose it. Once I started withdrawing the money, I had to be enrolled full time, and I was given a set amount of time to complete the degree. I ended up not using the GI Bill because I qualified for a different program: Vocational Rehabilitation--for disabled veterans of 20% or more.
When I got out of the military, I moved to Corpus Christi. I took the exam to enter Del Mar and was told that I needed to take remedial math courses before I could take the credited classes. I predicted that was going to happen, so it was not surprising. After reading the arguments against remedial education in higher education, what if Del Mar didn’t offer the remedial classes? Because I couldn’t pass the math portion of the entrance exam, I would have been labeled as “not college material.” (I was a HORRIBLE high school student, but I was an awesome college student—Dean’s list, honor student, the whole nine yards.) This is completely analogous to the written portion any entrance exam. If a person cannot pass the written exam, it does not connote the level of college readiness that person has. If given the right resources, the ‘can do’ will follow the ‘want to.’ If ‘basic writers’ have the desire, it is our responsibility, as public educators, to give them the opportunity. Blaming secondary school systems for not preparing students for college and not looking at the students themselves is a blinded theory. I agree with Goen-Salter that “…basic writing sits not at the point of exit from high school, but at the entry point to higher education” (O&M 180).
There are so many variables to consider when deciding how to approach students’ needs. Syllabi are often constructed without considering where students will be or not be at any given time. I like when teachers/instructors/professors disclaim that their syllabus is organic; things will, most often, change, as they should. I find it so incredibly challenging when administrators want me to ‘plan’ with other 10th grade teachers so that we are teaching the same thing on the same day. There’s no way in hell that can realistically happen. (My syllabus is very basic and speaks in generalities. Anyone not familiar with my population, or me for that matter, would not see my approach/my pedagogical ideology.)
I tend to blame the media for a lot of society’s woes. I am all about freedom of information, but journalists annoy me when they present information subjectively. (The whole CNN vs. FOX news debate cracks me up!) The New York Times should be ashamed for the ambiguous terminology they used. Even if the general population doesn’t know the definitions of words that journalist use, they understand the connotations. Media is constantly messing with/manipulating minds. Getting journalists to stop is like trying to change any part of the American education system; it is like throwing pebbles at a giant. It’s not going to change anything; you’ll just annoy it.
Many things struck me as interesting in this week's reading. Since the idea of the syllabus is a topic I am concerned with right now because of the upcoming due date, I will start with Adler-Kassner and Harrington and ch. 6. It seems that many research endeavors that are broadly based into basic writing travel down twisty paths to end up with the conclusion that there is alot of difference out there. I don't know if this is the result of that ever present urge to make literacy autonomous or not. The authors mention that the field of basic writing (or more broadly, the field of composition)has a "predilection for neat categories" (86). Neat categories are nice. However, they may not be adequate. Because writing is a parcel of literacy and language there will be variations across the country and even across the campus. Freshman biology across the country may have a very consistent look. Certainly, there will be the obligatory double helixes and photosynthesis and punnet squares and mitochondria. It is a given. Not so with language. It would seem that, above all, writing is a means of communication, communication with oneself (writing to learn) or communication with others (writing to communicate). What is writing other than a bunch of squiggles of ink on a page. Ideas. Are the ideas getting across. If so Bingo. But then the next leap would be..Are the ideas of the right sort? Are the ideas organized? Do the ideas sound pleasant?
I have observed a lot of questioning and inquiry in this course. What is basic writing? Who are basic writers? What is literacy. So I would like to throw one into the mix and ask, "Why do we write?" Maybe I have come up with a way to structure my class. Around the question, "Why do we write?" What purpose does it serve?
Reading on in the chapter Adler-Kassner and Harrington make note of the inconsistencies that come out in a syllabi. For instance, the practice of free-writing a la Elbow is ubiquitous. However, the rest of the course is modal and sequential in its structure which is at odds with the free-writing approach or at least could be. I think that people gravitate to the idea of free-writing and low stakes writing for at least two reasons. 1)It is beneficial. 2)It is easy to implement. So, I ask, "How is it beneficial?" Does it as Elbow says create neural changes in the brain? Maybe he writes a little tongue in cheek or earnestly I cannot tell. Call a neurologist.
I think I mentioned this before...that I witnessed this mishmashing of the autonomous model of literacy with more progressive ideas in the Del Mar class. It is very hard to get around that autonomous model. Adler-Kassner and Harrington say that basic writing is ultimatel a "classroom-based enterprise" (97). This I agree with. This reminds me of lore and research based practices and how there is probably an ongoing struggle to incorporate the two in your teaching in a meaningful and reasoned way.
I do see that writing and the teaching of writing is a social act. I do believe that writing is a process of discovery. AK & H write "Helping students understand how to determine the literacy demands of new contexts (in and out of school) should be the primary goal of any writing course, especially basic writing" (101).
Chapter 5 I have a question about how AK & H characterized the reporting on the "iconic" students (71). I am not certain how this term is being used here. Are they trying to make the point that the student body is being stereotyped?
It made laugh (though in a slightly bitter way) when I read the quote from Richard Miller at the beginning of chapter 6, ---'The reformer's dream of escaping institutional constraints will never be realized'(83). Richard Miller must have written that for me and my frustrations with my institutional constraints of a despotic administrator with absolutely no knowledge of classroom practice. Beware of things called institutions--prisons, marriage, insane asylums and schools!
With regards to O&M and the prospect of moving all remediation to the domain of community colleges, I am not certain what to think. I think that there is nothing wrong per se with this change other than it is another way of stratifying and "othering" the others. Why can't difference just be seen as difference and not necessarily good or bad, just different? I guess the academy has a vested interest in its own survival and for some reason, the feeling is that its culture or its context demands such a move or it will be ....what? Sullied? Tarnished? Compromised? Its a twisted logic that says an institution of learning can only teach the elect. Meritocracy.
end of chimene's post