Hey, if I thought it would help, I'd seriously consider it. But then who would teach my classes?
Learning that I taught in community college, a smart-aleck I once dated snarked, "You mean 13th grade with ashtrays?"
Yeah, in retrospect, he was "negging," wasn't he? But it worked in this case. And he wasn't far off the mark, although the ashtrays are in danger of disappearing thanks to a push to ban all smoking on campus.
This morning I devoted to "professional development," attending a series of informal talks and workshops designed to share "best teaching practices" as well as to acquaint faculty members and administrative staff from disparate disciplines with one another. After a luncheon sponsored by the Foundation (burgers consumed on bleachers) there will be a variety of engaging activities, including an opportunity to roll around the floor of the gymnasium in "human hamster balls" (and yeah, the metaphor is not lost on me either).
|So very much... not me.|
The most interesting workshop addressed the problem of "under-prepared students." Since the majority of my students will freely admit that they have never read a single book in their lives, and my objective is to prepare them to be successful in their college-level English classes, this hour promised to be highly relevant. Ah, the eternal question: How do we get these students from A to B?
The session was heavy on statistics and predictably short on answers, because when it comes to education, I think we're all flummoxed -- especially the instructors, who are like soldiers sent forth to vanquish the enemy (of ignorance) by generals and a public at large who, far removed from the front lines, lounge comfortably in their barcaloungers, endlessly carping about the crap job teachers do.
|Metaphorically, of course.|
Of these under-prepared students who enroll in remedial classes, only 25% go on to earn either a certificate or a degree. Those under-prepared students who decide to enter college part time have virtually no chance of ever graduating at all.
What accounts for such a low success rate? We can assume that whatever roadblocks stood in their way as children continue to impede learning: poverty, alcohol/drug abuse, chaotic families, mental disorders, or just plain PPP.**
Looking at various factors (race, age, etc.), the most salient one appeared to be gender. Male students are significantly less likely to overcome the hurdles and wind up graduating (with either a transferable A.S. or a vocational certificate). In other words, a single mom has a better chance of graduating than a single man with no dependents.
We were invited to discuss why this might be so. It was hard for me to discount the anger of certain manosphereans who claim education has become "feminized" to the point of disenfranchising the boys, but no one else was suggesting this as a possible factor, not even the several male faculty members present -- although one male math instructor interpreted the relative (modest) strides of women in obtaining degrees as "a positive sign."
And complaints of "under-prepared" students are by no means confined to teachers in the humanities (which may be dismissed by manospherean sages such as Captain Capitalism as "feminine" or "fluff" fields). In fact, the Construction Management and Information Technology instructors are equally vexed by students who are unable to read a manual or write a set of coherent instructions.
I have observed in my classes that the "under-prepared" women do seem to be more compliant: more willing to do what they are told they must do in order to pass my class, for example. They exhibit a certain dogged persistence in pursuing their goals in comparison to the men, who are more likely to express impatience or "give up" (or "blow up") when faced with frustration.
Female students, regardless of their degree of preparedness, are more likely to seek support (to approach instructors for help, to identify and consult with advisers, to figure out how to navigate the byzantine system of higher education). Being a student, especially one with academic deficits, is humbling. Before we can learn something, we have to admit we don't know it. Is this something that women are socially more conditioned to accept? In other words, is it possible that their typically "feminine" behaviors serve them?
I don't know what the solution is. I'm not even sure what the problem is. I've been known to piously intone that "College isn't for everyone," or that "Students deserve the opportunity to fail," but such sentiments are not only sacrilege in my circles, they seem like terrible cop-outs.
*For profit colleges and technical colleges often lure such students with the promise they will not have to meet these pesky prerequisites, and indeed will often push students through their programs, but their rate of success in subsequently placing graduates in jobs is abysmal.
** "piss poor protoplasm"