Sunday, August 29, 2010

Once More into the Breach

Okay, so tomorrow is it....tomorrow is the first day of fall semester. I'm teaching three sections of Freshmen Comp...It's time to be afraid, very afraid. They're coming to my classroom and what will ensue only God knows.

As each year begins, I've got another set of headaches. Most of the students are woefully unprepared for college level writing. It's not really their fault. Actually, it's the fault of all those hippies (I confess. I was one for a while) who grew up to change the structure of education in America. I can remember hearing someone say that all children could learn but each child learns at a different rate. What my generation failed to take into account is the basic laziness of ALL humans. We take the easy way out from the time we walk to the time we become a boxed lunch for the worms. That's right. From the cradle to the grave, we strive to do as little as possible.

That little-as-possible thingy holds true. I've even experimented with the prospect, and I always come up with lazy as a result. There are a few students, very few, who contradict the principle, but their diligence is overshadowed by the majority of their peers. Learning stations, relaxed grading systems, re-vamped tests that "dumb down" the requirements for graduation and college all comes down to taking the easy way out. If a child resists learning, then by all means, make it easier for that child to pass so his/her parents won't be upset, so the statistics for a particular school look good on paper. You guessed it! This stuff really pisses me off!

Did you know that if a prospective teacher doesn't have an education degree but wishes to take a job in public education and if that teacher took SAT's before 1990 and scored above 1000, then the prospective teacher doesn't have to take the first of the two exams required for state licensure. Since 1990, the SAT test has been revised to accommodate the weaker students graduating high school in the 21st Century. The tougher test of the 20th Century go a long way. Sad. Very sad.

AS for writing...very few college freshmen can write a research paper. Heck, very few can write a cohesive paragraph. They have no understanding of basic grammar because the new pedagogy re-enforces the concept that grammar doesn't have to be taught. Students simply absorb grammar rules via osmosis as they write and read. Read? My experience tells me that they only read what they're forced to read with the exception of instructions on video games.

I'm going into the breach once more, packing up my book bag, searching for things that my students might find interesting, and thinking of presentations that won't cause (as it did on one occasion..honest!) students to stand up and question my right to ask them to read a book. I'm teaching a class called "Literature in context of Culture." So far, 10 students have signed up. If I'm lucky, that's the cut-off number and my class will make. If I'm really lucky, all 10 students will know who Hemingway is and will have read more than the back of a cereal box.

Whew! Glad I got that off my chest!

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