Monday, April 15, 2013

Remedial, 3 steps down...then four?!


 

Basic Mathematics

 

It’s dummy-dummy math.

--this course as described by a student.

 

This course covers perhaps 3rd to 5th grade material, from how to add and subtract whole numbers, to plotting points on the number line. While many of these students may well have serious learning disabilities, I’ve often observed a learned helplessness to these students, as though they’ve been trained to stop all activity as soon as a question is asked. No exercise is too simple, no question anything but insurmountable, and every homework problem I assign must be done in class because, well, no understanding of the material can be taken for granted.

 

Even as I acknowledge that, perhaps, the college is justified in offering this course, I again don’t understand why there are no moral reservations about loaning people money to take it, or interest in directing them to cheaper methods of gaining these rudimentary skills. What’s interesting is disciplinary problems actually drop off here relative to the other remedial courses; while there is some unruliness, it’s not as severe as in the other remedial courses, nor is cell phone use during class nearly as prevalent.

 

I’ve never seen or heard of a student going from this course to anything like a successful college career. With over 90% of “normal” remedial students failing to have a college career, this isn’t surprising.

 

My college is currently in the process of reworking the entire remedial math system, again, based on yet another theory of presentation that, if followed, will supposedly increase retention, so these remedial courses may not even exist at the publishing of this post; they were part of my college for 10 years, however, and many institutions have similar courses.

 

There’s nothing wrong with trying to improve education and learning, but at some point, someone should think that “Gee, this student didn’t learn this in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade. Maybe he doesn’t want to learn this and we shouldn’t loan him money to learn it.” Failing that, admissions should think “Maybe loaning this person money that goes right to us would be taking advantage of someone with a mental disability and it would be not be acting with integrity to do that.” So far, these possibilities have never been raised at any meeting concerning remediation, and administration continues to sell these courses to anyone willing to go into debt to take them.

 

Let’s go over that last issue again: an adult coming to college campus with skills comparable to a 2nd grader should still be treated with integrity, and not exploited. Putting such an adult into a contract of lifelong indebtedness is borderline criminal…and yet many college campuses have this level of remedial course for sale to incoming students, and don’t even blush when asking the student to check a box initiating the loans that lead to a lifetime of debt.
 
As a matter of principle, a college helping students to get financial aid for this course should have their accreditation reconsidered; taking advantage of people like this cannot possibly be acting with integrity. To satisfy the people that really need the help of this course, a college could just simply offer it, for free, as part of their obligation to the local community; I know I’d be more motivated to donate my time to such students if I knew they were there out of a legitimate interest in learning, instead of just for the check.

 

For one semester, we offered an even more basic math (a sub-pre-sub-remedial course, if you will). This course was promoted by admimnistration as “taking out the math they don’t need, like squares and rectangles,” Am I really alone in thinking it odd that administrators with no knowledge or training in a subject nonetheless get to decide what is needed in a subject?
 
Never forget the lesson of all these remedial courses: most colleges have redefined high school as "college courses", and sell to the community the need for the "higher education" even as all they offer is the same stuff the community already exorbitantly paid for in the high schools. This alone is bad, but consider these last few courses. The institution documents that these people have the cognitive skills of an 8 year old...and then signs them up for loans to take courses that administration knows will not lead to any job that would allow the poor suckers to pay off the loan.
Yikes...is this really that much less abhorrent than endorsing pedophilia?