Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Why Remedial Students Should Leave College

By Professor Doom

A new year begins, and that means a new semester begins. As always an avalanche of new students comes onto campus, and is funneled into remedial courses. So, again, I’ll write an essay, hoping against hope that the one pebble I toss will actually affect the avalanche.

Now, I’ve already addressed that remedial students should just leave college. More than that, I’ve said that such students should just read the books and study on their own, rather than pay full college price for sub-college material.

“But that’s not fair to the students that had sucky schools and sucky teachers!” cries those in defense of remedial students. There’s truth to this, but, alas, the current situation isn’t fair, and it won’t be fair any time soon.

 For thousands of years, the primary, best, way for a human being to learn a skill has been to stand next to a knowledgeable human being and pay attention while the knowledgeable demonstrate the skill. Personal attention is the best way to learn something new. It would be fair for those in bad situations to get the best possible choice for education.

The best choice is just not an option in higher education. I wish it were, because when I tutor 1 on 1, I often make real progress with a student (for much less than college tuition, and for more money for myself; it’s a real sign how broken the system is that both student and teacher are better off if there’s no school involved). A distant, but still viable, second to learning from another human being is to learn from a book. I know, it’s hard to learn from a book, but ultimately in higher education, learning from books is how it’s done.

Is it unfair for our weakest students to learn the second-best way? Absolutely.  Nevertheless, this is the only way that makes sense right now. Here are some numbers to reinforce why in higher education today, the best choice for a remedial student is to open up the book on his own time, and study:


This number represents the typical amount of experience your remedial teacher will have, if you go to university. See, administrators have figured out the easy way to increase their own salaries is to cut costs by forcing incoming graduate students to teach these courses. English is often not the first language of new graduate students, and they have little experience teaching the material they haven’t seen in ten years, anyway. You might as well read the book.


This number represents the amount of actual mathematics knowledge your teacher will have, if you go to community college. See, in community college, administrators hire Education majors to teach; even a Math Education major might not have taken a math course since the 10th grade. The only thing these guys know how to do is go very, very, slow, and eliminate as much course material as possible. You won’t be prepared for college courses this way, and if you don’t read the book and learn on your own, you’ll be destroyed when you get to any real college courses.


This is the number of hours you might be forced to spend alone at the computer every week. The most successful program for teaching remedial students makes them go and sit in front of a computer, which tracks how much time the student spends studying like this. To pass the course, the student must spend three hours a week practicing, to the satisfaction of the computer. You’re paying real money to have a computer stare at you while you study? Just read the book, honest, there’s no reason to shovel thousands of bucks into tuition for this.


This is the enrollment for an entry-level mathematics course, one section, at a nearby university. Yes, 200 students in a class. Hey, you can only cut pay so much, past that you double the class size…then double it again…then double it again. If each student requires 5 minutes a week of effort by the teacher, that’s about 16 hours a week. That doesn’t sound bad? Well, faculty teach four courses at a time, and there’s more to it than just answering questions…you may as well read the book on your own time, because there’s just no reason to expect even 5 minutes a week of personal attention.


This is very high end pay that an adjunct might receive for teaching an entry level course. Isn’t it bizarre that tuition skyrockets every year when overhead is so minimal?  An adjunct could literally be in a course with two hundred students, representing a quarter of a million dollars of tuition, and only get a couple thousand bucks for it, no benefits or anything else. In much the way that people should avoid buying products from those brutal Asian clothing mills, a remedial student really should just crack open the book instead of support borderline slave labor.


This is the chance a remedial student will manage to get a 2 year degree, even if he’s allowed 3 years to get it. Sure, it happens, but ultimately the very few who succeed are those that are able to read a book all alone. Why wait 3 years to figure that out? Find out now if you can read a book all by yourself…if you can’t, college isn’t for you.

“…a course whose purpose was to teach teachers how to teach mathematics using teaching kits that made it possible to teach math without actually knowing it. My suggestion that they should teach the prospective teachers math was voted down,…”

Another faculty member trying to slow down what’s going on in education. Seriously, why would anyone pay for this?

For the most part, I’m preaching to the choir with these essays. The bulk of college students are remedial students, and will never come here and read the truth of what’s going on in higher education, will never realize how screwed they are until they’re deep in debt. All they know is what the college administrators tell them—“take our courses and then you’ll get piles of moolah for a magic rainbow job.”

That’s a shame, because the numbers make it very clear that, at the bare minimum, a remedial student would do himself far more good by reading the course textbook on his own time, rather than signing up for stupid expensive oversize classes led by an inexperienced teacher, possibly one with very limited knowledge.