Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Still a bad back day, but thinking about the CSU cuts ...

I'm still trying to get my wonky back under some semblance of control today ...

There has been a couple of articles in the SF paper about the California State University (CSU) system having its budget cut again, and how the Board of Regents is considering raising admission standards. I have no problem with tightening admission standards because far too many students are utterly unprepared for higher education.

Before you go off on me and say "well things have changed since you went to college," know this. I went back to college to complete a bachelors degree in my 40s. I earned an associates degree in my mid-20s that allowed me to write the state nursing board exam and work as a registered nurse until I blew out my back in 1989. Once my back problem was relatively stable, I enrolled at San Jose State University in the hope that I could obtain a degree and seek gainful employment despite my disability (so much for education equalling employment in my case!). I found myself surrounded by students who were in no way prepared for the rigors of college—the nightly reading and digestion of material, a weekly paper in each class (usually at least 500 words) and the ability to contribute a coherent thought in class. 

I know people who are so academically-challenged that they should have been encouraged to seek a vocational education of some sort, be it construction technology or early childhood education. I do believe everyone has a right to at least learn a trade, and because high schools have suffered backbreaking cuts to vocational programs like wood shop or construction, auto body and engine repair, secretarial or nurses aide classes, that responsibility falls on community colleges or for-profit trade schools. Not everyone is cut out for the challenges of college, but that certainly doesn't make a person seeking a vocational education a stupid person. Far from it, many are quite gifted in their choice of careers. I can barely check the oil in my car, and I am amazed by anyone who can take an engine apart and then fix whatever is wrong, put it back together, and make it run even better than before!

Unfortunately community colleges are busy remediating students who somehow got through high school unable to write a sentence or balance a checkbook. And this isn't just minority students—I am taking a graphic design class and the young white man who sits next to me, who is a whiz at anything on the computer, can't write a paragraph let alone a sentence. And he's looking to transfer to nearby SJSU. He's a perfect example of someone who should be earning a vocational degree in graphic design—and then let him seek work in that area. He's clever and gifted, but if and when he gets to SJSU, he is going to be very frustrated with the amount of writing he will have to do. Wasted resources.

I also know of a gravely learning disabled young woman who was the perfect candidate for a vocational certificate in early childhood education. She loves working with kids, period. Instead, she was babied throughout a community college career with the help of a disability resource center who found tutors who did pretty much everything for her. This young woman has NEVER, on her own, turned in an assignment on time. She transferred to a CSU where she has failed her senior capstone project twice. She's working on it for the third time, and if by some miracle she pulls it off, she's off to a year at a teacher's college, and then of course needs to pass her CBEST. She wants to be a primary or elementary school teacher.

Her education was paid for by grants and loans. Right now she is trying to figure out a way to not have to pay back the student loans. She has been in college for 7 years as a full-time student. 

Should the CSU system decide to raise admission standards and more honestly assess a student's readiness for college, it is a win-win situation for all past and future CSU grads. Right now a CSU degree means nothing, the quality of graduates is all over the board. Better to know that the cream of the crop attended college and that your degree is actually something meaningful rather than a piece of paper that says you took a bunch of classes in a certain area of study ...

Now back to the floor I go, with an ice pack strapped to my lower back. 

P.S. Thank you veterans. Can't say it enough. 


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