Unprepared for College   Leave a comment

I have been involved in postsecondary education professionally since 2004, with a hiatus during parts of 2005 and 2006.  My years of experience have led me to conclude that many of my pupils have been unprepared for college.  In fact, if their college-level work is a reliable indicator, they were also unprepared for high school.  That they graduated disappoints me yet does not surprise me.  For a month in 2010 I rated essays from the high school graduation test for the State of Georgia.  During those weeks I became discouraged regarding the state’s standards for acceptable writing, for I received negative feedback for being allegedly too strict.  Those in charge of the rating process did not want me to continue to work for them.

Four main areas of deficiencies alarm me.  The first is historical knowledge, for I teach history courses, usually focusing on the United States.  Many of my pupils have entered my courses poorly informed regarding the past, especially that of the United States, almost always their native land.  They have, therefore, been at a disadvantage in a survey course about U.S. history, a subject they have studied in elementary, middle, and high schools.  Their knowledge of global history, a subject related to U.S. history, has frequently been worse.  I wonder how one can possibly understand current events properly without a grasp of germane and preceding events eludes me.

The second alarming area of deficiency is writing.  Each semester I provide a document I call the Course Manual.  It is 16 pages long, including the title page.  That document includes two pages of advice I should not have to offer to college students.  This counsel includes the importance of using paragraphs, of not confusing possessive and singular possessive forms of words, of knowing the difference between “it’s” and “its,” and of forming the plural version of a word ending in -ist by adding an “s.”  Regardless of how often I inform certain students that “colonist” is never plural, some pupils continue to use it as if it is.  Written literacy is essential, is it not?

Gaps in the vocabularies of some students also bother me.  They are especially inexcusable when the pupils in question have grown up in the United States.  I have had to define terms such as “tyranny,” “mob rule,” “treason,” and “traitor.”  How can one expect to function effectively as an adult without a proper vocabulary?

The inability or unwillingness of many students to obey deadlines and manage their time effectively also disturbs me.  During each course I assign three essays per student.  Every pupil has just over a month to write 8-10 pages based on one of three or four prompts.  I also assign a book report, which comes due late in the semester.  I announce the deadline at the beginning of the course.  Nevertheless, some students submit assignments they have obviously written hastily and edited poorly.  Others submit no paper at all.

To be fair, I have also taught many excellent students and skilled stylists of the English language.  I have concluded that no racial, ethnic, generational, and gender categories predict whether one will be an excellent student and writer.  If I were to leave these points unstated in this post, I would leave an inaccurate impression.

Nevertheless, I perceive that the problems of which I have written have become worse.  They have certainly become more frequent and prominent among students I have taught.  Professors of English composition have my sympathy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

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Posted March 12, 2016 by neatnik2009 in Various Memories and Opinions

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