Jack Miller sees a “wide” but not a “rich” diversity in his remedial writing students at a Minnesota community college. Though they come from different backgrounds, most “have little understanding of grammar . . . and see it as a set of arbitrary ‘rules’ concocted by sadistic pedants harboring grudges against the young.”
Punctuation is an equally baffling and dangerous area. There exists little understanding of it as a set of signals that facilitate the reader’s comprehension. “The author talk’s about the problem’s found in the goverment, he also asks the goverment to do what they say?”
His students don’t know how to research a topic, quote a source or credit that source. They are uncertain about what constitutes plagiarism.
. . . finally there is the oft-noted paucity of a body of shared knowledge, thereby inhibiting what assumptions a writer can make about a reader. More than ever before, students live in an intellectual world of their own, a personal world where every individual’s baseline is likely to be different from that of most others and coincides with few.
That’s “coupled with extremely spotty historical knowledge.”
About 20 percent don’t know how to behave in a classroom, he writes.
They don’t know when or how to take notes. They perennially miss due dates, drift in late, drift out during the break not to return. They sabotage themselves and then seem to expect forgiveness and accommodation from their professors. Someone showing up one day after having been missing for five or six weeks, only vaguely recognized by the professor, will assume that a way can and will be found to bring him up to speed and on track with the rest of the class. Is all this the result of repeatedly being forgiven in the past? I think so.
While some older students are anxious, most students are overconfident, despite their placement in a remedial class. They blame their problems on causes outside their control, encouraged by the college’s support system.
About one third of students who take English are required to take the remedial course, Miller writes.
Via Carpe Diem.