Well, that bill has now passed both houses of the CT legislature. Connecticut is that much closer to one of the most bizarre things I’ve heard of in a while.
What I wanted to focus on today, though, was two quotes from from the most recent news article which I think perfectly set forth the ridiculousness of the discussions on this issue.
Bye, the co-chair of the General Assembly’s Joint Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee, said she came to support to measure after hearing that some students could pass high school classes and be placed in remedial college courses after failing to do well on college placement tests.
Let me ask a hypothetical question. Let’s say you’ve got a bakery. There’s a guy who mixes the dough, a guy who kneads it, and a guy who rolls and cuts it. You notice that the guy who rolls and cuts it is working more slowly than you’d like. So you ask him, “What’s going on?” He looks at you and shrugs. “I try to roll it, but it’s not ready to be rolled. We were getting thin, hard rolls instead of fluffy, scrumptious rolls. So I’m doing a little kneading on each batch before I start rolling.”
In such a hypothetical situation, does it make sense to tell your roller that what he needs to do is stop kneading, and incorporate more kneading into his rolling?
Maybe instead you kick the kneader in the pants and say, “Do your damn job and stop telling him the dough is ready when it’s not.”
Rep. Roberta Willis, D-Lakeville, said students who take remedial courses incur debt and do not have anything to show for it. “At the end of day (these students) are walking out the door without certificate or degree,” she said.
Hmmm. What exactly are you supposed to get for taking and passing a remedial course, other than the knowledge and skills that you’re already supposed to possess?
I get the feeling that the Honorable Roberta Willis doesn’t quite understand what remedial means. It doesn’t mean building new things or making advances. It means fixing problems… getting back to (what should be) the status quo.
If I pay $100 for a hard drive, then I break it, and I pay $50 to get it fixed (laughable, I know), I don’t “get” anything for my $50 that I didn’t have already. I don’t get one-and-a-half hard drives. I just get the one hard drive that I paid $100 for.
When you take remedial classes, you’re not paying to get a degree. You’re paying to remedy your ignorance — ignorance which makes you unprepared for handling college-level coursework.
If we have to give students something in return for their remedial efforts, maybe we could give them a sticker to put on their high school diploma that says something like, “And this is actually worth something now.”
There are two causes for “remedial problems” in college.
The first is admissions offices. Now, to be fair, they often don’t have a choice; some of them have to let anyone and sundry into the school. But at some point, a college admissions office should tell someone “No, you’re just not ready. We can’t take your money.” Would this be economic suicide? Maybe. But if so, then maybe the schools aren’t worth funding.
The second is high school teachers, who water down their courses and commit a sort of academic fraud by giving passing grades in Algebra II to students whose greatest mathematical achievement is a macaroni collage. (I’m being figurative here, though I’m sure if I looked long enough I’d find something close to that level of egregiousness.) I’m not blaming the teachers, mind you. They may have very good reasons for doing what they are doing. They might be under pressure from administrators, or coping with woefully unprepared students who have been passed on by Middle School teachers, or under pressure from parents. But even if the teachers aren’t to blame, they are responsible when a student leaves their classroom without the skills of which the teacher has, by giving a passing grade, certified possession.
Colleges didn’t set up remedial programs because they consulted the Magic 8 Ball and it said, “Make a mango taco, hop on one foot, and set up some remedial classes!” Those classes are there for a reason, and if they are revealing an uncomfortable truth through their operation, well…
I guess shooting the messenger has a long and distinguished pedigree.