Sunday, August 31, 2008

Last Resort Education

A very touching article by an instructor who teaches at a college of last resort. He is at the basement of the ivory tower feeling pain and considering the merits of making college education available universally. To wit, he says :

The colleges and the students and I are bobbing up and down in a great wave of societal forces—social optimism on a large scale, the sense of college as both a universal right and a need, financial necessity on the part of the colleges and the students alike, the desire to maintain high academic standards while admitting marginal students—that have coalesced into a mini-tsunami of difficulty.

Continuing education especially for those who have been in the workforce for a long time without a college education and now looking to remedy a historical omission must be a terribly difficult thing. The author cites the example of Mrs. L who has no idea what a hyper-link is what it can to do help her. "She was preserved in the amber of 1990, struggling with the basic syntax of the World Wide Web."

Clearly, one such as Mrs. L does not belong with the SMS, Twitter and Facebook happy bunch. Such a pairing is about as useful is hitching an ox-cart to power a Bugati. Everyone in the arrangement feels the pain. Professor X concludes his case most eloquently :

They’ve all seen The Wizard of Oz. Some have caught it multiple times. So we work with the old warhorse of a quest narrative. The farmhands’ early conversation illustrates foreshadowing. The witch melts at the climax. Theme? Hands fly up. Everybody knows that one—perhaps all too well. Dorothy learns that she can do anything she puts her mind to and that all the tools she needs to succeed are already within her. I skip the denouement: the intellectually ambitious scarecrow proudly mangles the Pythagorean theorem and is awarded a questionable diploma in a dreamland far removed from reality. That’s art holding up a mirror all too closely to our own poignant scholarly endeavors.

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