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Do remedial classes belong in college?

DAYTON, OH - SEPTEMBER 9:  U.S. Barack Obama (...
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Ah, more fodder for the racists, and as usual, there is plenty to be found at Inside Higher Ed. Recent comments about the preponderance of people of a skin color other than white in the remedial courses have many submitting comments up in arms about whether or not the courses should even be allowed at universities.  Burnt Out Adjunct also comments on this story, and his comments are valuable as well.  But, here is my take:

In an age where the Obama admin has decided to track children by their test scores, I find the arguments against remedial education particularly disturbing. Are we saying that anyone who can take a test can get into college and should be there? Skin color seems to be the dominant topic here, but no one talks about how the tests are culturally biased when children start school. Has anyone who has posted ever viewed an IQ test? Have you ever read or graded any of these so-called standardized tests? I have done both, as well as administering them, and I can tell you the test is not the gold standard. I had students who were solid C’s all the way through graduate faster than the quick but unstable A student, and I don’t even need to mention skin color here. By the same token, I have taught college-level remedial courses, and is everyone out there so stingy as to not allow some people this little bit to get by? I can tell you that watching some of these classes, it takes a truly dedicated individual to pass those courses with some of the “helpful ministrations” of well-meaning but derogatory staff. On the other hand, remedial ed creates jobs for teachers, opportunities for students, and doesn’t affect anyone in tenure. Why are all of you so selfish about it?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. caty permalink
    May 3, 2010 1:10 am

    it should be allowed there’s no reason for it to not be allowed this is America! Give us chances. Give us Freedom! Give us opportunities!

  2. Goaty McCheese permalink
    May 22, 2012 2:52 pm

    I appreciate the validity, in the short term, of the author’s argument. Standardized tests definitely exhibit a cultural bias – in the short term. In the long term, however -and I’m talking about years of standardized testing here- doesn’t the standardized test become part and parcel of the culture? Is that the aim of standardized testing – that important knowledge which is not now universal will become universal through the weight of expectation? Doesn’t that simple fact eliminate cultural bias in the long term? If it does, why should remedial education be needed at the college level in the long term?

    The first couple times you take a standardized test, the test’s cultural biases can throw you. Children whose first language was Spanish may not know, at age 10, that the English word “lemon” denotes a different fruit than that denoted by the similarly sounding Spanish word “limon.” That’s a testing bias problem. By the fourth or fifth time the child takes the test, however, he’s on notice of what the test entails, and he has time to study to it.

    Society educates children so that the children will know stuff. Students in college remedial courses are there because of how they performed in the instant subjects as high school seniors, not because of how they performed as high school freshmen.

    There’s some imaginary line out there at which A’s cultural bias becomes B’s ignorance. Is it entirely crazy to think that that line is crossed prior to college – the final and most voluntary stage of organized education?

  3. May 2, 2013 7:29 am

    Given the current state of grade inflation, and the fact that colleges in general seem to giving out B’s as standard fare, and A’s to people who merely show up and have a pulse without gaining a true grasp of the subject (but are rather gaining a simple grasp of what the professor has spoon-fed them to repeat about the subject), I have to ask, why does everyone seem to think that EVERYONE NEEDS A COLLEGE EDUCATION? Not everyone is going to seek a professional career. The fact that people who are going to seek jobs as, say, managers at Toys R Us after graduation are taking out $40,000-60,000 in loans to get B.A.s in Business seems completely unreasonable to me. It’s also the reason we’re seeing the job market saturated with people who are over-educated for the jobs they end up taking after college. Take for example the restaurant where I waitressed. The average level of education there was a bachelor’s degree. Everyone should have a right to higher education, sure, but not everyone should seek it. If one person busts their ass in high school and manages to learn what they need to in order to write an essay with proper grammar, why should they lose their spot to someone who didn’t, and who is going to require remedial education. Also, given the experiences I’ve had with some people who have attained quite high levels of education, but somehow still don’t seem to know that the 18th century is not, in fact, the 1800s, or that following a checklist of terms used in a paper doesn’t mean that it’s well written, I’m relatively sure that the process of attaining post-graduate degrees is far too easy.

    By all means, if a community college which doesn’t have admissions standards has the means to offer remedial education, I think that it should. But I think that if a college does have admissions standards, it’s unfair to the people who meet them if they admit those who don’t and then provide them with an education which gives them extra benefits for the same price. I think it’s especially unfair that this probably inflates the remedial student’s grades, making the grades of the person who doesn’t get those benefits look inferior to recruiters and graduate programs.

    I’m all for helping the unfortunate, but just because someone comes from a poor background doesn’t mean they’re retarded and deserve tons of extra assistance to learn. My cousin is white and his family has plenty of money, and he’s currently receiving an education at an extremely prestigious school with tons of remedial help (and an almost full ride)- with a better GPA than mine. I come from a single parent household with a mother who works 95 hours a week, I work full time to help pay for my education (which I have had to also take out loans for) and receive no educational help, nor understanding for my schedule from my institution/instructors. In other words, because I’m intelligent enough to function in a classroom without assistance, while my cousin, because he has been diagnosed with a couple of deficits receives tons. Our diplomas, however, will look exactly the same. How is that fair, either?

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