Last night, I had a serious career crisis (these two things are related, I promise). Mr. J. and I spent nearly 2 hours in my office with me crying and fretting and pulling out my hair in handfuls and him listening empathetically and saying wise and true things. To summarize the two hour conversation:
Me: I always thought, since I was at least 21, that someday, eventually, I would be a college professor. I just felt like no matter what job I had or what I was doing, that's where I would end up. And now that I'm teaching college? It's . . . um,
Mr. J: It's like you're teaching high school.
Me: Yes! Exactly!
Mr. J.: And if you wanted to be teaching high school, you'd be teaching high school.
Mr. J.: You're really disappointed that your nearly life-long dream is not anything like you thought it would be.
Me: You said it, mister!
And then I blubbered some more, and called my mom (a recently retired teacher) and yammered on about nothing in particular and then I took Minnie for a walk and went to bed and vowed to start tomorrow with a new attitude and fresh eyes.
And then today I met an incoming freshman with a high school G.P.A. of: (wait for it, people) 1.93. That's right. You did not suddenly develop dyslexia. That would be a 1.93. I knew this school was D-list, but I had no idea how D-list until I saw this today.
But you know what the outrage is? The outrage is not about the dumbing down of America, and how a college degree really means nothing and most of them aren't worth the paper they're printed on and blah, blah, blah (okay, maybe it is, but not just this minute). The outrage is that higher education is a business. It's a big, lucrative business. And the particular corporation for which I work is willing to take money - thousands of dollars - for a semester or two, until this student realizes that he is probably in no way prepared for college. And he will exit, his "Thanks for playing" letter in hand, completely dumbfounded, probably $10,000 (or more) in debt, wondering what the hell happened. And the giant paper sucking machine that is the admissions office will keep swallowing students, taking their money, sending them through the freshman paces, all the while knowing that these kids can't or won't cut it - even in a D-list college environment.
Maybe you're thinking, "Oh, Teacher Lady, you don't know everything! People screw up. College is for second chances. You never know! Maybe he's the next Einstein." And that's possible. But I also have access (as do students and their parents) to the school's retention records. And they're not great. In fact, they're less than great. Something like 70% of freshman students return for their sophomore year. That doesn't sound really sucky, but when you consider that the SIX YEAR GRADUATION rate is 45%, that means something is wrong. There is a big elephant in the room, and ain't nobody talkin' 'bout it.
But that's okay. Because we're still getting enough money to build shiny new residence halls with lightning speed internet access and cable and so who the hell cares what happens to these losers anyway?
We proceeded to register her. Something happened with her math. She got tears in her eyes. She said, "God! Why can't I just have a NORMAL math class, just like everybody else?" I was confused. She wasn't in this math class alone. In fact, the majority of the incoming freshmen I have seen have tested into remedial math, which we politely call "Fun with Numbers 101." I asked her what she meant by "normal." "You know," she said, "Something that meets like Tuesday and Thursday nights. Not every day!" Sigh. Damned if you do, and all that.
I couldn't get her in the math class she wanted. She brushed away more tears and she said, "This school thing is SO not for me."
Here's my question: Why is she here? I looked at her G.P.A. - not great: 2.23. And I can guess what's going to happen. The university is going to take her (or her parents') money for a few semesters and she will get bored and drop out. Or flunk out. Or, because I'm making horrible assumptions based on her appearance and her grades, get a disease and/or get pregnant. And never be seen or heard from again, but my building has a new parking lot.