Sex Ed in Higher Ed

College instructor teaching human sexuality rants about the dumbing down of America, the lost art of manners, grammar and (the perfect combination of both) the thank you note. Also includes random rants about life, pet peeves, and sometimes raves about favorite things.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

An Outrage

Every day, I see about 40-50 incoming students' high school G.P.A.s. I see their SAT and/or ACT scores, and of course, I see their transcripts and (last but not least) their DUMASS scores.

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.

Me: Right.

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?

A blonde girl came over to me today for registration. "How are you?" I asked. She sighed and sat down, literally throwing her folder at me! "Oh, I have just the worst schedule ever in the history of the world!" (I'll do another post on 18-year-olds and how they seem to have the manners of a chimpanzee. Although that's not a very nice thing to say about chimpanzees.) I was trying to be patient. "Well, the good news is, a semester only lasts for 15 weeks! You can do anything for 15 weeks, right?" She sniffed.

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.

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Blogger Art Nerd Lauren said...

At my fine institution, they take a lot of students whose first language is not English. And there is really no way they can possibly understand me, given what their essays read like. But you're right, they're walking paychecks. You don't even teach a freshman-level gen-ed requirement, do you? I have, and my Gob, the stress and guilt! Stress because a lot of them haven't quite gotten the fact that they aren't likely to graduate, and guilt because they may be trying, but they're still going to see it as you failing them. It totally sucks, college should be hard to get into, and the admissions office should not go for numbers but for quality. It's sad, college is the new high school.

oh man, I wish I didn't have to do about 5 word verifications for this specific comment!

June 07, 2006 8:29 PM  
Anonymous dear wife said...

That is so true about college being the new high school, yet I heard a stat the other day that said only 30% of Americans have a bachelors degree. I always love the students in zygote daddies classes that fail and get him again the next year as his TA. I mean his class is not that hard. I could do well in it and it is not even my major and I have a learning disability. It just takes some, gasp, studying.

June 07, 2006 9:20 PM  
Blogger Fraulein N said...

While I admit that some of these kids are just walking dollar signs (and the college probably sees them as such), some of them probably just aren't trying. The way you describe them, it's like they expected college to be a vacation or something. Maybe they don't expect that they'll actually have to, you know, work. I blame the parents. And the high schools, really, for letting these kids go off to college with unrealistic expectations.

My first semester of college, I got a shit schedule. I'm not talking about the usual junk freshman are required to take, I'm talking about a horrible, crappy schedule. And I hated it. But I didn't blame the poor woman working in registration. I didn't throw my folder at her. I sucked it up. Is that a lost art?

June 08, 2006 8:12 AM  
Blogger Teacher lady said...

You know, Fraulein, I think it is. If the kid seems at least a little bit open to the idea, I'll try to be a little comedic and say semi-sarcastically, "Welcome to college!! And guess what? You're a freshman again and you know what that means. It means you suck it up and like it." Sometimes they laugh. Sometimes they stare at me like I'm an idiot (and probably go tattle on me to their parents.)

June 08, 2006 8:30 AM  
Blogger Kai said...

The school should be spending that money on a new class registration system! When I went to college and registered for classes we did it all on-line, no human interaction necessary (which is always a plus in my book). I'd definitely miss your stories though!

June 08, 2006 8:43 AM  
Blogger ColoradoCastaway said...

Oh Gob, It is sad to have to say this, the world is so frickin bass ackward anymore. when you described your "institution" in these terms it stuck me as funny that my industry(automotive) is viewed as being such crooks. In actuality I've never worked in a dishonest shop, if we say your car needs it, it does. While Colleges are so.... "high class" they are expensive because of the high quality education and assistance the students recieve. Even I dropped out of college(stupid fool) I was an A-B student, I had no problem with my schedule, just didn't "feel" like going anymore(too much partying to do). That being said, I can't even imagine what it's like for someone who struggles with the curriculum.

June 08, 2006 10:10 AM  
Blogger Sue said...

Ooh, maybe I should have added this little bit into why I won't pay for my kid's college oldest, a HS freshman this year, has a sad 1.86 GPA (last I knew). Honestly, I'm out of ideas on how to get his grades up.

Maybe when he's trying hard to get into this specialized school he has his eye on and they say, "Sorry, but our students must maintain a better GPA in HS" he'll get the point.

Somehow, I honestly see the military in that one's future.

Either that or your school. LOL!

Sorry, I had to say it.

June 08, 2006 10:18 PM  
Blogger Teacher lady said...

That's quite all right. I thought about that yesterday. I did average in high school. I think I graduated with a 3.1. There was no excuse for that - I was completely lazy. I wanted to go to a small, private college and my parents' motivation technique was to say, "We can't afford it - you HAVE to get a scholarship." And that motivated me about two days a school year. But, what about parents whose kids have below a 2.5? Parents used to be able to say, "How do you expect to get into college with those grades?" Now they can't even say that, because the kid can say, "Easy. I'll go to a big state school with an enrollment policy that becomes more "open" as they get closer to the beginning of the new school year."

June 09, 2006 8:42 AM  
Blogger ColoradoCastaway said...

Unfortunately, Business is Business. It doesn't really matter who the customer is. I'll take your money to fix and old beater that should be sent to the junk yard(if you want it fixed) just as I will take your money to fix a 2005 car with low miles. Your school kind of operates the same way I'm afraid. But I suppose the bright side of this is that the students who attend classes and really want to succeed will inevitably benefit from the tuitions paid by the dropouts. At least the attrition helps keep the costs down for those motivated students

June 09, 2006 11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey "Teacher Lady" been reading your blog for sometime, but just hiding peacefully on the sideline. I decided to comment on this particular post as I may have some input. First off I have one daughter 21 years old who decided that high school wasn't for her and didn't matter. So she skated through with a GPA somewhere in the 2.? range. Then when she left and actually had a carreer choice she did quite well her first 2 years of generals at a community college. It odviously paid off she just got accepted into a certified rad tech program at a local VA Hospital and now is on her way into her chosen profession. My other daughter age 16 currently finished her sophemore year of HS with a 4.0 GPA and has been 4.0 since 7th grade. She is enrolled in a PSE (post secondary edu.) and starts taking college courses next fall and I feel she may find it a little overwelming and won't do so well. I hope she can prove me wrong. Sorry for the length of post but my point is I think GPA's through HS can depend alot on kids attitudes as far as where they are headed in life HS can be boring and meaningless if they don't see it helping there careers.

June 09, 2006 2:11 PM  
Blogger Gale said...

oh my gawd! Do you work at Boise State University? amazing similarities. My spouse and I just spent 3 years earing degrees and have come to the same conclusions as you!!

June 11, 2006 4:03 PM  

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