One enormous challenge for community college instructors is that many students arrive with the notion that a college education is essential, but remain unconvinced that what they will learn during the course of their studies is equally so. To create a world of young people skilled at analysis you first need to create a world of young people receptive to complexity, and many of Dr. Vianna’s students, he said, “cringe at complexity.”It is actually quite difficult to teach anybody something complex, and for people who don't see the point it is all but impossible, yet to do this we assign people with absolutely no training for the task. Nor is it really clear what we actually want to teach these students; words like "complexity" and "analysis" are made to do a lot of work here, as if "the analysis of complex real-world situations" were a recognized field of study with clearly defined benchmarks. We know, or think we know, that the economy demands workers with more education and more skills, so we set up community colleges to impart these things. And this is a noble and important goal. But in fact only a minority of students who enter community colleges ever get a degree or a certificate, and how much they actually learn during their year or two hanging around the campus is an open question.
“There’s a mistrust and antagonism between teachers and students because authority hasn’t traditionally been good to them,” he said. “Their experiences in the education system have been coercive. It’s not really clear to them what the value of academic knowledge actually is. If they come here with the goal of doing something very specific — to become a stewardess, or a makeup artist — they may think, ‘What’s the point?’ ”
Monday, December 22, 2014
Teaching in a Community College
Ginia Bellafante has an interesting article in the Times on community college, focusing on one professor at a college in Queens. As she says, community colleges are where some of the biggest problems in our educational system crash into each other. The professors have been through graduate school in their academic disciplines, most of them receiving exactly zero instruction in how to teach; they now confront students without the basic skills their professors take for granted and seriously in need of motivation and proper instruction: