Two professors of different backgrounds, Mike Rose of California, and Gerald Graff, of Illinois, discuss the problems college students face today in America. Though similar in slight variations, both professors view the problem in different regards and prepare solutions that solve what they feel to be the heart of this academic problem.
Mike Rose, author of The Politics of Remediation, explains that “linguistic exclusion” is the barrier that prevents many new college students from excelling in the academics at any given university. Gerald Graff, on the other hand, feels that the problem comes from the lack of communication between professors, and that many of the times the students are taught the same concepts but through opposite understandings and in a bias fashion.
Mike Rose met many struggling students at UCLA’s Tutorial Center, the Writing Research Project, and the school’s Summer program. He first describes the loneliness students feel upon arriving at college, and that as they try to find themselves, they all to often lose themselves because they are bombarded with ideas that are so foreign to them. He introduces his audiences to Andrea, a bright young girl out of high school who, despite hours of memorizing in her textbook, could not obtain a passing grade on her Chemistry mid-term. How is this possible if she spent so much time studding? Rose explains that she failed because in college, and in this course in particular, it is not enough for a student to know the material, but rather, to be able to apply it in a various amount of problems. Yet the problem Andrea faces is that she was never taught this in high school.
Rose writes of other students he tried to help as they sat in front of him with eyes that were both sad and confused. From young, jocks, to a twenty-eight year old mother, and an insecure girl that was so afraid to use her own ideas, she turns to plagiarism. Rose explains this situation in great detail, “Students were coming to college with limited exposure to certain kinds of writing and reading and with conceptions and beliefs that were dissonant with those in the lower-division curriculum they encountered.”
Rose places great blame on the professors who assume that these students are culturally prepared to address, and analyze, ideas and concepts that they have never even heard of before.Students, who come from different cultures and backgrounds, are not prepared (especially on their own) to give up everything that have spent the past eight-teen years believing in, in order to write the prefect college essay. Rose calls upon the professors of these new students to stop “simply” criticizing these students work, and instead, help them through analyzing their paper and (even if by step by step guidance) explain the concept of which is being discussed. “Error marks the place where education begins.”
Gerald Graff, author of Other Voices, Other Rooms, also blames the professors. However, unlike Rose, he does not mention the personal identities of the students and the struggles they experience as the try to embrace this new life style. Instead, he feels that the problem is due solely to the lack of communication between the professors, and therefore creates a much larger problem: “cognitive dissonance.” Because the professors do not consult each other, students may spend one class period learning the evils of communism, while in their very next class the professor phrases it. The students, Graff writes, therefore care more about appeasing the professor, changing their opinion depending on that certain professor’s beliefs, in order to obtain one thing, good grades. Yet, since these students care more about their grades and future careers, they lose the essence of the concepts and convictions which are being presented before them. Most of the time, the students cannot even see this. “What is learned seems so specific to a particular course that it is difficult for students to see its application beyond.” In another instance, in two separate courses the same ideas may be discussed, yet because professors use different terminology, the students do not connect that the ideas they are learning in these two separate classrooms are actually one in the same.
The students, for the most part, focus on the individual professor than the greater picture of the actual course. After the final exam of a course, the students immediately try to clear their mind in order to prepare for the philosophy of the next professor, than preparing to embrace the actually philosophy which is to be discussed. This is the tragedy that Graff discuss’ in his essay. In order to clarify his vision of incorrect schooling, he uses the analogy of teaching a student the game of baseball, in the same approach that they are taught different concepts. “It is as if you were trying to learn the game of baseball by being shown a series of rooms in which you see each component of the game separately: pitchers going through their windups in one room; hitters swinging their bats in the next; then infielders, outfielders, umpires, fans, field announcers, ticket scalpers, broadcasters, hot dog vendors, and so on.” He goes on to explain that since the students view the concept of baseball in such a manner, one will never be able to achieve an accurate understanding of the game and how it is actually played.
Mike Rose and Gerald Graff both feel that the concepts of the academics are presenting incorrectly to most college students. Rose feels that the only students who are prepared for the intense assumptions placed upon them by professors are those few students who come from elite and intense lower level schooling. However, because of society’s “economic and political” priorities, the public education can in no way prepare all students for what is expected of them in college. A student who received straight A’s in high school is not common to receive failing grades because they use the same writing methods that they used in high school. In order to create a solution to this great problem, Rose suggests that “more opportunities to develop the writing strategies that are an intimate part of academic inquiry…” be provided, as well as “more opportunities to write about what they are learning and guidance in the techniques and convictions of that writing.” Gerald Graff, of course, who believes the root of the problem is due to “cognitive dissonance” and not “linguistic exclusion” has his own separate list of solutions.
However they may differ in how students become lost in academic language, they both see a vivid problem in the present college system. Both professors see that these young college are having a very hard time understanding many ideas presented before them, and both writers are similar in that they feel the change most come from the present academic system, rather than the students themselves.