Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What should colleges teach

There is a fascinating story in the NY Times late online edition from last evening.

Stanley Fish, a professor of law at Florida International University and a few other select fine institutions writes an amazing piece about core competencies taught in colleges, or not being taught, with particular emphasis on the lack of college writing being taught - as in - not enough or no grammar, rather the syllabus is watered down and students will learn anything from ideas about movies, novels, to having hot-button topic discussions and the like.

I am returning to school after an 11 year hiatus - I feel like a novice and certainly like a freshman. My bags are all packed with the requisite books and pens, including a shiny new highlighter and a book on grammar which I received at orientation last week - a book on grammer. Me the linguist, the trilingual speaker gets to have her very own book on grammar. No more stumbling around in the dark, struggling for sentence structure, verbs, adverbs, adjectives etc. I wil have at my fingertips a book that will help me to become a better writer.

I had originally intended to attend a college much closer to my home. On reflection and after checking into the courses, I decided to pursue an accelerated degree specifically tailored for working adults. While I work only part time, due to the economy and a debilitating disability (at times), I know that the demands on my schedule will be extraordinary - some 10-20 hours of homework and study time required a week as well as one night a week in class.

The core competencies are strongly emphasized at Concordia College in Bronxville, NY and I know that in the program I have found a perfect fit for both my personality and a path to place me on track to have completed my Master's in Public Administration or Social Work by the time I am 50.

I am a published writer and have been writing for years. Indeed, the last college course I took, my professor wanted me to enroll in the honors program, she was so impressed with my work. I had other commitments and declined at the time. Would that I had chosen otherwise. When I received my class schedule last week, I was surprised to see that I would be expected to take an Introduction to College Writing course. After attending the orientation, I immediately understood why. I needed the introduction course for a foundation to be able to write better papers during my college years - I have a fairly decent start, but one can always use all the help one can get - in this case - Introduction to College Writing - I have already started reading the text book and am salivating at the conversations we will have in class about grammar and syntax and the like.

Colleges are institutions for higher learning and thinking - critical thinking. They should truly be about the business of causing their students to reach down deep and engage in thinking that they never would have imagined prior to matriculating.

I have chosen well and am ready for my new journey. I might even finish that autobiography.

Concordia, here I come!

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