April 2008 Archives

Blissful Ignorence?

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"Ignorence in the United States is not just bliss, it's widespread."  So says Bob Herbert in a New York Times editorial this week.  While his story focuses mostly on the problems of secondary schools, I'm convinced that those problems become higher ed's problems as well.  If 1/3 of high school students graduate unprepared for postsecondary work (another 1/3 don't graduate high school at all, and another lucky 1/3 graduate prepared) .. .  let's see, that means half of high school graduates are unprepared for college.  Yet according to the Education Trust, 70% of high school graduates do attend college within 2 years of graduating high school. 

Many of these folks struggle with the reading requirements of college; 1/4 of first-year students at 4-year colleges don't stay for their second year.  As Dr. Michael Kirst puts it, "College enrollment [is] soaring but completion is not." 

While we're waiting for the K-12 system to heal itself, what can we in higher ed do to help those struggling students improve their skills and reach for the better life promised by high literacy levels and a college degree?

College faculty tend to complain that this generation of students is less prepared for college than students used to be.  It's the old "kids these days" argument.  However, complaints about underprepared students date back to the 1700s and 1800s.  Schools like Harvard, Cornell, and Yale struggled to balance high academic standards with a need for students, and several formed "preparatory" departments to bring underprepared students up to college level.  Pressure for increased access to higher education continued throughout the 19th and 20th century, and universities continued to struggle with high standards versus open access. 

And we always think that our own preparation was the proper type, and that later generations' preparation is lacking.  Hmmm . . . I'm detecting more nostalgia than logic.  At the same time, there IS a study by the National Endowment of the Arts suggesting that reading comprehension and general literacy are in a state of decline.  Not sure what I think at this point . . .

Naming a Reading Blog

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I intend for this blog to be about the topic of reading--primarily developmental reading at the postsecondary level.  In it, I hope to review scholarship on the topic, scan community college blogs and journals, and record classroom experiments.  But what's a cool title for a reading blog?  My esteemed colleagues have already taken some of the great names: Dr. Michael Arnzen created Pedablogue, and Dr. Dennis Jerz has Jerz's literacy weblog.  Is it better to do something cute, like Reading is FUNdamental (which is also taken) or just go with simple and descriptive, like "Developmental Reading" or "Postsecondary Reading"? 

I'd like to check out other developmental reading blogs to get ideas, but I can't find any . . . shocking in light of the fact that approximately 87,000 new web pages have been created while I've been composing this entry (see Reeves library's cool video on information literacy for more information on this topic). 


I never thought I'd blog, but my colleague Dennis Jerz has finally converted me.  Why keep a private reading journal these days when, with a little help from my friends, I can post a record online? 

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