I graduated from a low-income inner-city East Los Angeles high school. So when I started university that fall, my heart was filled with trepidation. I worried whether or not I could rally up the requisite intellect to pass academic muster with what I presumed would be scholastically better-prepared peers from more prosperous neighborhoods.
My apprehension lasted one semester. My presumption was wrong. Admission to college doesn’t make you smart. Indeed, I unfortunately met enough freshman classmates to disabuse me of that notion. I also met students who were interested only in marking time in a way station between high school and responsible adulthood.
So it’s hardly surprising that a new book by an anonymous adjunct professor, ‘In the Basement of the Ivory Tower’ by Professor X, resounded with me since it undermines the universally accepted idea, i.e., that college is for everyone.
In an earlier essay, Professor X, decried this notion, one he termed a “destructive myth.” Writing “In the Basement of the Ivory Tower” – Magazine – The Atlantic, Professor X admitted it would be “churlish” and “classist” to deny that American ideal. Besides, academia, government, industry and parents are all in favor of it.
But what the professor most laments is that as an adjunct teaching English Composition at a not-quite prime time northeastern college, he has to be the bad guy, the one “who ultimately delivers the news to those unfit for college: that they lack the most-basic skills and have no sense of the volume of work required; that they are in some cases barely literate; that they are so bereft of schemata, so dispossessed of contexts in which to place newly acquired knowledge, that every bit of information simply raises more questions. They are not ready for high school, some of them, much less for college. I am the man who has to lower the hammer. “
Of Professor X’s book, Caleb Crain writes in his book review,“Lost in the Meritocracy,” in the New York Times, that “A recent study of about 3,000 graduates of Boston public high schools found that although two-thirds went on to college, only 675 had earned a degree of any kind, including a one-year certificate, seven years later.” This alone suggests not everyone let into a college or university should be there.
Still, an even more scathing punctuation comes from Watch Newspapers commentator Rob Schultheis who singles out college students as unthinking, non-writing, non-reading exemplars of “the incredible mental laziness of the American Public.” Or so he says in-between berating Birthers, Tea Partiers, and Climate Change unbelievers in his funny, angry, uncomfortably over-the-top rant against ignorance in “We Have Met the Enemy, and It Is Us.”
As a matter of fact, a recent Harvard study concluded, “that if the U.S. is going to make dramatic progress in reclaiming its historic leadership position in post-secondary attainment, it is going to have to focus much more attention and resources on programs and pathways that do not require a bachelor’s degree . . . but instead, ‘a post high school credential for all.'” See “Study says college isn’t for everyone“ and access here the study, “Pathways to Prosperity.”