Numbers, numbers, numbers. The sweatshop manner of profits has tainted all aspects of American industries, including schools (where it always had an affinity (as per Gradgrind in HARD TIMES, a novel, which, if I remember correctly, the children run away with the circus). Public schools always had the numbers aspect imbedded in them--larger student to teacher ratio, factory preset times, less attention to individual student interest with greater attention to the needs of local industries. When American capitalism required adults to have neat handwriting, good spelling, and basic knowledge of ciphering (bookkeeping, clerical, receptionists), public schools complied with strict supervision of handwriting techniques, rote memorization, adequate literacy, and basic mathematics. All that is swept away now--to succeed in a capitalistic world, you need to be a fast keyboarder. The computer can do basic mathematics and correct spelling. Students have to work and attend school at younger ages and for greater hours, so homework as practice is not taken seriously. As opposed to the days of my grandfather, who had to leave school after 8th grade to help support his family. As opposed to Charlie Chaplin and George Burns, who left school after a few years of elementary education. Child labor is not new. What is new is pretending it is some separate class of work experience that is not competing with their formal education. What is new is creating a class of work experience separate from that of the elite students, who work for very little but call it "internship." What further widens the gulf between classes is many public students do not have access to WIFI out of their classrooms, so they cannot do their homework. These students are double troubled: they do not learn basic literacy skills or basic technical skills.
But I digress. It is not just the great numbers in the public schools who are inadequately equipped both in and out of the schools to thrive in society. It is the greater numbers in terms of scores that schools must produce in order to meet their overseers demands. Test scores are routinely faked. Graduation numbers are massaged. Incident reports are not. Truly, we see that there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. And these lies go all through the education system, including universities.
How the universities stack up can be gauged on the University Scorecard. Unfortunately, these web site has not been updated since the Obama administration. This scorecard assesses universities, both public and private, on graduation rates, income earned after taking a degree, etc.
Students enter college because they think it will help them earn a good living at a more satisfying job in the long run. They want to believe they will be in a better position with a degree, loans and all, than if they delayed that education.
From this, let us examine NYC's two year colleges. First of all the scorecard only reports the THREE YEAR GRADUATION rates. From here, we see it is abysmal. After three years, less than 20% of all who enter graduated.
Ah, you say--but most who enter two year colleges plan on getting their bachelors. And if you graduate the two year college, you are automatically granted access to a four year public college. So what if it took an extra year to graduate. What doth that matter--we are looking at the long run.
Well, here we have what is termed, "the leaky pipeline" by the four year colleges, and what I prefer to term the "gushing broken water main." While you can graduate with a C average and get access, that doesn't mean your credits will transfer. Many who graduate community colleges will lose all their credits and have to start anew with building credits. Grades of C are not credited. Courses where students received B or better may not transfer in the student's chosen major.
So, the dispiriting, demoralizing brutal facts of transfer credits are a source of new student despair. Yoke that with the fact that the community college graduate is now swimming with more elite fish--fish who graduated from the elite public high schools, fish who are Empire Scholars, fish who have already spent time in that school and have cultivated relationships with professors. Fish who are accustomed to the larger class sizes in the four year college and are inured to it.
So,transfer credits and loss of social status are added to the gushing water main. But what, there's more.
Community colleges are mainly staffed by adjuncts. Some statistics say that over 70% of the two year college staff are adjuncts. Despite having a supermajority, adjuncts are terrified. They have no status, no rights. They will probably not be rehired unless their student evaluations are high. So, they help students cheat on exams. Some adjuncts, instead of referring students to the Office of Disabilities, read the exam to the student, including potential answers. Since adjuncts are not skilled readers, they may like Clever Hans, or the facilitated reader, inadvertantly convey the answer to the student. Other adjuncts let students make up the exam with little to no oversight. Project deadlines are not deadlines--students can hand in their projects any time they want. And this is not enough for some students--they bully their adjunct lecturers and threaten them. Not subtly either. While they are positively reinforced for such at the community college level, the fact is this will not work on the senior college level. Students are not even learning how to learn in a community college. They will enter into the more challenger, fast paced, atmosphere of the four year college and leave quite quickly. Usually with student loan debts. Having learned little academically or socially about survival in the professional world. But that's okay for a four year college. They keep that semester or year tuition. They made money and didn't have to even commit time to the student, because the student didn't commit to them. Tuition is like a new car. Once you step into the driver's seat (classroom) the investment (tuition) lost value. But with college, you lose value quicker. After the second class is over, you frequently have lost the whole semester's tuition (which may be in the form of a payback loan. Everyone has made money off the hapless "student." Everyone has won--the student got to try college, the college made money, a class got filled, the bank collect the interest.
Here's what the community college doesn't want to inform you on their glossy brochures--less than 20% graduate. Less that will obtain a bachelor's degree in a reasonable time. Most students who attempt to get a degree will be in worse financial shape afterwards.
If you are an adjunct at one of these colleges and are reading this, please contact me and share your experiences. If you have found that your experiences were satisfying and you felt well remunerated, if what you read here is shocking, I will be happy to revise this. If you are an adjunct who is willing to tell me what I know for a fact about adjunct offered cheating rings is only the tip of the iceberg, please let me know.
This is what Gradgrind's sweatshop capitalism has offered us. A multi-tiered educational approach, where you can have a bachelor's degree and employers telling you, "A bachelor's from that school doesn't count with me." But you will still have to pay off your student loans. And the circus has disbanded. Still, we have Starbucks.