Contra Mozilla

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Remedial Classes and General Education Requirements

My personal rule of thumb, for what little it is worth, is that if the course is being offered and taught at a level that a 9th or 10th grade high school student could pass the exams based only on what he has learned in his high school classes, it shouldn't count towards a degree. This is not to say that it cannot still be required as a remedial class*, because there are plenty of students who set foot in the general level classes (general physics with algebra, pre-calculus, introductory computer science, history of western civilization, introduction to philosophy, etc) without the requisite skill set to succeed in those classes. The school system has largely failed these students--and quite probably their peers--which is a topic for another day. This is something which I have observed having taught in universities in three different states.

The frank solution is to require that all students take (for example) an Algebra-based physics class or a pre-calculus Algebra and trigonometry class--with physical science and lower algebra classes being remedial pre-reqs for those who aren't ready yet for the general physics and pre-calculus math courses. If a student hasn't been properly prepared for college when he arrives on campus, then he should ultimately expect to require some remedial coursework, even if this requires that he take an extra year (or summer) to complete his degree.

He can always opt out of the remedial coursework (or take it at a community college), but in so doing he also loses the right to complain about feeling like he is behind other students in his class. "But I came from Alabama/Mississippi/Arkansas/Inner City New York/rural Oregon, cut me a break." In that case, the remedial courses really may be meant for you. That really is the break which we can cut--lowering our standards only cheapens the value of the degree, and not only for you but for everyone else at your university. That's no less true when everyone else is doing it, too.

*Full disclosure, my salary ultimately depends on my having to teach some of these remedial classes.

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