[Smt-talk] Stephen's post

art samplaski agsvtp at hotmail.com
Sat Oct 16 13:16:05 PDT 2010

Dear list:
I agree Stephen's notice is absolutely wonderful--if
anything, it could be made even a bit more forceful.:)
As for the general feeling of despair about students'
apparent lack of even minimal training, it is, alas,
_not_ confined to music. When I was teaching at Ithaca
College, in addition to teaching in the music school I
also did a couple of courses in the Math/CompSci Dept.
in the School of Humanities and Sciences. My CS office
the one year was next to a classroom, and during my
office hours I could hear a class being conducted... on
basic fractions and other 5th-grade math!!! At the time,
as I understand it, IC had some placement tests given
to incoming freshmen. One of them was for math, and if
I remember correctly, there were four possible scores--
the lowest of which meant one was required to enroll in
such remedial course. I do not know what the situation
is like there now, but this was the case nine years ago.
To be "brutally honest," as an ex-student development
friend liked to say, people who cannot display mastery
of upper elementary/junior secondary school materials--
of whatever subject--have no business whatsoever being
at a college. (And I include one of my favorite music
students, one of the most pleasant students I had, who
was in another section of said course.) At least in the
U.S. (I hope the situation is better elsewhere!!) we
are now reaping the results of failing to fail children
who don't learn at the K-12 levels. As a result, colleges
are expected to fix the problem. In my opinion, the only
way to rectify this is for an institution-wide policy to
be declared, that the school will simply not admit anyone
needing remedial work, regardless of whose kid they are.
(Corollary: push to fix things down in K-12, and recognize
it's going to take 20 years minimum to fix, with increasing
emphasis on 2-year schools to take up the remedial load
temporarily--hey, it'd be openings for all of us who can't
get gigs at 4-year schools...)
And as for the inevitable screams of "Enrollment would
plummet!" from the bean-counters, a friend who does
crafts told a very interesting thing about the market:
she had tried to price her baskets at what she thought
was a reasonable amount given her level of expertise,
but found that people weren't buying--people automatically
equated "higher price = better quality," and when she
upped the prices her sales went up. How we need to pitch
the equivalent of this to the bean counters is, 1) we
won't waste operational capital (salaries, utilities,
etc.) on remedial courses but instead will be able to
offer (actual college) courses that will attract a higher
caliber of students; and 2) once word starts getting
around that "College X has _really_ high standards yet
is waaaay cheaper than [insert example of really-high-
priced-school here]," students and parents will begin
thinking, there's a real bargain education to be had
ere, and good students will start competing to go to
your school.
Just my twenty sesterces' worth.
Art Samplaski
Ithaca, NY 		 	   		  

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