Stephen Lewis: First-year terms and roster, an unlikely comparison | News






Stephen lewis


The warrants insist that we do something that we might prefer not to do. If we wanted to do what the mandate requires, we wouldn’t need the mandate.

During the COVID-19 vaccination controversy, some people are told they have to take a needle in their arm to keep their job, get on a plane, attend an event in person, etc. Unexpectedly, it reminds me of students in my college composition classes long ago who had to demonstrate a minimum level of writing proficiency in order to graduate. If they didn’t want the degree, they were free to ignore the requirement and go on with their lives without it.

These mandates, COVID vaccinations, or college degree requirements are set to promote a common good, such as public health or an educated electorate.

My open admissions community college placed their incoming students into their freshman writing classes based on whether they were prepared for the standard course or needed a developmental version in which they could improve their skills.

Over the years, with a few exceptions, I have much preferred to teach the developmental writing course. This claim probably seems counterintuitive. Wouldn’t it be better to work with students whose initial skills were stronger than those who lacked the right skills?

It would appear to be the case. But it wasn’t because of another variable: motivation to learn. Simply put, those in the development sections knew they needed to improve their writing skills if they were to ever achieve their goal of graduating. On the other hand, many of those placed in the standard course thought their writing was already good enough. They were complacent. They found the writing homework boring, imposed on them by a petty deity who encroached on their time and limited their freedom to do more enjoyable activities.

I don’t want to oversimplify things. Of course, there were people in the development course who were just poor students, not mature enough, or serious enough to be in college. I remember such a student all those years later. One day he left the room after class had started, returning after a while with a can of soda. The next time he did that, I stood in front of the door blocking his entry before letting him in. He learned to sit still, but not much more.

But the generalization of my experience holds. It is more satisfying to work with those who recognize their need to do something to improve themselves than to teach those who feel that since they got this far that they have graduated from high school. and they’ve been accepted into college, they don’t need to put a lot of energy into improving their writing skills.

I came to call them illiterate on purpose to distinguish them from their developmental classmates who recognized that their literacy at this point in their life was insufficient in the face of the challenges they now faced. They came to class, if not happy, at least with a work attitude to improve.

Now, the use of the term “illiterate” is, of course, an exaggeration for effect. They were not illiterate in the precise use of the word.

But the voluntary part is certainly correct.

And maybe these days, once again in effect, if we change the phrase to “willfully ignoring” we could conclude that it applies to some of our fellow citizens who ignore science and refuse to do so. vaccinate, thinking if they hadn’t gotten sick they should be free to ignore the warrant.

Only in this case, it is not about college level literacy.

Their refusal is a dance with death for themselves and their loved ones.


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