Friday, June 05, 2009

A Modest Proposal for UDC and Coppin State

I have close friends and colleagues who teach at both. They devote their time, craft, sweat and intellect. Sometimes the reward is that flush you feel when a student "gets it." Sometimes it's a paycheck. It's like that with education, both "higher ed" and teaching kiddies in this brutal economy. We've all heard bad news about Coppin State University in B-mo-Careful (now no. 2 to Detroit in murders, but Charm City will rock 'em next time--after all it had The Wire...Detroit only had Axel Foley and Kwame Kilpatrick!) and the University of the District of Columbia.
The AEI study we lamented...published as roundly as David "Kill Bill/Kung Fu" Carradine's auto-asphixiation-erotica found that only ONE IN FIVE duly registered and enrolled students will ever graduate, and that's after a "Bluto" from Animal House time frame ("Seven years of college down the drain."). The lowest in the nation.
OK we can parse and plumb the reasons later; he's some background as to Coppin, and the news report on UDC. The hint to my thesis can be found in the facetious title of this post, and my nod to Thomas Swift (meaning I'm not truly being mean, elitist and self-hating in what I'm about to say). All right?

First, some people--and here it happens to be black people (including foreigners enrolled in both places)--aren't cut out for college. Not college as we know it and no I don't mean as you measure up with my alma mater, Princeton, or Mrs. Nat's, Howard U. (and HBCU like Coppin). But local school systems have to boast depositing someone they graduate into somewhere. There are not enough Vo-tech institutions and somehow community colleges cannot be the final repository. Besides, they're only for two years. You have to get that "degree" somewhere. The diploma mills you see advertised on the Net or during Maury might be the last resort for many dumbasses and bad luck sufferers or too many members of our military thanks to Uncle Sam's pandering and schitzophrenia (e.g. high standards and big research $$$ on one level, offering scraps to our troops on the other. Frankly I would have thought the wingnuts would have picked up on this). Then again too many of our troops and their spouses are the product of our nonintellectual culture (otherwise would they have enlisted?) and bad high schools regardless of location or racial make-up. These folks don't need a degree. There must be alternatives. We have to admit this and get over it.
Second, and most insidiously, why do these places exist. Wasn't Coppin a "State College?" Now a "University?" Does the District need a "state university" a la Ann Arbor or Charlottesville or Berkely or Chapel Hill just so it can act like a state? You see where I'm going with this, don't you? These institutions are largely the creatures of African American politicians who want to deliver some pork/goodie/promise/symbol--and have in return a legacy and goodwill from duped constituents. OK so let's call something a "University." As Morgan State struggles but manages to educate cadres of students, are those students themselves up to snuff? Can they hack it against mine at Georgetown, or at Princeton. Hell yes, and hell no. The top, the dedicated, will always flourish and, as Hannibal said in 218 BC when asked how he was gonna kick white folks' asses, "will find a way, oe make one." But the least common denominator at Morgan couldn't last at day with Princeton's dregs, let's get over that. They would meltdown at Howard. All the online diploma mills are called "universities" and these "at-risk" or needing additional support students--let's say the C students (without the over indulgent gradeflation and lower standard kicker). As for UDC, it's existence is purely a contrivance of identity politics for black folks, Sowetoization by whites, and some pride need for a statehood analog. It's sad, and it's stupid.
Now let's roll back to the nitty gritty, hinted at in point #1. Not everyone's cut out for college, so why expend the resources to overload on support and mentorship and this and that and all these bells and whistles proposed in political theatre by black pols wish to perpetuate point #2? Why not enforce rigor in admissions and course content; the struggling single mothers who do show potential and current aptitude, but might need an extra hand, sure. But this shouldn't extend to everyone. College by it's nature must be competitive to enter and competitive to remain. That's the thing wingnut never got about affirmative action. You're giving a leg up to folk who can shine once they're in the game, and go on and change the game entirely once out. Training cadres of medium-skilled clerical folk and lower level managers, or legions of IT de-buggers, is not the mission of a university. If folk start out there, the university should give them the world view and study skills--note I didn't say job training--to leap frog ahead. That's the game. And you make the scholarship money and grants available for the people who can go out there and juice the game. Not for EVERYBODY. That ultra-egalitarian, throwback to the 1960s Black Arts/Panther time is not applicable any more. Not for college, not for secondary and even elementary education.

Note this ain't something endemic only to these places. I've been to our shining flagship, Terrapin World, U of Maryland-College Park and have scratched my head at the students' ignorance and lack of preparation, pop culture expectations. Likewise the bubbleheadedness of many Hoya students makes me swoon. But the effect on places like UDC or Coppin is catastrophic.

Therefore: Close Coppin, fold as much into Morgan. Beef up Morgan's facilities, faculty, curriculum rigor. Raise admission standards BUT truly examine each applicants circumstances wholistically. As for UDC. Either you bathe it in capital, pirate faculty, programs, students, etc from Georgetown, GW, AU, Catholic and Howard, or chop it up, make it a vo-tech college and call it a day. De-politicize the place's existence.

So before I am lynched by my own people, I am being somewhat Swiftian here (no, he really didn't want to eat Irish babies, indeed this was his way of attacking the British Parliament and society for oppression of Ireland). These are institutions which have potential, in theory, and, as I said I have friends who teach there. But come on. We have to be real, and stop pandering, stop elements of pure fantasy. Think about what i said about Soweto-ization and competition if anything. White folks are laughing at us...


Monica said...

First, who gives a good gd if white people are laughing at us. They do that anyway.

Second, the matriculation rate at some HBCUs is appalling. No one will argue with you about that. What critics of HBCUs (including you Mr. Turner) fail to state is that the retention rate of black students at white colleges isn't much better. I believe there is a 4% difference in the 2 systems.

Also consider that although HBCUs like Coppin only produce 20% of the nation's black college graduates, half of black folks with graduate degrees attended HBCUs.

Obviously, HBCUs are doing some things right and as a graduate of one, I can say, in some ways, they are seriously f*cking up.

That's no reason to close and consolidate these institutions. I think a better option is to improve funding because most students are not going to be able to go to Yale or Harvard.

Anonymous said...

I dated a guy years ago, who stated that he never considered attended Howard or Morgan State or UDC or Coppin State or any HBCU. He decided to attend the best school that would allow him entry.

He attended (wait for it)...Cleveland State University.

My point...Okay I don't have a point...I just wanted put that out there.

I would think that students from lower tier schools regardless of their background would struggle against students from the ivies but no is suggesting that those schools should cease to exist.

Think about that.

Christopher Chambers said...

That's why it's my modest proposal a la Swift. People got mad at him too. And we should give a good f-k about these fools laughing at us because that drives policy. Period. I tossed that out in for any clowns out there who think there's no problem or it's indeed white folks' fault/oppressiveness.

I got no problem with turning up the spigot on aid and support, but it's not going to the right people. Some people just aren't cut out for college, regardless of race, and where are these folk going/what are they doing with these watered down degrees.

As for mixing it up w/the ivies, or any other school, recall I said I'd put some of these kids and adult students there up against them, and a few Oxford and Cambridge dons. No doubt. But the least common denominator is in serious trouble.

So the point of examination--and improvement--is first, what's the deal with the student pool. Second, what's this air of half-assedness in some of these institutions. Consolidation is one way because all these folk don't need to be out here.

Lisa said...

I am afraid I'm going to have to see Nat Turner's point here. It's all about preparation of the whole being from family resources to adequate high school preparation. Then it's about attitude and expectations.
I've seen it from both sides. I am an HBCU graduate for undergrad, and a "white colleges" graduate for graduate school. This is something we must fix ourselves.
Nevertheless I see your points too Monica and it would be a good debate and a lively one! (smiles)
However I think Nat is SPOT ON when it comes to the politics of this with respect to African American politicians. He's brave enough to put it out there.

Andrea said...

When I first started teaching, I realized that there were formulaic behaviors everyone seemed to subscribe to. These subscriptions were pourous of one another.

The parents told me that my work was too hard as well as the principal, a Black woman (and an AKA at that) told me. I was reprimanded for not dumbing-down my work and for not teaching to test. The faculty and staff were in on it eventhough they played the part of the aggrieved advocate. They coddled the parents and the students; the parents rewarded or bullied the faculty into going along with scapegoating the unfinished business of economic discriminatory practices as a voucher to modify lives and mindsets to goose the systemsin place all incestously married. Parents and faculty would act the part of the righteous advocates and thwart you from collective solidarity with anyone oozing cognition and scope.

We were not supposed to really teach and make incremental leaps. So many educational careers were established as public relations ploys that no one was really supposed to generate transformative results. Parents expected us to implicate the school system and "system" as the bad guys so that parents were never exposed of their short-comings and duplcitious self-interest to keep the ideology marketed as the parents as saviors no matter how unbalanced the cognitive reality felt and looked. The cycle could continue if the parents were let off the hook and all fingers pointed to the faceless system. Parents were not supposed to be exposed as part of a system within a system overlapping and intersecting other equally as surreptitious systems.

Year after year moral, academic, and social "intelligence" got worse and years turned into decades facing other social evolutions compounded.

That was '98...before Michelle Rhee grabbed the microphone and the discussion became mainstream (before White Elites started to find transformative ways to infuse change agency into saving Black Children). I was invoking change agency back then in '98 and on to only have the Black Masses come after me. Whites and others could come and try to save our children and little fuss would be given other than the standard murmur to make one seem like their was protest. It was a false-illusion.

I realized we like Whites (or Black Celebrities and Heroes simulating) saving us--and was suspicious and bitter of our own doing the same exact thing. Go figure! That's another story but the meme is the same: we hate know-it-all and know-too-much, fearless Black Peers not in allegiance to repeating the groupthink scripts.

Some of those students I had had in middle-school years, I also saw them when I visited their colleges years later. Nothing was shocking except to wonder how they got into college. I knew I would not have allowed them. They had the absolute absence of critical thinking skills to engage with me. I knew they did not belong in college. I knew they deserved the opportunity to partake in some form of enterprise education but as well I knew they were not scholars.

I knew however those students would probably continue to get brokered into college and graduate to make more money than me finding ways to master social promotion instead of investing in themselves to be thinkers, builders, and doers. A strong society needs not empty, self-possessed, hallow intelligence.

I knew that the simple association of taking a class in college gave false credence to so many that they too were scholars and had opinions that supreme (never needing to be vetted and challenged). I knew we were expanding our mass of non-thinkers that would only promote Black Elites at the opposite end of the class spectrum to further stratify themselves for self-preservation of promotion of all things elite.

I knew that we would be where we are today with an influx desire of those that are capable to want to adopt elite tendencies and justifications while the masses would be left to fiend off the growing underclass formulated because of a lack of integrated, treadmill intelligences.

Citizen Ojo said...

Nat Turner,

You make very good points. I made similar ones on my blog (not as indepth) but I went to an HBCU and folks don't want to hear that. I like the concept of taking some (not all, actually a small percentage) of HBCU;s and turning them into 2 year schools to help get the students up to snuff so they can finish their degrees at a 4 year school. Stronger HBCU's will mean better graduation rates, better facilities etc.

Snowman said...

If I were to even suggest any of this--Swiftean or otherwise--some Farrakhan type of person would accuse me of being a racist.

Anonymous said...

That's because it would be, coming from you.

The Higher Ed Industrial Complex makes too much money of failing schools/students (student loan industry) to want any sort of change.


Christopher Chambers said...

Anon--has anyone used the term Higher Education Industrial Complex before or did you mint it? Seriously, because it seems to fit. Any articles out there?

Monica said...

Check it out, Mr Chambers.

I noticed that you are quick to offer commentary regarding students at HBCUs. It's interesting that you have offered nary a word in the case of the two black Harvard undergraduates who have been implicated in the murder of a Cambridge resident. Both young women were banned from the undergraduate commencement ceremony.

Even more shocking is the deafening silence of the black student groups on campus and the black alumni. Those groups are usually quite vocal, aren't they? I mean, any slight, is generally grounds for a protest or a sit-in. These two women haven't been charged or convicted of anything, yet they were denied the right to wear that cap and gown.

That beacon of hope we call the talented tenth has never shone brighter.


Christopher Chambers said...

Hey this about graduation rates, not anti-social behavior.

Did jackandjillpolitics hit on this?

But ok, I'll bite. HBCU students are not murderers. But as Mrs. Nat muses, "we sure had a lot of criminals in the Drew Hall visiting..."

But the silence is crazy up at harvard. I'll tap my elitist sources b/c this stuff is intriguing...

Anonymous said...

SoCal 82 Tiger Says - Professor Nat

This is way too large a topic with sooo many angles to rant about....

· You need to acknowledge the overall failure of MOST public schools in the US to educate young people to even be "college ready" - Let along be college bound!
· You need to acknowledge that throughout the rest of the world High School graduates leave their schools with an education that is often equal or greater then the level of US students even after the US kids have attended the first 2-years at university, college or JC.
· US public schools are subject to a politics that often place a higher priority on the needs of those working in the system then those being taught by the system. Tenure promotes security (a good thing) at the cost of keeping lousy teachers in the system (a bad thing) – That needs to be resolved and not doubled talked away!
· Over-promised & under-funded benefit and retirement contracts with public teacher unions has taken huge amount of money away from educating students... In California alone tax-payers need to come up with billions dollars (in many years including now) to make up for pensions losses and lack of participation so that retirees can still receive their guaranteed 80-110% retirement pay along with full no cost no co-pay health benefits
· The political process in education also promotes constant "new" education ideas that are often counter-productive to effectively educating students. “Whole Language” and “Fuzzy Math” are a few of the crazy ideas that could only come out of teacher colleges. Historically US Students tested at 4th grade level are equal in their academic performance when compared to the rest of the world. The failure of US education often comes in grades 7 through 9 when the pressure to dumb down the group strives to push students to achieve to the middle of the pack and thus muddy the water of education performance
· Us Social policy requires public schools to launch numerous socialization exercises. Basic education of the "3 R's" takes a back seat to race, class, gender, ecology and the newest "cause de jour" education. And less face facts - promoting these secondary education issues have not ended the human relations problems that plague us (although I concede that they have improved) BUT at what cost – Dumber Kids.
· US Social policy requires tax money to educate illegal immigrants in public schools thus sucking resources away from the remaining US citizens and legal immigrant students. It’s generally known that as experienced in California, most illegal immigrants families are of lower economic levels that also pay little or no taxes to offset the added pressure they bring onto the education system by generally having larger numbers of kids in the education system.
· Bilingual education in US public schools was once a successful immersion based program so as to quickly get young immigrants students up to speaking and writing English has been replaced via a current dual track program that has FAILED the very students they were intended to serve – Many immigrant students now turn out less academically competent in both languages
· Social policy does not permit separating out public school students based on their academic ability or talent. The bad and the good are often left together sadly along with the mentally or developmentally challenged. Once again promoting teachers to promote a "race to the middle" for student achievement
· "Radical" ideas for public schools like school uniform/dress codes, same-sex education, or same gender teachers (for boys/girls in high risk communities), & voucher programs are dismissed out right with no discussion. Without even a nod that these programs might be 'tweaked" to alleviate fears that are contrary to public policy. Dismissed EVEN with mounting evidence that these programs do have merit and success for the students they are designed to help

Anonymous said...

SoCal Continued:

· Public schools have for the most part become warehouses and babysitters for parents who are untrained, unwilling, and/or unable to raise their children
· The ugly truth is that even with perfect resources (Kansas City) education flounders unless 1) You have passionate committed teachers AND MORE IMPROTANTLY 2) You have parents that give a dam who DEMAND AND EXPECT nothing less then good study habits and achievement from their kids.
· Be honest too many stupid people are having too many kids - If driven upper income types where having 3, 4 or more kids in their families we'd be better off. Think about this - You have to get minimal education and show minimal financial responsibility (like have insurance) to own and drive a car - Yet any set of young poor A-holes can crap out a kid with little or no preparation for what is expected to succeed as a mother and father! Get real many of them haven't even begun to learn how to take care of themselves
· The problem of "kids" (uneducated low job skilled 15 to 25 year olds) is another issue all to itself you should be ranting in tandem to this. Just imagine - If you could reduce or end most poor uneducated single boys and girls from having kids you could eliminate more that half the social ills that plague this country!
· I remember hearing what recovering alcoholics and drug addicts are told about relationships - Before you try getting back into relationships try properly caring for a plant - If the plant survives more than a year move on to a small pet like a fish or hamster. If you manage both of these tasks properly for another year try a dog or cat. If you haven't abandoned or killed any of them over the 3-year period you might just be able to start dating and relationships - Wouldn't it be great if people took similar care towards seeing they are ready to raise children???

Oh and by the way this is not just a black issue - It’s a black, white, brown, yellow, and red issue. Every part of the US public schools system has its own unique spin on this same problem. For the last 5 years I have worked for an organization that has given over half of our net earnings back to public education so perhaps I’ve seen more than most concerning the good and bad of public education!

So I gave you an earful my friend... I hope that in some way you don't find my bluntness objectionable but you have a way of bringing out this out of me…Good subject nonetheless!

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