I have great compassion for community college professors. Actually, I pity them to a certain degree. While students of a 4-year college must apply and be accepted (which means they must meet basic academic standards), anyone is welcome at a community college as long as he or she has graduated from high school (and actually, a community college can help you with that as well). If you can’t read well or English is your second language, there are classes that teach you to read. If you can’t write well, there are classes to help you learn to write well enough to take English 101. I had to take an Algebra preparation class because I am very weak in mathematics and scored poorly on the placement test. I understand.
What amazes me, though, is how a student can register for English 102 and fail to grasp the basic concepts of sentence and paragraph structure. I am taking an online English class which I absolutely love. We evaluate literature and then write about it. Pretty simple, right? You would think so. Because it is an online class there are several weekly requirements, two of which are viewable by all of the students in the class, our professor and a student evaluator. I make it a point to read every single discussion post and every single response. This morning I felt like pulling my hair out. It is obvious that several of the students are ESL. I understand their challenges and have compassion for foreign students. It is tough grasping a new language, especially to the point where they can compose well. What I simply cannot understand is how someone who is in college, who is obviously an American, who grew up reading and writing English, can fail to understand basic sentence structure. Am I seeing a basic failure in public school education? (I know private schools are much more stringent in academic expectations, so I am pretty sure none of these struggling students attended private school.)
Do they not teach children how to take these sentences:
The dog ran. The dog barked. The dog is purple. The dog chased a burglar.
And rewrite them as one fairly complex sentence:
The purple dog barked as he ran after the burglar.
The lavender dog alerted his owners to danger as he chased a burglar from the property.
I read one discussion post aloud to one of my adult sons. He could not believe what I read was a college student’s writing; it was horrendous. Hey, everyone makes mistakes, forgets a comma, occasionally has typos, and so on, but we are required to post revised essays and responses which means they should be, at minimum, run through spell- and grammar-checkers. Then they should be read aloud by the student and mistakes identified and corrected. It is the responsibility of each student to do what is necessary to meet the professor’s expectations for that class even if it means using tools and hiring a tutor. Struggling students should find someone to review their assignments before they post them. If they cannot afford to pay someone to do so, they should visit the free tutoring center each week before posting. My school even offers free online tutoring. Why would these students not take an hour a week to run their compositions past the available tutors?
Just had to share a little bit of my frustration with everyone. By the way, I still love my online English class.
Helpful hint: Use tools!
P.S. I posted an ad offering proofreading and tutoring services for high school and college students. It is obvious that there is a need for such services. I can do proofreading via email. Please feel free to contact me if you know a student who needs assistance.