Professor Mike Rose of UCLA thinks and writes about remedial education. He has detected, beneath the happy talk of increasing achievement and changing lives, a troubling disdain for students trying to find their way in two-year community colleges.
In his latest book, “Back to School: Why Everyone Deserves a Second Chance at Education,” he cites the example of a philosophy professor who quipped that “his students weren’t fit to sweep out the Augean stables,” a reference to Hercules’s fifth labor. Shame on the professor. Hercules did not get rid of all that cattle dung through demeaning work with a broom. He accomplished the task “with great ingenuity,” Rose notes, by rerouting two rivers.
Community college students are seeking job skills, Rose says, but they are also capable of subtle, critical, imaginative thinking. Many of them are as excited as I was, at my brand-name four-year private college, to be part of an academy of scholars. Yet community colleges and other remedial programs — including many in this area — often fail to appreciate that desire for depth and breadth. And education writers like me wrongly ignore such schools as unimportant.