Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Yale vs. CNM

The comparison isn’t as far-fetched as you might think


I must thank Scheherezade, of Stay, for giving the inspiration for this post. In her blog, she refers to a eulogy of William Sloan Coffin, a longtime professor at Yale University. When I read it, I was struck by how much is the same in post-secondary education, whether it’s Yale Law, or Central New Mexico Community College. The students are often wrapped up in their own little worlds – whether it’s the elite societies at Yale or the basic need for survival at CNM. As instructors, we can encourage our students to go beyond their own worlds and become more involved in the world at large.

Here at a community college in an impoverished state, the focus is pragmatic – teach the fundamentals of analytic reading and expository writing, with the goal that, when our students graduate from our program, they will have the mechanics of college-level reading and writing that will allow them to succeed in college coursework. Once they get the associate degree at the community college, they will easily be able to move on to the bachelor’s degree program at the university next door.

But I find I can’t stop at the nuts and bolts of rhetoric and grammar. I have to teach more. I have to teach my students critical thinking, so they can understand the validity of an argument. I have to teach logic, so they can make their point clearly. And I have to show them how to put the human element into their writing, because logic alone doesn’t have the impact of logic backed up with emotionally moving human stories.

Along the way, my students get involved with the world. They see something bigger than just surviving until the next paycheck, or surviving the next big exam. They don’t have the same sorts of worries as Yale students, but just like Yale students, they can become trapped in their own little world. In my class, they choose issues to research and argue about, such as global warming, gun control, and red-light traffic cameras. And in the process, they begin to see the world with a wider field of vision.

I have actually had people ask me why I bother – these are “only” community-college students, so why should I be asking so much of them?

The answer is that I ask so much because they are capable of that much. They just need to be shown that they are. Who knows – one of them might someday earn her way into Yale Law.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous nitpicker said...

And please teach your students how to pronounce "nuclear" properly. Then at least they will be one step ahead of a certain prominent Yale graduate who seems to think it's "nucular".

Thu Mar 01, 07:57:00 AM MST  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

None of my students ever says "nucular" more than once.

Thu Mar 01, 10:58:00 PM MST  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

(Of course, very few of them are from Texas anyway.)

Thu Mar 01, 11:00:00 PM MST  
Anonymous Mom said...

Thought I had left a comment, but apparently not! This is probably for nitpicker.

I haven't noticed many people mispronouncing "nulear" lately, but maybe that's because I live in Los Alamos. I am far more concerned that no one knows how to use the verbs "lie" and "lay." I hear newscasters, public speakers, and even TEACHERS misusing them.

And the next problem to tackle, the use of "you and I" or "you and me."

Sat Mar 03, 04:20:00 PM MST  
Anonymous Lay Lady Lay said...

Don't blame Texas for Nucular George. He was born in New Haven, Connecticut when George the First was an undergrad at Yale. And he went to a prep school in New England too. And after that to Yale and Harvard. He's a blue-blood Yankee through and through. Maybe he thinks the Nucular act makes him sound Texican?

A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Mom, I'm with you.

Sun Mar 04, 03:42:00 PM MST  

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