• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.

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Friday Fragments

Transfer, censorship, school schedules and pumpkin carving.

October 27, 2016
 

I just discovered the “Transfer Ways” blog yesterday, and I’m quite taken with this post. It’s a first person account by someone who transferred to Penn State, comparing his experience to that of his older brother, who started there as a freshman.

First-person accounts are necessarily bound to context, but most of the story resonates. He mentions lost credits, shifting graduation requirements, and a general sense of being out of sync with the students at a university that tacitly assumes that everyone started there. I understand the sense of being out of sync, but the rest could and should easily have been addressed through transfer agreements and a meaningful transfer student orientation.

Community colleges get blamed when credits don’t transfer upwards, but we don’t get to make those decisions. The blame rightly rests with the schools that deny credits.

I’d love to see a more robust discussion at policy levels about reasonable expectations by and for transfer students. We know that credit loss impacts graduation, yet many colleges practice it with impunity.  Let the burden of proof fall on the one that denies, rather than the one that applies.  

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This one is so good, I really hope it’s true.  

Apparently, an 8th grader required a parental permission slip to read Fahrenheit 451. It’s about censorship; the title is supposedly the temperature at which books burn.  

The Dad’s response is perfect.

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This story on the insanity of common K-12 schedules is quite good. It’s primarily about the complete failure of most schools to even attempt to align with parental work hours, though the line that jumped out at me was

“[t]he intermittent days off, the frequent days off, the early school closings actually make it pretty hard for parents to hold down jobs.”

If anything, that’s understated.

The Girl is in 7th grade. She has off the entire week of November 7th. Meanwhile, The Boy doesn’t. The Wife and I don’t. It’s simply assumed that _of course_ you have someone at home (probably female) to watch your kid!  If you’re a single parent, well, tough.

Even the occasional random week off isn’t necessarily as frustrating as the endless barrage of half-days. They land at random, and finding childcare is the parents’ problem.

Years of both research and parenting have made me much more open-minded about many issues; with maturity comes an appreciation for nuance. But on a few, they have solidified my dogma. Among the dogma are two basics: K-12 is childcare as well as education, and the hours should align with reality. That means, among other things, that we shouldn’t start high school before 9, and we shouldn’t sprinkle half-days in the calendar. Early starts to school days don’t align with teenage body clocks, and the cavalier application of gaps to the calendar wreaks havoc with families. On these points, I consider the argument settled.  Implementation is another matter.

I honestly don’t know how single parents do it. Or why we insist on making an already-difficult task -- raising kids -- harder than it needs to be.

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We carved pumpkins this week. TB decided, bless him, that ‘50’s Miles Davis would make good pumpkin-carving music. He was right. The Dog loves muted Miles and quickly falls asleep whenever we play it. Something about the ballads with the muted horn just takes the edge off everyone’s mood.

A few days prior, TB impressed his new girlfriend when he invited her over to carve pumpkins. She said she never got to do that at home. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but the whole thing was so charming that it would have been churlish to question it. Plus, she got a pumpkin out of it.

Some holiday traditions fall by the wayside, or only make sense at a certain age, but pumpkin carving holds up. If anything, it gets better as the kids get older and they can carve their own. TB’s design was especially ambitious, but he was willing to do the work, and he did it well. When TB was just a wee sprout, she was excited for her pumpkin, but cried when I put the knife into it; she thought I had killed it. Now she wields her own.

Trick-or-treating has an age limit, but pumpkin carving doesn’t. And if there’s anything more American than carving pumpkins with the kids while playing Miles Davis, I haven’t seen it.

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