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Access to education, Edmunson and Shoris

S. Yaeger's picture

After leaving class today, I thought about Edmunson's assertion that not only do his students treat their education like a consumer product, but that they also lack a certain sense of self-hatred needed to really grow as a student.  In our discussion this afternoon, we touched a little bit on what that meant, but I was left thinking about some of the factors that may lead to Edmunson's students feelng the need to be constrained, unexctied and always looking for the fastest track to the next thing.  One of the things I was struck with today was how much pressure is put on students to alays be doing just that.  What I mean by this is that many of the student who spoke today about their educational histories spoke about the kinds of pressures that have been placed on them for their entire lives.  It seems like there is a constant push to be the best, so you cen get to the next level, so you can be the best there, so you can move and continue to compete.  In this kind of system, you're not only the consumer, but you're also the product.  It seems to me that, for 12 years, students are taught how to best market themselves in 3 pages or less and how to look impressively well rounded by the numbers.  To then expect them to view college as anything more than another link in that ongoing chain seems a bit unfair.

On the other side (and I think this is where Jackie was going) students who come from environments like the ones that Shoris described are esentially taught that, if college is a process of buying or being bought, they are too poor to select the school that will most help them and too worthless to be bought by that school anyway.  Even when they, like the students in the piece, are willing to do the work of an intense intellectual heritage course, and do it well, they still might not ever get credit for it.  Since Shoris's students enter into their college level education with no expectations being mapped on them other than to show up, they are most certainly free to take risks and to experiment.  The problem is that, when the class is completed and they return to their homes and jobs and cells with their certificate in hand, they are still returning to the same environment.  Even those who were granted some college credit for the course will still face considerable obstacles if they wish to continue their education, not the least of which will be needing to compete into an environment like the one which Edmunson describes.  The situational irony here being that, for Shoris's students, a small liberal arts college is most likely out of their reach, so they are automatically barred from the kind of environment that would value their humanities experience.