Friday, November 26, 2010

Think About Education

For those of you who are Toledo locals and read The Blade on a regular basis, you will remember the article a few weeks ago regarding overpaid (public school) teachers. While I have definite thoughts about what public school teachers get paid, I have not done enough research to substantiate those thoughts in a public forum as this. Succinctly, though, the main issue of a teacher's pay as I see it, is that there is little or no correlation between how good a teacher is and how much he or she gets paid. (And, yes, this trend is apparent in many other businesses and segments of society as well.)

As one of the editorials following that article's publication mentioned: "We pay kindergarten teachers $90,000 a year for 185 working days. That's outrageous.... I won't be voting for any levies." I agree wholly. I don't care how much schooling a kindergarten teacher has, if he or she is getting paid that kind of money, his or her students better be entering first grade able to read the abridged versions of Charles Dickens. We know this isn't happening, though, because, sadly, many high school graduates in this area cannot read Charles Dickens, not even the abridged versions. When I started my volunteer tutoring work for Read For Literacy, Inc., I learned just how illiterate the greater Toledo area is.

Now, this post is really not meant to be about the public school system.

It is meant, instead, to show the disconnect between college and grad school applications. Let me explain:

I never had to write an essay to get into college; I never had to do much of anything. The applications were simple. Of course, the schools needed transcripts and SAT scores, neither item telling very much about the student. I never worried about being accepted. It seems, these days, that colleges--save the Ivy Leagues and other highly competitive schools--accept most anyone nowadays. There's not a lot of pomp to it; it just happens.

Grad school, though, is a different story. Once I found the program I was interested in, I signed up for the GRE test, studied intensely for three months, and still did just okay--essentially, average. No problem, though; it could be checked off the list. Next, I've been working on finding three unsuspecting people who will write my letters of recommendations. This is difficult, as they should be people familiar with my writing, with my academic work, and with me. I also want to pick people who will write a grammatically correct and organized letter, since I will probably not see the letters before they are sent on to Admissions.

Probably the most important piece of my application (besides the application itself) is my Statement of Purpose, a well-framed essay displaying my strengths and my learning objectives and career goals. And, when you're going for a Master's in English, you really want it to be written perfectly. Oy vey.

Then, there is the 10+ page critical essay.

Shouldn't getting into all college (even to obtain an associate's or bachelor's degree) be this tough? At the very least, a Statement of Purpose should be required. Perhaps this might weed out some of the oh-so-many students who do not belong in college. Not only would this make it more pleasant for the college instructors, but it would also make it more pleasant for the other students.

I am certainly NOT complaining about all I have to for my grad school app. On the contrary, I am relishing in the work I have to do for it. That's because I want to go to grad school; I want to further my education. I'm excited about my future!

Unfortunately, I don't think many first-time college students share this same ambition and excitement. And, if they don't, that's fine; they just shouldn't be starting college yet. Then, perhaps, (undergrad) college instructors would not have to water down the lessons, adjusting them to go over information that students should have learned in high school. Which, of course, brings us back full-circle to public education and its problems...a good place for me to end.

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