Educators for education-not regurgitation.

Although by now the political climate of America is very forcibly divided, there remains one spark of hope-one area which has been passed down as sacred from generation to generation: the future. The children, it is said, are that future, and it is with them that humanity rests. But are we giving the future the skills it needs to survive?

In a time of information overload, young people are hard pressed to find a single skill set which enables them to navigate not only the political arena, but those which hit closer-to-home, such as healthcare, finances and the ever important education. As many of you well know, student loans are something I rant about rather frequently, the dangers of which remain quite unknown for many people from my parent’s generation. But I digress. The skill set most vital to each upcoming individual, in every generation is one that is in a recession all its own: critical thinking.

As a human being, in a much broader, globalized culture, critical thinking means the ability to objectively analyze and evaluate information (being able to determine fact from crap, essentially).

But Michelle-that sounds like you just criticized your own age group. What are you doing?

Pointing out a concern of mine in regards to the current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. I’ve included a little context, but put the point of focus in bold. In a recent statement at the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), Mrs. DeVos said:

“How many of you are college students? The fight against the education establishment extends to you too. The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think. They say that if you voted for Donald Trump, you’re a threat to the university community. But the real threat is silencing the First Amendment rights of people with whom you disagree.”

Link to the video: C-Span of Mrs. DeVos’ Speech

job-education

What is concerning, therefore, is not the fact that Secretary DeVos is of the opinion that the “fight” extends to college students (because she’s right-we’re at the front lines of a fight which extends far beyond education) but that she believes educators are not educating, but force-feeding their opinions to their students. What’s further troubling is her fixation with othering. Her statement is incredibly biased, in the way it undermines anyone who does not support Donald Trump. That in-and-of-itself is refutes her claim of anti-First Amendment work. You do not have to support the person who fills the role of President of the United States in order to be an American, with all of the associated rights. To have someone in an educational leadership position not be entirely educated on the core values of the country is terrifying. And it is for these reasons that colleges (students and educators) MUST be at the front of the fight.

While I am quite capable of passing along my opinion, I thought that perhaps it would be more prudent to provide the thoughtful discourse of a professor. In an email (which I have attained permission to reproduce), Professor Michael Phelan, Linguistics Department at The Ohio State University gave the following statement:

I have been teaching in public schools of various levels [for 14 years]. In all of that time I have never heard comments such as these from someone in a position of educational leadership; I am aghast and astounded.

Education is about two things: Getting you to ask deep, meaningful, interesting questions about yourselves, your neighbors, and the world around you, and training you to answer those questions. Good educators do not let you rest with *any* set of answers. Good educators probe deeper, asking you to consider how you know what you think you know, if there are special cases or more general formulations of your answers, if it is reasonable that other people in other circumstances may find different sets of answers to be more useful. The hallmark of really answering any scientific question is that your answer leads to more good questions, not fewer. Good educators force you to strongly consider the possibility that you might be wrong, and that your teachers might be wrong too. I firmly believe that if you somehow get through four years of university education without having had your deepest beliefs challenged you should ask for your money back.

Good education is not a systematic indoctrination to try to force you to think the way your teachers think. There are systems of thought and custom where that is the case, but education is not one of them. If you believe everything I believe, and your generation believes everything my generation believes, then we as a species have wasted all the years between because we haven’t learned anything new. But if either of us cannot back up our beliefs with rigorous argument and objective evidence, we are only fooling ourselves.

In the coming weeks, we will discuss issues related to language ideology, bilingualism, and the way that attitudes about people affect our attitudes about their language. We will discuss how the way we talk about political issues can strongly influence our beliefs about those issues, and we will use concrete examples including controversial topics like marriage equality, abortion, and physician assisted suicide. I have strong political beliefs, as doubtless many of you do too. We will keep the debate focused around the language used to talk about these issues because language processing is the point of the course, but it is important to know that we can have that debate respectfully, regardless of where we each come from politically.

Secretary DeVos said, “The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think.” I think she got her question words wrong. The faculty and staff at OSU and at any university worth the name don’t teach you what to do, say, or think. We teach you how to do things, how to say things, and more importantly, how to think clearly, deeply, and critically.

It is with this email that I leave you with the following quote.

Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.
Albert Einstein

As always,

You are valid. You have worth. You are irreplaceable. You are enough.

 

Advertisements

Helpless? Hopeless? Hapless?

It is time, good people, for a rant. The source of this rant is?

The oppression of the poor, through the lenses of college students.

It’s something I know quite a bit about, and I think more people are going to need to get an idea soon-especially with the political situation.

There’s a food bank set up for the students at my university.

Each semester, I spend about $300 on textbooks as a social science student. My husband spends $400-$600. And there’s some math coming up, but no worries, I’ll help. I have insurance through my dad, but let’s assume it’s negligent here-because I have to pay more out of pocket than they cover. I have student loans (gasp!). And we’re going to get personal about that too. I work at the university, with work study money. That means I can work UP TO 20 hours a week-so long as my total amount of work study money is more than I have worked. I get $3000 a year, which equals roughly 9 hours a week available. I typically work throughout the summer at whatever job will hire me, but obviously it’s part time.

A little word though, before we begin. I cannot speak for everybody. These experiences are my own. I know that some people will take a different path here-and that’s OKAY. I just want you to get a rough idea of how a midwestern student with decent grades faces the realities of the financial aid system. I’m doing this in response to Betsy DeVos, and her unawareness at how it works. I’m going to break different areas up by header and then wrap it all up in a summary-I find that to be a little more helpful than just assaulting you with information.

Books

I started college officially January 2012. That was back when OSU was on quarters (meaning 3 regular sessions per year) and now we’re on semesters (meaning 2 regular sessions a year). That means I’ve had 12 sessions (I believe). Each of those sessions, as I mentioned, I pay roughly $300 in books. 300*12=$3600 in books. For my husband, it’s 500*12=$6000 (I just took the average cost. So together, we have paid almost $10,000 in books (and yes, we shop around for deals). PLUS-you have to pay for online access codes to your homework. Per course, that’s $60-$130.

To give you an idea of what the problem with that is, I have a recent event for you. We (Ben and I) were looking to make a little money to cover some purchases for the apartment. The only thing we have in large quantities are books. So we packaged up everything we had. This includes text books, books I picked up at the bookstore for pleasure reading, books we had from forever. Everything we could (minus the ones we need for this semester) was loaded into boxes. I looked at what Amazon would give me and then we hauled everything down to Half Price Books. Let me emphasize this. We took something like $8500 of merchandise to a resale place. And what do you think we got in payment?

$230. (And yes, that’s about what Amazon wanted to pay us.)

For the readers who are blown away by this, 230 dollars is approximately 2.7% of 8500. And that’s the most we could get. So we took it and made do-because what else are we gonna do?

Student Loan Payments

Ah student loans. The bane of so many people’s existence. I have 2 kinds: Sallie Mae and Federal. My Sallie Mae payment will be $670 a month and my federal will be $455 a month (according to http://www.aie.org-I’ll let you know what they really are when I start making the payments after law school). And that brings up a good point-these numbers are ONLY for my undergraduate degree, under the assumption that it will take me 10 years to pay everything off. So I will need to put aside almost $1200 per month just for student loan payments. Yikes!

Acceptance fees/loans for law school

Wherever I end up going to law school, I will need to pay a seat deposit (acceptance fee) of at least $250. That’s something I have planned for, and am well aware of. But when I enter law school, I will also have to pay money to take out my loans, and campus fees on top of my tuition. I also am aware of that. But it does not chance the fact that I will have to pay my own way to move to law school and then pay them to allow me to pay them (yes, you read that right) so I can go there. One of my schools has a fee of $910.

And since we’re talking about law school-let me fill you in on the application process. In order to apply for law school, you have to take the LSAT. It costs $17 per time you take it. And then, you have to order your college transcripts ($20). You also have to purchase the system they use to compile your application ($180). Then you have to pay for them to assemble your application per school ($30) and you have to pay an application fee per school ($30-$110). And this is true if you apply to one school or a hundred. I applied for the fee waiver (thankfully) so my costs were slightly different. But none of this includes test prep, which can be very expensive very fast.

working

As I said, I work part time. I use the money to add to my very small reserve of uh-oh money. I can make up to $1500 a semester. And that’s grand-my job is awesome, I enjoy it a lot. It’s just not a bunch of money. So there’s that. And yes, I am fully capable of getting a job. But I don’t live on campus and my husband has class 5 days a week, and we have a dog at home. So I could, yes, work over the weekend-this is true. But none of this accounts for homework time. As I mentioned above, I totally work during summer. That’s a no brainer. This summer will be tricky becuase of moving to law school, but we’ll see.

Oh-and I’m not allowed to work the first year of law school. It’s a law school thing.

apartment

My apartment is what it is. I pay gobs of money to live in a place where crime is low. I pay for safety and I know that. What I also pay for is a private electric company that charges me way too much for electric ($200 a month) and a door that sticks, gaps in the door that let cold air in, leaky outlets and a fridge that doesn’t stay closed. Also, they sent out an email saying that they wouldn’t salt the parking areas until it got really bad becuase they “like to watch it accumulate”. 

health care/insurance

As I mentioned, I have health insurance through my dad. That is all thanks to the ACA. And I know that. If I am hardcore screwed, I have options. It may take everything I have to pay that money, but I have options-ish. For example, last fall I went to the urgent care because of an ear infection which burst my eardrum. I paid $200 after insurance for the visit and another $100 for the medication. If the ACA is taken away, so is my insurance. As of right now, I go to the doctor if I have nothing else I can do. Because my health is a luxury I cannot afford. I have not been to the gyno in 3 years. I have not gotten my booster shots. I have not been able to go to the dentist in a great many years. I had to pay out of pocket for my glasses ($300 for exam and frames).

conclusion: What poor actually looks like

So there’s been a lot of disjointed information that’s come at you today. Let me provide a little structure for you.

I’m a first gen college student. My parents are hardworking farmers/pressman. I didn’t have my education paid for by my family (apart from $1000 my dad saved up and I am so grateful for). I pay $25,539 per year for my education. I’ve been in school for 5 years. Do some multiplication-you’ll see why I’m concerned about student loans. My apartment situation is paid for (in part) by the loans my husband and I take out. What we can cover with summer work is obviously done that way to alleviate needing to take out more loans. I have a credit card that I use for emergencies only and pay it off as soon as I get it. This is where I put my health care expenses, if I have any. And trust me, I try not to. Bills are still going to be there when I graduate from law school. And the $1700 a month we pay for everything, in addition to the $2000 a month for both my and my husband’s student loans terrifies me. It really does.

Not being able to afford regular doctor’s visits because of money is something that weighs on your brain a little. It makes you feel a little less than human. Being forced to choose between access to your homework and fresh food does things to your brain, makes you feel unvalued.

So when I said there’s a food bank on campus that’s for students, are you really so surprised? Because it’s not just food that we need. It’s so much more than that.

And that is why I cannot stand by and accept that our country’s education might be left in the hands of someone who has never even interacted with the financial aid system. I’ve only hit the big points-and not even all of them. Because none of this included the daily struggles, the weighing of options, the constant demands of time management, social and academic obligations, extra curricular activities or other facets. But maybe you see the reason why so many people with college degrees feel a little jilted at the system that was supposed to help us.