I wanted to discuss my point of view related to yesterday's post as well as respond to those of you who responded. I have a little more inside information about the specific student but have views about the many angles such an email can be viewed from.
In my professional capacity, the part of my professional capacity where my role is as an academic advisor and as an employee and advocate for community colleges, I usually begin by reminding myself of the role we play in higher education. This is easier said than done because knowing the various curriculums as I do, it might seem on the surface that a student whose communications skills are as they seem in that email, impossible for the student to succeed.
It's too easy to read an email like this and make a judgement on just the words as they appear - it's unfair and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't guilty of it a time or two despite my passion for what I do and what education means to me. Fortunately those lapses in judgement only last a second and are often the result of pent up frustrations and 100% of the time they have passed almost immediately or I knew enough to pass the case to someone in a better frame of mind. I've spent many voluntary hours in training session on advising and one of the most important lesson's I've learned is that "one can not advise without listening and one can not listen while judging."
A key role of the community college is to utilize the open enrollment model to identify those students who wish to pursue higher education but are not quite ready yet - we need to get these students up to speed whether it be to improve math skills, reading and writing, language and communication, we need to bring them to college level before they can participate fully in a college curriculum.
For me, the best judge or whether or not a student (or prospective student) is ready to proceed is the student. I will often ask a student I am advising why they are here and what they hope to accomplish. Chances are that in most cases where the student is there by choice and has the desire to move forward, given all the information necessary to make such a decision, then they are usually ready, willing, and able to succeed regardless how or where they measure up - this desire can't be measured alone through the dreaded "standardized testing."
One of the most basic flaws in "no child left behind" is it doesn't take into consideration the student as an individual and the needs of that individual but groups everyone together by a present standard, a mere number that establishes a criteria for everyone without considering who that person is and what it may take to get them there. None of it makes sense considering all of the research and work that has been done in the field of education regarding learning styles and that ones learning style does not necessarily reflect the ability of one to learn, only how they learn it - something not reflected in standardized testing (which in my opinion is the government's way of controlling just how intelligent it wants the general public to be - how's that for a conspiracy theory?).
Looking back at how much I've run on, I'll attempt to summarize: the important lesson about the email I posted yesterday isn't so much it's lack of coherence, it's the reason it looks as it does. It is easy to make a host of judgements about the author by reading it and making assumptions but impossible to respond to in any way without actually considering the author and having a real conversation with them. in my experience, while the inevitable disappointments and shocking realities of some do exist, almost always the depth and complexity of a sincere and genuine student who is capable of every success they wish can be found and that after all, is why we do what we do in this business.