Two conversations I can’t imagine having with students, plus a bonus cold, hard fact

William J. Turkel dreams up lunchtime conversation with first-years:

 If I were chatting with freshmen, say over lunch, I’d be looking for students who had heard of Eliza and the Turing test and had a well-developed sense of anachronism. That hasn’t happened to me yet.

Love the last sentence: Turkel’s a master of understatement.  I’d need to check with my wife, but it’s probably safe to say I’d buy a yearlong meal plan for a first-year student capable of having that chat.

And, at the Chronicle,  Mark Bauerlein laments the impoverished diction of his students:

 “Try an experiment,” I sometimes urge students. “The next time you’re in the cafeteria with four friends and the colloquy turns to Obama, mutter this: ‘Such mellifluous sonorities the man produces.’ See how they react.”

My students already think I’m crazy.

Meanwhile, closer to home, the local paper yesterday published this cheery claim about the New Britain public schools:

“We have 70 percent of fourth graders who aren’t meeting the standard and can’t read at the proficient grade level,” [Enrique E.] Juncadella said.

Now, I am not a mathematician, but I think that means only 30% of fourth-grade students in New Britain read at grade level.  That’s terrifying.

But what’s really scary is that the superintendent told the parents a couple of weekends ago that 84% of New Britain High graduates go on to college.  Now, granted, those are different cohorts, but those two figures suggest only a couple of interpretations: either NB public schools are populated by stone pedagogical geniuses,  who get 54% more students up to grade-level by the time they graduate, *or* a certain subset of those students are going off to college without the reading skills necessary to succeed.

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3 Responses to Two conversations I can’t imagine having with students, plus a bonus cold, hard fact

  1. Tom says:

    What that college attendance figure means is that many of those 4th graders never graduate from high school.

    The graduation rate is allegedly 70%, but I don’t really believe that.

  2. Alex says:

    I was at least two-thirds of that freshman student: I loved the idea of the Turing test, and was familiar (though not explicitly) with ELIZA. Anachronism came later, but I could probably have given a fuzzy definition.

  3. re: diction, I love the way students pronounce the city where our university is located – New Bri-uh. No wonder they can’t spell it correctly. . .

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