FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why Some Students Fail

Another semester is about to begin at the community college where I teach.

Some of my students come from middle class backgrounds. They went to excellent high schools, enjoy financial and emotional support from their parents, and have what it takes to excel in college.

Others went to failing high schools that failed to get them college-ready. Some grew up in poverty and even faced homelessness or hunger — or still suffer those hardships now. They may or may not have loving, supportive parents.

Many of them are adults who live independently and support themselves. Others live at home but help support their parents or care for younger siblings.

At the end of the semester, I must give them all a grade.

Many students fail. Others pass but with a C.

And I know, when I give them these grades, that future colleges and employers will look upon the grades as a mark of my students’ abilities. A low grade must mean either you’re not intelligent enough to do well, or you didn’t work hard enough.

Sara Goldrick-Rab, in her book Paying the Price, shows that this isn’t true. For low-income students, a low grade often doesn’t reflect a lack of hard work, intelligence, or responsibility. It reflects that humans can only be pushed so far until they hit a breaking point.

When students are homeless, hungry, working part or full-time, or taking care of siblings or elderly relatives or their own children, there just isn’t enough time left in the day to spend enough time on school work to do well.

The problem can be even trickier for students who, through no fault of their own, had the misfortune to attend a substandard high school.

It’s common for students to work two jobs in addition to attending school, or to lack the money to purchase the textbook. They don’t necessarily have the time or ability to come for tutoring or attend office hours. Some come from as far as two hours away by bus, and each trip to campus involves four hours of transportation time.

Why do we live in a society that thinks that it’s reasonable to ask someone to shoulder an adult’s responsibility at home, support themselves and perhaps other family members too, and go to school on top of that? And then why do we call them failures when that doesn’t work?

Some students receive financial aid to cover their tuition, but that doesn’t cover their other needs. It doesn’t keep them from working long hours, sometimes on the night shift, in order to make ends meet at home.

This year, some students have an added challenge.

Some are undocumented immigrants, brought here as children through no fault of their own. Obama allowed them to pay a fee in order to avoid deportation and legally work in the U.S. temporarily. Trump ended that program.

When students’ two year work permits run out, what will happen to them? Some students have had relatives, parents even, get deported.

Students who try to educate themselves in these conditions are heroes. We should make it easier, not harder, for them to devote themselves full time to study.

And we certainly shouldn’t discuss them as if they are human garbage who should be deported.

More articles by:

January 23, 2019
Paul Street
Time for the U.S. Yellow Vests
Charles McKelvey
Popular Democracy in Cuba
Kenn Orphan
The Smile of Class Privilege
Leonard Peltier
The History Behind Nate Phillips’ Song
Kenneth Surin
Stalled Brexit Goings On
Jeff Cohen
The System’s Falling Apart: Were the Dogmatic Marxists Right After All?
Cira Pascual Marquina
Chavez and the Continent of Politics: a Conversation with Chris Gilbert
George Ochenski
Turning Federal Lands Over to the States and Other Rightwing Fantasies
George Wuerthner
Forest Service Ignores Science to Justify Logging
Raouf Halaby
In the Fray: Responses to Covington Catholic High
Kim C. Domenico
No Saviors But Ourselves; No Disobedience Without Deeper Loyalty
Ted Rall
Jury Trial? You Have No Right!
Michael Doliner
The Pros and Cons of Near Term Human Extinction
Lee Ballinger
Musical Unity
Elliot Sperber
The Ark Builders
January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Glenn Sacks
Teachers Strike Dispatch #8: New Independent Study Confirms LAUSD Has the Money to Meet UTLA’s Demands
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposable Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail