Criticism of Bruininks misplaced, unwarranted

The General College arguments fall short. Other factors must be considered before addressing needs.

I am sick and tired of reading opinions that President Bob Bruininks should resign or even be fired because of his position regarding the General College and access to the University. This has been an ongoing battle for months with no end in sight. It is time some issues are addressed.

One thing that people need to realize is that the University was never designed to have a the General College. The original purpose of the University, as stated by an original regent, was “to put Yale in the shade,” by being an Ivy League quality school with a structure similar to the University of Michigan. When the General College was created, it was not to be a preparatory school, instead, it offered two degrees. Once it became apparent that these degrees had no meaning in the real world, the General College stopped issuing them and became a launching pad for the University.

One problem with this purpose today is that it is no longer needed. The University guarantees transfer access to the students of community and state colleges across the area. One aspect of community colleges is that they are designed to help students who are not prepared to get in to universities. It is simply more efficient to let those schools, which already have institutionalized this ability, prepare kids for college and let premier universities concentrate on higher learning instead of remedial work. President Bruininks is not the first to know this. Numerous administrations have tried to close the General College because they knew that other places were more apt to serve the same purposes as the General College.

Having written two senior theses on education from a political and sociological standpoint, I have already read the same critiques of urban high schools that many of you have pointed out when explaining why we should have easy access. What many fail to conceive is if the problem exists with the education offered at our high schools, then the work to change the problem should occur there and not here. Once a student gets into college when they are already behind their peers, their chance of graduating has already been cut by 40 percent. By having a remedial school at a university, you do nothing to solve the problem of low achievement in inner-city schools. Instead, you are hoping that the factors for their low achievement somehow don’t come along with them; that those high schools magically start producing more prepared students when no changes at that level occurred and you prove how naïve you are about education policy.

For the majority of you who have never studied education policy, before you criticize those who implement it, maybe you should educate yourself. The main factors that studies have concluded affect academic achievement (on the controversial idea that achievement can truly be objectively measured) include the following: teacher education levels, teacher licensure requirements, socioeconomic status, parent involvement, race and the organizational health of the school. The only one of those that changes for the better is the last; every other trait follows the student or gets worse.

Each state is different in why its statistically poor schools exist. In Minnesota the main factors would be all of the previously except for the two regarding teacher quality. This is because Minnesota’s teaching requirements are extremely rigorous. Minnesota is the only state where if you manage to get licensure here, every other state in the union will let you teach in their state. Other states even try to recruit our teachers when they graduate because they know how prepared our teachers are. With this being the case, which factor that affects student success ceases to harm a student with poor performance who comes here for remedial work? Your race, parental involvement and socioeconomic status stay the same. The quality of teachers gets worse when you come here since professors have no teaching license and are not required to take teaching pedagogy classes. The only thing that improves when you come here is the organizational health of the school. With all of the other factors still playing against you, is that one improvement really enough to mean a student will now succeed at a level that they are not prepared to be at?

When looking at the General College, do you truly believe that it belongs at the only land-grant research university in Minnesota? After all, we were designed to compete with the best universities in the land. Because we have institutionalized these research abilities that no one else in the state has, pure commonsense ideas of efficiency would lead one to believe that premier higher learning is our purpose today. Community and state colleges are the place for preparatory and remedial work. We were not designed to fix the ills of local high schools. If you truly want to help students who come from poor-performing schools like I plan on in my future, then stop having schools become a reflection of the economic status of their students through property tax funding. Maybe by that point you will realize that your criticizing of President Bruininks was misplaced.

Jeff Holtz is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]