In this heart-rending L.A. Times piece, we see how educational malpractice from early school on to freshman year at the University of California – Berkeley has damaged a young black student, Kashawn Campbell.
Kashawn was one of the very few male students who showed any interest in his studies and for that reason, the school staff decided that they couldn’t “let him down.” With very little effort, he earned straight A grades and was salutatorian in his class. That high ranking automatically entitled him to a spot in Berkeley’s incoming freshman class, and he took it.
Too bad that none of his high school teachers bothered to teach him how to write.
Kashawn’s first year at Berkeley was one of disappointment and anguish. He had led to believe that he was an A student, but he struggled with his courses, barely passing the introductory science class and failing his College Writing class. Kashawn went to the instructor, Verda Delp, for assistance. Unfortunately, “His writing often didn’t make sense. He struggled to comprehend the readings for her class and think critically about the text.”
Furthermore, his final essay appeared to have largely been written by someone else. Delp couldn’t bring herself to give Kashawn an F, though. She entered “In Progress” meaning that he’d have to retake the course.
Too bad that some universities admit students simply because they have what look like good high school records, without finding out whether they’re able to handle the work expected of them. One’s heart bleeds for this nice young man, struggling with basic courses for which his earlier schooling left him unprepared.
When Kashawn retook College Writing, things didn’t go much better: “On yet another failing essay, the instructor wrote how surprised she was at his lack of progress, especially, she noted, given the hours they’d spent going over his ‘extremely long, awkward and unclear sentences.'”
At the end of the semester, a depressed Kashawn returned home to wait for his grades, which would determine whether he’d be eligible to return to Berkeley for another year. His grade in College Writing was an incomplete. The instructor said that he would have to turn in two more essays (presumably of better quality) in order to earn his grade.
But there was a bright spot. In his African American Studies course, where he had received an A on one essay – and how does a student who struggles to pass freshman composition get an A? – his final grade was A minus. That boosted his GPA over 2.0, thus allowing him to enroll for his sophomore year.
The word “mismatch” never appears in the article, but it is painfully clear that Kashawn Campbell was mismatched at Berkeley. With his weak abilities in English, he ought first to have gone to a much less selective and rigorous university or a community college, where his problems could be better addressed.
Progressive-minded educators, like those who had charge of Kashawn for years, may think they’re doing students a favor by being kind and giving them good grades (first to boost self-esteem and later to keep them from flunking out), but they are not. Although the article wasn’t intended to convey this message, it indicts the education establishment for its failure to hold minority students to high standards. In the long run, that hurts them badly.