As part of the Associated Students of College of the Redwoods (ASCR), I went down to the LA area for the California Community College Student Affairs Association (CCCSAA) Conference. Over 50 community colleges state-wide attended this conference, and many students were able to gain new friends, allies in student government, and ideas for involving students at their campuses. The Conference had a day of workshops for which students had the choice of attending, these ranged from creating a more ‘Green’ campus, to how to communicate to your congressman, to how to become more active in your school’s politics. While many of the campuses had a very diverse group of students on the individual level, many community college campuses face the same exact challenges. I discovered that the community college down in the San Francisco area also faces accreditation issues, and many students developed new networks to bounce ideas and strategies off each other to try and fix this growing problem.
While attending these workshops and other meetings with other community college members, a very important and common problem that nearly all community colleges share is a severe lack in student involvement. Here at College of the Redwoods, many students are unaware of the existence of a student government, let alone who makes up the student government or of the rights and powers the student government possesses. Unfortunately, I was one of these students my first two semesters here at College of the Redwoods, but now that I have found my motivation to be a proactive member in my school, I find students lack of enthusiasm disheartening. Students seem to share this belief that community college means less than other forms of higher education; this is not so. Community colleges open doorways for people, offer helping hands to those who have struggled before in their past, and give people fresh starts to a life they want to have. Community college is one of the first big steps in higher education, and numerous people across the globe do not share this same privilege. CR allowed me to find the right career path, without the severe cost most Universities or CSU’s cause their students; it gave me the flexibility and freedom to maintain my love of learning. Community colleges, for many people, are the only reason they were able to turn their life around due to high costs at Universities and the accessibility found only at community colleges. So, while I understand that many students who attend community colleges do not have spare time, usually work a part-time or full time job while being a full time student, and many have families to support, being an active member of your school community will never be a waste of time.
Without student involvement and support, community colleges crumble from within. I know many students notice the issues surrounding their schools. I know many students wish circumstances were different or better. Many students just do not know what they can do as one lone person trying to create a better life for themselves. But there are many things students can do; students have one of the loudest voices due to their sheer numbers if they just stand up shout. Writing letters to congressman, being proactive in student government, attending even a few school committee meetings to better understand the developments in your school all help when trying to fix problems at a school campus. Asking questions is always a good place to start. As an Eureka Representative, I will always try to answer your questions to the best of my ability. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by the ASCR office located on the outside of the Physical Science building facing the first lake.
The question “Do grades matter?” has been posed by many students, philosophy teachers, and a collection of other types of people primarily in the last few decades. Yet again, one of my teachers asked the class if we considered grades of any importance other than an obstacle in gaining your degree. On the surface level, many would say of course grades matter; no grades means no one has the ability to rank others on how well they completed their course, assignment etc., so people essentially could not receive degrees in a field of study. However, on a deeper level, do grades represent anything of true quality? Many philosophers, modern and ancient, have tried to tackle this issue.
Does a grade properly represent the effort and time a person spent on a certain assignment? Some would say yes, that if a person received an ‘A’ on an assignment, they obviously did the work necessary to achieve that grade; or did they? Many people have excellent memorization skills, so they need perhaps 20 minutes to study for an examine to receive an ‘A’ whereas many different people need to spend a few hours spread over a longer time period to achieve the same grade. Who received the better learning experience? Who retained the information better? What if a person who would have received 100% on a test, due to their dedication as a student, somehow was unable to take the test, resulting in an F? Out of all three students, who knows more? Who would receive the better or highest-paying job? With the numerous answers that arise out of these questions, the underlying inquiry then becomes: Are grades a true reflection of a person’s effort and skill, or an arbitrary line drawn in the sand by the teacher and the administration which employs him/her?
Through my own personal experiences, I believe grades are somewhat arbitrarily drawn lines, but that these lines do show a representation of student, teacher, and the school. Every student understands that some courses, some teachers are ‘easier’ than others; hence why some students take a particular course for the ‘easy A.’ Many students rank their courses according to their own grading system of relevance to achieving the desired degree and practical applications, level of difficulty, as well as the person teaching the class and the people who attend the class. This ranking process then leads students to make certain behavioral changes, such as what classes to attend more frequently, which class’ homework can be done last, or even turned it late, and what class is more beneficial to them in the long run. This idea of quality comes up again, although, this time from the students’ perspective; teachers are ranked through their administration, and the administration is ranked by the governing body be it state or national level. So when a teacher gives a student a certain ranking, a numerical or alphabetical indication of the quality of the student’s work, should they matter to anyone else other than teacher, because the teacher is the one deciding that rank? The grades you receive do matter to the outside world- an ‘A’ student, theoretically, should have more opportunities open to them compared to a ‘C’ student. So, to what degree should these grades matter to you? Does a student who gave an honest, earnest, heartfelt attempt at an examine/assignment deserve an ‘A’ or a ‘C’ when compared to a student who did not need to work nearly as hard to achieve the correct answers on a examine/assignment? Does the grade matter more than the learning experience itself?
It is a very difficult question to answer; I can only answer it for myself, and even then, I still am shaky as to where my beliefs truly lie. For me, separating the learning experience and the grade is difficult. I have not been in a class I thought was pointless, but that is due to my strong belief that all learning is a beneficial skill. I make a personal choice to not deem any opportunity I receive to learn something as pointless; unfortunately, I do make the same distinction between the different learning experiences, therefore, ranking one better than another. When a teacher lays out the criteria of passing a class with an ‘A,’ ‘B,’ or ‘C’ I shoot for the ‘A,’ and I have yet to miss; teachers and their grading criteria differ greatly, but my want to pass a class with flying colors does not. In a very abstract way, grades are a very unclear, nearly obsolete way of assessing my character as a person. People who receive bad grades are not all bad people, and people who receive excellent grades are not all excellent people either, but for my own personal gain, that grade means something. As I acquire more and more knowledge, it seems to me, if I am to change the system of learning, I should at least have it mastered so I know how, where, why, and when to change. In high school, the seniors and juniors of all the high schools in my county had to take a special test for this Business and Finance class; a class which was an experiment of last year, which some administration deemed necessary because it caused Seniors and Juniors to do more volunteer work in the community. Nearly every student from every school resented this test, they believed it to be a stupid waste of time, with no real benefit to our lives nor our learning experience. Many of the students did not even study, many cheated, many just did not care. I also despised this test, but I studied for it, received one of the best grades, but on the back of the test I wrote detailed, well-reasoned explanations as to why all the students here, including myself, hated this test. To me, the fact that I received such a good grade gave me credibility to people/authority figures that would have otherwise deemed me as an angsty teenager. My grade means something to me, but it is not what defines me as an entire person. I enjoy achieving high grades, not just for the ‘A’ sake of it, but because I enjoy learning; it just so happens, that usually these two are inextricably intertwined.
The presidential debate began tonight October 3, 2012 with Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The supporters of these two candidates seem to be incredibly loyal to their chosen party as well as the stances on controversial issues brought up in this election. However, many people do not realize the amounts of logical fallacies that are presented to them, under the guise of truth and good intentions.
A logical fallacy is an error in reason, a break in the chain of logic, causing anyone’s argument to then become invalid. A few common logical fallacies are ad hominem, ad populum, slippery slope, post hoc, false dilemma, and faulty appeals to emotion. All these logical fallacies I have seen come up in almost every news debate about the presidential candidates, their campaigns, their ads against one another, etc. Why do political leaders, who the general populace deems as at least somewhat intelligent, use illogical arguments/statements against the opposing’s side illogical arguments/statements? Because logical fallacies work. Inspirational speeches given to civilians in times of war, the US Declaration of Independence, Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches, etc., all have logical fallacies. They sound nice, they sound confident and convincing, they create a very specific response in the audience with which the speaker can manipulate and utilize to his/her benefit.
The Presidential debate actually surprised me. Although the two candidates did use some slippery slopes, false dilemmas, and ad hominems, they truly seemed willing to at least try to make a debate out of it. The general public does not seem to understand that both candidates have this enormous amount of people they need to appeal to; Obama and Romney both have advisors instructing them on the best way to prove to America that he (Obama or Romney) is the best choice for president. Logical fallacies are quick shortcuts in thinking which allow a person to come to a decision quick. With so much pressure on both candidates, obviously some of these shortcuts will be utilized.
As I watched the debate, I was distinctively aware of the logical fallacies being employed as well as the appeals to emotion- faulty or not- both Romney and Obama were using. However, I was completely unsatisfied with the questions asked. Both candidates, contrary to what extremists on both sides will declare, do wish the best for this country. They both want to help the American people. They both want America to be a prosperous nation with a strong global economy, intelligent and well-cared for citizens, and safe borders. That is fact. The order in which these wants occur on the candidate’s priority list is of bigger issue. The ‘how’ in fixing the issues in these major areas matters more than whether or not the presidential candidate acknowledges these issues. The structure of the debate left both candidates with no time to expand upon these issues, either. The debate should be centered on one of the major problems in American society, and then both candidates, now with 90 minutes for just that one issue, would be more able to debate with each other, rather than last minute fine-tuning of their platform with finger pointing about who said what in the past. As a woman, and even though I do not believe these issues should be relevant to this election, I wanted to hear Romney’s reasons about his stance on birth control, abortion, ect. No matter what a president would like to declare, the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe vs. Wade would deem any harsh restrictions on both of these hot issues as unconstitutional; not necessarily because of a morality issue, but because the federal government does not have that type of power, it is left to the states, but it also infringes upon a person’s right to privacy and their pursuit of happiness . Nevertheless, I saw many inadequacies in the structure of the debate, the questions being asked, as well as the time given to both candidates rather than in the candidates themselves and this has allowed logical fallacies to be more of use and of higher prevalence in politics.