"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

When taking longer to finish is not failure but heroism

Sent to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, February 9, 2015

Like Peter Smagorinsky ("Opinion: Issue isn’t welding vs. Chaucer. It’s how to remove barriers to college," Feb. 9). I also "admire people who persist through obstacles."  As Smagorinksy points out, many of those who take longer than the traditional time period to finish high school, community college, or a "four-year" college need to work to support themselves and their families. 
We must allow working students to take a reduced course load and and occasional leaves of absence.  During the depression, the father of a colleague of mine alternated working a year and going to high school a year, because his family needed the money.  Another colleague told me that she and her dad graduated high school at the same time. These are not cases of failure but of heroism.

Stephen Krashen

original article:


  1. A majority of my college students work while going to school, many of them half time or more. To expect them to finish in 4-6 years is crazy, and also has the effect of punishing my university for having so many students who are not affluent enough to zip through in "ordinary time". I agree that students deserve special praise for finishing college even though they are "working their way through", and many have other circumstances, such as being disproportionately first generation college students. My father, like your colleague's father, alternated a year of work with a year of college, until he finished. Some of my students are like that, and many are not native English speakers. Why should they - or the colleges they attend - be punished because they do not zoom through at the same rate as affluent and upper middle class students?

    The energy and vitality of these students, their strong interest in learning, is so exciting! It's a great privilege to teach such students.