Friday, October 4, 2013

A Day In The Life Of A "Non-Traditional" Student: A Classroom Experience

("Non-traditional" is just a fun politically correct way Universities classify "older students" *gag*)

In a class today, where the discussion was racial stereotypes in the context of how history forms what we think and know, when asked what comes to mind when you hear the word "terrorism"...while our answer was "Timothy McVeigh"...many others' was "Osama Bin Laden"...and other such Middle Eastern references.

Few of the students had ever even heard of Timothy McVeigh...(what proceeded was a mini-lesson by the instructor)

That name is synonymous with the first time we can recall knowing terrorism was even a thing (April 1995), much like they equate Middle Eastern peoples with the same thing, for much the same reason, because of 9/11.

Despite the class being a college composition II class, the instructor (who is top on our list of favorites) has chosen the book Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James Lowen (amazing!) to use as illustration in teaching the class how to write academic level essays.

There tends to be A LOT of discussion on the facts that history left out, why they were left out, who they were left out by, and what impact that has on today's society and ways of thinking, and the influence new knowledge has on prior knowledge.

Needless to say, as far as this class could's right at the top of things most of us love to think and talk about. And class participation is kinda "our thing".

Back to the topic.

Today, sitting in that classroom with people who had so little life experience, comparatively, was a real-life experience of how even today, mere omissions in national conversations of recent historical events, omission of information, can completely alter ways of thinking.

These kids (ages 18-20) only know the things they do through the eyes of media, textbooks, and limited parental intervention. Primarily, in this case, they only understand terrorism as a USA vs. the "Middle East" issue. At the heart a racial issue.

Like issues with poverty, drugs and violence, much of reporting and teaching of history is framed in a racial context (but when was the last time you heard the rising problem with Meth, or Molly (MDMA/Ecstasy) being referred to as a "white problem") most people look at things through a lens of their own experiences and what they have been taught. But if they are taught a very limited can they grow. How can they understand.

Today's experience was very visceral. If you ever have a chance to pick up the book, it's highly recommended. You'll probably hear about it again from us...there's currently a paper in mid-grading that discussed Lowen and his writing style...

(this topic deserves more...and we barely gave the book the credit it deserves...but it's late at night...and it's Friday...give us a break)

(Thanks for reading!)


  1. It's a great book Frank...I gave a copy to my high schooler. I've had the pleasure of being the only "non-traditional" in class a few times and it was quite the learning experience.

  2. Have you read The Language Police by Diane Ravitch?
    It was a very formative book. Completely eye opening before entering University the first time (10 years ago) as a "non-traditional" student.
    Back then they called it "mature student". Ha! :-)

  3. From one "non-traditional" student to another...I can sympathize. It hurts my head sometimes to think about how limited our classmates truly are, as they have been exposed to a bunch of information, mostly sanitized and biased...yet they accept it as fact. Seems to be a lack of critical thinking skills...present company excluded, of course :)