Developmental Education as a Liberating Act

I strongly believe that, given enough time and absent significant physical, intellectual, affective or social barriers, it is possible to teach any willing person who is capable of reason any subject matter in an intellectually honest manner. For the developmental educator, overcoming students' barriers to learning is usually more important than simply transmitting knowledge and skills. With an enthusiastic, knowledgeable teacher, a reasonable curriculum, good advisement and a proper instructional methodology, the only students who fail in the developmental education environment should be those who choose (consciously, or by default as a consequence of their own decisions and actions) to do so.

In the vast majority of cases, "developmental" students are simply those who have not yet been successfully educated to their full potential. For most  students who arrive in college without the skills expected of high school graduates, the question must be not so much what these students have done wrong or failed to do, but rather, what has been done to them or denied to them to produce such a state of affairs. While in many circles it is now deemed politically incorrect to mention "victims," the sad truth is that real, material victimization (in the forms of racism, sexism, poverty, inadequate parenting, deficient and underfunded schools, ill health, questionable past instruction and abuse of all sorts) has not been wiped from the face of the earth by simply defining it away. Developmental education in such circumstances is thus necessarily a political act::either an act of solidarity and resistance, or an act of oppression, "another brick in the wall."  I opt for the former and struggle against the latter. 

If an individual chooses not to learn, it is, of course, that personís free choice. However, a healthy respect for human differences and different learning styles, as well as the essentially subjective nature of the educational process itself, would lead me to allow the widest possible latitude for different modes of learning and writing, different pedagogical styles, different personalities, and different cultures.

Owen Williamson, 2005



For educational purposes only.


Owen M. Williamson - Education Bldg 211E - phone: (915) 747 7625 - fax: (915) 747 5655
The University of Texas at El Paso - 500 W. University Ave. - El Paso, TX 79968
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