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Back to School: Why Everyone Deserves A Second Chance at Education

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It’s a statistic that’s sure to surprise: close to 45 percent of postsecondary students in the United States today do not enroll in college directly out of high school and many attend part-time. Following a tradition of self-improvement as old as the Republic, the “nontraditional” college student is becoming the norm. Back to School is the first book to look at the schools It’s a statistic that’s sure to surprise: close to 45 percent of postsecondary students in the United States today do not enroll in college directly out of high school and many attend part-time. Following a tradition of self-improvement as old as the Republic, the “nontraditional” college student is becoming the norm. Back to School is the first book to look at the schools that serve a growing population of “second-chancers,” exploring what higher education—in the fullest sense of the term—can offer our rapidly changing society and why it is so critical to support the institutions that make it possible for millions of Americans to better their lot in life. In the anecdotal style of his bestselling Possible Lives, Rose crafts rich and moving vignettes of people in tough circumstances who find their way; who get a second . . . or third . . . or even fourth chance; and who, in a surprising number of cases, reinvent themselves as educated, engaged citizens. Rose reminds us that our nation’s economic and civic future rests heavily on the health of the institutions that serve millions of everyday people—not simply the top twenty universities in U.S. News and World Report—and paints a vivid picture of the community colleges and adult education programs that give so many a shot at reaching their aspirations.


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It’s a statistic that’s sure to surprise: close to 45 percent of postsecondary students in the United States today do not enroll in college directly out of high school and many attend part-time. Following a tradition of self-improvement as old as the Republic, the “nontraditional” college student is becoming the norm. Back to School is the first book to look at the schools It’s a statistic that’s sure to surprise: close to 45 percent of postsecondary students in the United States today do not enroll in college directly out of high school and many attend part-time. Following a tradition of self-improvement as old as the Republic, the “nontraditional” college student is becoming the norm. Back to School is the first book to look at the schools that serve a growing population of “second-chancers,” exploring what higher education—in the fullest sense of the term—can offer our rapidly changing society and why it is so critical to support the institutions that make it possible for millions of Americans to better their lot in life. In the anecdotal style of his bestselling Possible Lives, Rose crafts rich and moving vignettes of people in tough circumstances who find their way; who get a second . . . or third . . . or even fourth chance; and who, in a surprising number of cases, reinvent themselves as educated, engaged citizens. Rose reminds us that our nation’s economic and civic future rests heavily on the health of the institutions that serve millions of everyday people—not simply the top twenty universities in U.S. News and World Report—and paints a vivid picture of the community colleges and adult education programs that give so many a shot at reaching their aspirations.

30 review for Back to School: Why Everyone Deserves A Second Chance at Education

  1. 4 out of 5

    Zach

    One week ago, a stranger punched me in the mouth while I was on a walk. It was as impersonal an exchange as possible: He said nothing, took nothing, and ran away immediately afterward. I was pretty pissed off, both because I had to go to the ER to figure out if he damaged more than a now-missing tooth, and because someone attacked ME. Why the hell would you do that? I'm just a guy, walking! Dammit! Incidentally, I was 80% through this book when the assault happened, and I'm glad I happened to be One week ago, a stranger punched me in the mouth while I was on a walk. It was as impersonal an exchange as possible: He said nothing, took nothing, and ran away immediately afterward. I was pretty pissed off, both because I had to go to the ER to figure out if he damaged more than a now-missing tooth, and because someone attacked ME. Why the hell would you do that? I'm just a guy, walking! Dammit! Incidentally, I was 80% through this book when the assault happened, and I'm glad I happened to be reading it at the time (and in the ER). I realized that for so many people, public education is a dismal failure. If one attends a failing school, he or she will be behind the state requirements for college preparation. If one is behind, he or she has to take remedial classes. These remedial classes typically are skills & drills, repeated ad nauseam. The logic is sound: kid can't read, teach him what letters are. But in application, it's a soulless exercise. Why would you care about rules of grammar if you only use them to diagram "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog?" So, if the education system fails you and keeps failing you, why would you keep trying to go with the establishment? I'd be angry and rudderless too if I felt like I had no hope, and it makes sense why that guy would punch a stranger in the mouth. I'm glad this book focuses on the bottom of the education system. Honors kids don't need more help; they'll find a way to make it work because their parents made it work, and they have access to resources. But making a compelling vocational education? Structuring a remedial class that's compelling? Heck, even small barriers like poorly-labeled offices and chains of power can discourage an otherwise eager student, and it's a slippery slope from discouraged to drop-out. This book, combined with a good face-punching, has inspired me to at least think about the unfair distribution of education and opportunity. I hope that I will soon be able to help in some small way. My face-puncher may be beyond help (or at least impossible to locate and identify, thus making this hypothetical null), but maybe I can keep one kid from that.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    While I think Rose had a number of important and interesting points, there were too many of them, and I think Rose lost his focus. While each chapter did link back to the main topic of the book, the links weren't always strong enough, and his path was often meandering. He also spoke quite a bit on developmental courses without even mentioning that there is a huge debate about the cost/value of developmental ed. Not that he should have gotten off-topic, but it was an oversight on his part not to While I think Rose had a number of important and interesting points, there were too many of them, and I think Rose lost his focus. While each chapter did link back to the main topic of the book, the links weren't always strong enough, and his path was often meandering. He also spoke quite a bit on developmental courses without even mentioning that there is a huge debate about the cost/value of developmental ed. Not that he should have gotten off-topic, but it was an oversight on his part not to at least bring the debate to his readers' attention.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Good read for those of us who already love community colleges, and for those who want to learn more about them. Reminder that college isn't solely for economic mobility, but that everyone also deserves the chance to learn and think and grow through education in many diverse forms. Good read for those of us who already love community colleges, and for those who want to learn more about them. Reminder that college isn't solely for economic mobility, but that everyone also deserves the chance to learn and think and grow through education in many diverse forms.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Fabiola V

    A perfect book for education lovers, and for all of those who would like to comprehend challenges of college life. Rose advocates the most common issues related with our education system and talks about possible solutions that would require a new reform, and of course, political support. Mike Rose kills it with his critique. The world we live in, and the moral codes that society establishes are all based upon education. Rose discusses about the following topics: -Main goal of Education: Which are th A perfect book for education lovers, and for all of those who would like to comprehend challenges of college life. Rose advocates the most common issues related with our education system and talks about possible solutions that would require a new reform, and of course, political support. Mike Rose kills it with his critique. The world we live in, and the moral codes that society establishes are all based upon education. Rose discusses about the following topics: -Main goal of Education: Which are the goals of our education system? Which are the goals we must have and achieve as an educated society? -Main failures, its causes, as well as direct and indirect consequences -Adult Education and why people must receive a second chance -Benefits of learning -Aspects of college life including: campus, learning environment, motivation -Economic and social motives related with education -Which are the main aspects that everybody critiques about our education? Why are statistics wrong? -Why should we care to make a change And many, many more... It took me a lot of time to finish it but it was worthy.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jenny GB

    In Back to School, Rose discusses the current state of community college education with all of its hopes and challenges. His major premise is that a college education, despite what politicians and many others believe, should be about both education to secure a job and education to open the mind to the pleasure of learning. He seems concerned that a focus on providing funding, evaluating programs, etc. based purely on statistics about completion rates or job attainment fail to show the full pictu In Back to School, Rose discusses the current state of community college education with all of its hopes and challenges. His major premise is that a college education, despite what politicians and many others believe, should be about both education to secure a job and education to open the mind to the pleasure of learning. He seems concerned that a focus on providing funding, evaluating programs, etc. based purely on statistics about completion rates or job attainment fail to show the full picture of what is going on in community colleges and then he provides some stores and examples. He also provides an interesting chapter of ideas that he things can make community college more appealing and help students achieve more success. These ideas include: organizing the college spaces logically, friendly and helpful staff (especially those greeting new students), collecting more useful information about students and their studies, meaningful teacher preparation, finding ways to help students with skills deficits, and bringing a more coherent course of study that students understand and find meaningful. I found Rose's ideas interesting and enlightening as a relatively new high school teacher that never attended community college. I'll admit that I feel that pushing all students to pursue college, especially at it's current expense and few monetary rewards (unless you pursue a practical and in need area of study) is premature, but I can appreciate Rose's point of view that education can broaden the mind. I have informally educated myself on many things throughout the years, but I had the benefit of many quality years of education for me to get to that point. I can see many students benefiting greatly from further formal education, but I think Rose is right that the main sticking point is having enough financial support as well as other kinds of support to make that pursuit successful. Unfortunately, at this point in time all education is being measured in terms of test scores and monetary rewards and money is frequently not available. I hope for a future that Rose describes when all who want to have access to further education can access it and succeed in their endeavors.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Rose is back and raring with his dignity-bestowing research and writing. Lots of rich data, interviews, observations, examples as well as approachable statistics about basic courses, vocational classes and what is sometimes called euphemistically "adult learners." As you might expect, he calls for more dignity (and funding) for community colleges, vocational programs and remedial classes, and makes a compelling argument that this is worth some of our best education efforts. The last chapters rec Rose is back and raring with his dignity-bestowing research and writing. Lots of rich data, interviews, observations, examples as well as approachable statistics about basic courses, vocational classes and what is sometimes called euphemistically "adult learners." As you might expect, he calls for more dignity (and funding) for community colleges, vocational programs and remedial classes, and makes a compelling argument that this is worth some of our best education efforts. The last chapters recognize that these are hard questions to answer: should we take away education choices to low-income students because they are "at-risk" of falling between the cracks of too many options? Should the liberal arts and not only vocational classes be available/ required for certificate-seekers? These are hard questions and asking them is where it begins. A few highlights: "It is not enough to let people in the door; we have to create the conditions for them to thrive once inside" (143). Experimenting with "get[ing] a jump on remediation" by concurrently enrolling in college basic-skills classes while in high school (so pretty much just stepping into the high school to provide a parallel education) (172). I also really like the idea of creating workshops and conversations (perhaps through a center for teaching and learning) among faculty about what it is like to be faculty (169). That led to a 10-minute daydream about giving a course release every year for all faculty members to take a "continuing education" class together. What if you had mandatory participation in your choice of classes like "Writing Across the Curriculum," "Addressing the Needs of International Students," "Basic Principles of Basic Courses" etc. with faculty members across the departments? It would be great to remember what it's like to be a student again, and the semester-long projects (curricula redesigns, articles, etc.) could be really cool. It's a little far afield from what Rose is suggesting, but it's an idea I really like to fantasize about.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    Like all of Mike Rose's books that I've read, this one is thoughtful, well-informed, and compassionate--populated by the students Rose has encountered in his travels to U.S. community colleges, technical schools, adult literacy programs, and ESL classrooms as he explores the phenomenon of adults returning to post-secondary education. In the process, he found (no surprise to me since I teach at a community college) that the students not only improved their job prospects but also enriched their li Like all of Mike Rose's books that I've read, this one is thoughtful, well-informed, and compassionate--populated by the students Rose has encountered in his travels to U.S. community colleges, technical schools, adult literacy programs, and ESL classrooms as he explores the phenomenon of adults returning to post-secondary education. In the process, he found (no surprise to me since I teach at a community college) that the students not only improved their job prospects but also enriched their lives and minds. The book is an engaging, pathos-filled--but also eminently logical--argument for U.S. society and its educational institutions to do what is necessary to help students who want these 'second chances' to succeed. Further, he argues for erasing the strict boundary that so often exists between general education and career education. To Rose--and to me--these are imperatives not just because--as Pres. Obama and so many others argue--achieving a post-secondary credential will help students' and the country's economic viability, but because all citizens deserve a quality, critical, enriching education. This is even more necessary for our democracy than for our economy. But, the book is not just stories and a case for different tacks in higher ed; it also has practical suggestions for colleges, programs, and developmental educators as we all seek to enhance student success.

  8. 4 out of 5

    JodyReads

    I read this book for a work related organization that I belong to and was sort of dreading it--again with the "assigned" reading. However, it was very easy to read. I think it would be a good introduction to people unfamiliar with the challenges of secondary education--particularly at the community college. As an educator, I thought if offered some ideas and reminded me about why my job is so important. It's something I would pick up again, after I'm done with school, so I had more time to pay a I read this book for a work related organization that I belong to and was sort of dreading it--again with the "assigned" reading. However, it was very easy to read. I think it would be a good introduction to people unfamiliar with the challenges of secondary education--particularly at the community college. As an educator, I thought if offered some ideas and reminded me about why my job is so important. It's something I would pick up again, after I'm done with school, so I had more time to pay attention to it. This is book is for adults and I would only recommend it if you are a teacher (at any level) or want to more about community colleges. Actually, as some of these problems are starting to be politicized, if you're on the fence about support community colleges/post-secondary education, I would like you to read this book before you make your decision.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    In Back to School Mike Rose makes a passionate argument for joining the hand and the mind through connecting the vocational and academic tracks in education. He also provides a series of compelling portraits of grown-ups who need a second chance at higher education, and who have much to offer back when given that chance. Back to School offers a hopeful vision of what our nation might become if we committed ourselves to educating not just "workers" but indivduals who form our communities and fami In Back to School Mike Rose makes a passionate argument for joining the hand and the mind through connecting the vocational and academic tracks in education. He also provides a series of compelling portraits of grown-ups who need a second chance at higher education, and who have much to offer back when given that chance. Back to School offers a hopeful vision of what our nation might become if we committed ourselves to educating not just "workers" but indivduals who form our communities and families. It's a terrific book that should be read by teachers and students, policy makers and the people whose lives are shaped by their policies.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    I like Mike Rose. (Lives on the Boundary was excellent.) In this book, Rose argues that fewer and fewer students are going to college in the old-fashioned, conventional way (of after high school) and that we need to do a better job of addressing people who want to return to school to get a better education. In everything he writes (he writes really well), Rose reminds me that there are many paths. If I'm a teacher and I don't quite reach a student, I should keep trying, and even if I fail, there I like Mike Rose. (Lives on the Boundary was excellent.) In this book, Rose argues that fewer and fewer students are going to college in the old-fashioned, conventional way (of after high school) and that we need to do a better job of addressing people who want to return to school to get a better education. In everything he writes (he writes really well), Rose reminds me that there are many paths. If I'm a teacher and I don't quite reach a student, I should keep trying, and even if I fail, there are other chances.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kelli

    This is a good reminder to schools, especially two-year institutions, about not just what we're doing, but why we're doing it. West makes a strong case for the education of all, creating opportunities for higher education for all our citizens as a moral obligation. I dare you to read it and not see your students through fresh eyes. This is a good reminder to schools, especially two-year institutions, about not just what we're doing, but why we're doing it. West makes a strong case for the education of all, creating opportunities for higher education for all our citizens as a moral obligation. I dare you to read it and not see your students through fresh eyes.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alicia Low

    I'm biased towards Mike Rose, but I really do believe this book has some important insights about second chance education - the factors we overlook in thinking about the academic versus vocational tracks, about the purposes and outcomes of community college, and about why people go back to school. If nothing else, read this book for Mike Rose's unique and fascinating fieldwork ! I'm biased towards Mike Rose, but I really do believe this book has some important insights about second chance education - the factors we overlook in thinking about the academic versus vocational tracks, about the purposes and outcomes of community college, and about why people go back to school. If nothing else, read this book for Mike Rose's unique and fascinating fieldwork !

  13. 4 out of 5

    Vilma Mesa

    I was impressed by the clarity of the arguments made. the depth of involvement with the communities he visited. and his passion for making us understand that this issue of sending people back to school has many dimensions that can't be ignored. I was impressed by the clarity of the arguments made. the depth of involvement with the communities he visited. and his passion for making us understand that this issue of sending people back to school has many dimensions that can't be ignored.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Highly recommended!! A great book about community colleges and adult learners.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Allison Jones

  16. 4 out of 5

    Suellen

  17. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne

  18. 5 out of 5

    Yvonne Belanger

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alexis Gable

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jesse L Knepper

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

  23. 5 out of 5

    Grace Ward

  24. 5 out of 5

    Marjorie Duffie

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kia

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Walker martin

  27. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

  28. 5 out of 5

    Christie

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mar

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brady Wilson

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