Community College, Libel Laws, and Army Trauma Care units

I’ve heard over the years of the ease with which people can bring libel lawsuits to court in the U.K.–that was one of the reasons that the result of the David Irving trial some years back was surprising.  Defendants face an uphill battle in defending any right to freedom of speech and press, and apparently it’s been affecting U.S. academics in the U.K….or has the potential to affect them, as this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education leaves me a bit uncertain on that point…

And here’s another article from the Chronicle, discussing the difficulties of reaching and teaching students at community colleges.  Now, as a community college grad myself, I know that every type of student the author lists exists, for sure.  But I wonder if he’s being just a bit harsh in his description.  In my experience, sure, there are those accelerated high school students who sit in the lab and play video games when they should be in class, and plenty of folks from broken homes, or bad neighborhoods, who came to class sometimes, or not at all, or who just didn’t try.  But I saw many people of exactly the same background come in every day, and try their darnedest to study, get good grades, and move on in life.  I saw unemployed mill workers who needed to retrain, and were taking physics and English classes, in many cases for the first time.  And middle-aged housewives who wanted to finish their education, or start their education for professional and service positions.  These people were smart, motivated, and possessed of a down-to-earth common sense which I have found much less common at more prestigious institutions of higher learning.  It’s hard to describe, but I think it has something to do with the serious community college student’s perspective: college is a tool, they are not there to waste time, and their pace through college is determined by their lives’ individual dynamics, not by a 4-year-long set of requirements.  It’s just a totally different set of expectations from students attending a 4-year college.

I also saw how my professors (and they were darn good ones, too), dealt with different types of student.  They never adopted a one-size-fits-all mentality, and, as far as I could tell, didn’t regard their classes as uniformly filled with morons or wastrels, and they often went out of their way to help students in any professional way possible.  The final grades were often in line with what the article claims; but again, producing students who can write Shakespearean prose isn’t the point.

Finally, an article from The New York Times on the difficulties and shortcomings of the Army’s Trauma Care units.  It seems that, despite all the advances in administration and organizational technique in military operations of late, dealing with and assisting returning veterans continues to lag really far behind.  At least, these types of depressing stories are the ones you read about.  Something needs to change…

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