Mike Rose is a professor at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies and the author of many books, including Lives on the Boundary, The Mind at Work, and Possible Lives. His latest book is Back to School: Why Everyone Deserves a Second Chance at Education.
From Rose's Q &A with Hector Tobar for the Los Angeles Times:
You're the author of several books about working people and education. Especially about people whose talents are ignored, or who are seen as "problems" by many educators. How did this life-long interest of yours come about?--Marshal Zeringue
Well, their story is in many ways my story. My parents were Italian immigrants who were drawn west by the classic 1950s California dream, traveling to Los Angeles to create a better life. They, and all of my family, worked blue-collar and service jobs, and like many working-class kids, I didn’t do so well in school. I drifted along and was tracked into a general-vocational curriculum in high school. Then my senior English teacher turned my life around and steered me toward college – where I struggled before finding my way. So the lives of children migrating here from Mexico or Central America or Asia, or men and women doing physical work, or people in adult school, or the freshman who struggles in college – they all reach something deep in me. But I have to say – because it rarely gets said – that these people’s stories are also intellectually rich: the unacknowledged linguistic gifts of the immigrant kid, the brains it takes to do physical work, the cognitive intricacies of an adult figuring out algebra. All this is as worthy of research as landing a robotic explorer on Mars.
"Back to School" is about "second chancers" and the schools that serve them. Could you tell us a bit more about the wide variety of students you found at the adult schools you've visited and what kind of challenges that presents to the people who run those schools?
In an adult school in L.A., you’ll find everyone from the precocious 18-year old who could not stomach another day of high school to the newly arrived immigrant from Belarus or Taiwan or El Salvador, to a wide range of people in their 30s and 40s who quit high school to join the workforce and raise a family, to older folks who just want the stimulation of a classroom. You’ll find an even wider range of students in our community colleges, talking one minute to a young woman fresh out of high school with her sights set on transfer to UC, and the next minute to a guy who spent years behind bars and is getting his life together in an automotive technology program. I don’t think our policymakers fully understand the challenges of...[read on]