John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Salute to Those Who Provide Tutoring

John N. Gardner
President

I have just given a talk to the annual meeting of the Association of Tutoring Professionals. These are professional higher educators who administer tutoring centers on our campuses. They recruit, supervise, train, mentor, encourage our student tutors who tutor other students and have such a huge positive influence on each other. I believe these tutoring professionals are unsung heroes. They are outstanding developmental educators. They know what I know: all students are development; students are so good at helping other students; and students love to help other students.

This is what I told these tutoring professionals as to why I think they matter:

  1. Because students need tutoring more than ever? Why?
  2. Because of rising levels of under preparation.
  3. Because of demographic changes leading to more students coming to college for whom college was not designed, which means most of you in this room, all but us few white guys.
  4. Because you provide the mentoring and training experiences for tutors.
  5. And because we know from research that tutoring has greater influence on the tutors than the tutees. So what you are really about is producing future scholars, leaders, successful people. People who will want to continue performing service in their adult life after college. And I think that producing leaders is the most important role of America’s colleges.
  6. And because America is heading pell mell for a race to the bottom educationally. Some politicians are on an unprecedented attack on all things provided by government (except national defense), including health benefits for 9/11 workers. How many of you are government employees? And how many of you serve disproportionately poor people? Well we are at war with poor people too. And with those who help poor people. Where am I going with this disaffected rant? Where I am going is that there are going to be greater and greater cuts in full-time professionals providing educational support. Where does that leave us?
  7. You matter because we will need to use more tutors and student mentors than ever. Because they are cheap labor. And in America today what we want to do is to reduce all labor costs. (Then why do we still have colleges to produce people to enter the middle class which used to be about increasing their standard of living?) We’ve gone crazy and reversed everything we used to stand for.
  8. And because you really do care.
  9. And because you really are on the front lines and you know better than most how the students are really experiencing the realities of academic lives.
  10. And because you have had the courage to proudly carry the banner of developmental education which used to be as American as apple pie but which is now so politicized that it has become demeaned and denigrated because the people it serves are devalued.
  11. And because you show every day that hi tec isn’t enough. That we still need hi touch for the students.
Do you know anyone who runs a tutoring center and/or who supervises tutors? If so, I hope you will thank them for the important work they do to help our students be more successful.

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