The following is my response to Mike Rose’s book “Lives on The Boundary.”
I feel the purpose of Rose’s book is in the title; he has attempted to create “A Moving Account of the Struggles and Achievements of America’s Educationally Underprepared.” I agree that at the beginning, Rose seemed to be carrying out his purpose for the book by giving us examples of students—a study on students in higher education—with all the statistics that he gives, but then it becomes more. He carries out the purpose of the book by narrating his own personal experiences as a “marginalized” student. The author grew up poor and had a bad experience in Vocational Education. If a professor said to me, “Italian! Ho. Rose, do you know the sound a bag of shit makes when it hits the wall? (p. 25)”—how could I not become discouraged?
On page 42, Rose writes, “The notes I did write consisted of summaries of books that were not on our syllabus and that I had never read, and quotations from the teacher. The notes are a series of separate entries.” Rose finds old notes from when he was in college and writes, “The one from English is a small book, eight by seven, and only eleven pages of it are filled.” As I struggle to create a faux-syllabus for my Writing Studies course I wonder, would it be wise to stress the importance of writing good notes in our syllabi? What about having a crash course of note-taking on the first day? How about sending them a link to a website or give them a hand-out that will help them improve their skills?
Rose suggests that students need “…people who are willing to sit with them and help them as they struggle to write about difficult things (p. 54).” He also suggests that students need to be “…shown how to summarize an opinion, argue with it, weave it into our own interpretations (p. 58).” Rose values the way Mr. MacFarland and several other professors behaved and how they helped him as a marginalized student. “You’ll need people to guide you in to conversations that seem foreign and threatening. You’ll need models, lots of them, to show you how to get at what you don’t know. You’ll need people to help you center yourself in your own developing ideas. You’ll need people to watch out for you (pp. 47-48).” On pages 51-52, Rose is having a problem with the book “The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science” and the he asks the professor about it. The professor then guides him through it. There seems to be an importance in asking questions—is this something you should urge your students to do in your syllabus?