Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Oral History of Postsecondary Access: Mike Rose, a Pioneer

Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Oral History of Postsecondary Access: Mike Rose, a Pioneer

Article excerpt

Mike Rose holds a PhD in educational psychology and is a professor in Social Research Methodology at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. His research interests include the study and implementation of effective methods for teaching literacy and writing and examining the social, cultural, linguistic, and cognitive factors that affect individuals' written communication. Rose has authored numerous articles and books including The Mind at Work, Possible Lives, and Lives on the Boundary, for which he won the National Council of Teachers of English David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research in the Teaching of English. Rose stresses the importance of working with underprepared students as a basic tenet of our society's values.

Educational Background and Early Professional Life

I went to elementary school and high school here in Los Angeles, to Catholic schools. I ended up going to Loyola University as an English major in 1962.1 was admitted on a kind of provisional or probational status because my high school record was pretty poor. It was only in my last year of high school that I was lucky enough to encounter an English teacher who kind of helped me catch fire. And he had fortunately graduated from Loyola University, and so he knew a few folks there and tried to pull a few strings and was able to get me admitted provisionally to the university.

I graduated from Loyola University and went to UCLA in 1966.1 was lucky enough to get an NDEA (remember those?), National Defense Education Act Fellowship in English to get a PhD. I was in that program for 1 year when it seemed to me, at least at that time and place in my life, that was not the path I wanted to follow. The thought of being a literary scholar, at least as I understood it at the time, just did not seem to be a fulfilling path for me. So, I took a leave of absence from the fellowship, took a year's worth of courses in psychology to see if that perhaps was a way to go, and that, too, did not seem to be the path for me.

I dropped out of school and joined something called the Teacher Corps, which was one of the War on Poverty programs. It was kind of a sister program to VISTA. The Teacher Corps put participants in urban or rural schools in areas that were deemed to be poverty-intensive areas. So, I taught elementary school for a couple of years east of Los Angeles in a community called El Monte. While in Teacher Corps, teachers also took education courses, so I took education courses a couple of days a week and was in the schools 3 days a week. At the end of a couple of years at Teacher Corps, I ended up getting a Masters degree at USC in education; it turned out that I had taken enough courses in English at UCLA when I was in that year's worth of a doctoral program that I was able to go back, study for comprehensive exams, and get a Masters in English as well.

In a special address to Congress on March 16, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared that it was possible, for the first time in U.S. history, "to conquer poverty." Johnson's speech went on to outline a course of action that would address the causes, as well as the consequences, of poverty. Although his Economic Opportunity Act proposed aid in the form of community planning, volunteer opportunities, aid to low-income workers and farmers, and creation of the Office of Economic Opportunity to coordinate the nation's "attack on poverty," first priority was given to programs to assist those unable to complete their education because of financial constraints. One program in particular, the College Work Study program, embodied Johnson's desire to eliminate the "senseless waste... of the brainpower and skill of those who are kept from college by economic circumstance," and thereby broaden access to higher education (Halsall, 1996).

So, here it was, 1970, and I had a Masters degree in English and one in education. I was trying to decide where to go from there, when a friend of mine told me about his experience tutoring in this program that was related to UCLA extension. …

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