Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Who Are We and Where Did We Come From?

Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Who Are We and Where Did We Come From?

Article excerpt

On October 26, 1998, NADE and the U.S. Department of Education cosponsored a symposium at Harvard University. The topic of the symposium was "U.S. Department of Education and NADE: Partners for the Millenium. " This daylong gathering led to the formation of a think tank which will continue to hold regular forums in order to explore ways to develop more partnerships across traditional educational boundaries. The next one is tentatively scheduled for October 1999, in Washington, DC.

The session included a panel, facilitated by T. Clifford Bibb then president of NADE, of educational leaders from primary and secondary schools who discussed the significance of partnering with higher education. It also included three formal presentations from NADE leaders that provided an overview of developmental education, its past, and its future. These presentations have been developed into articles for the Journal of Developmental Education and will appear in a series beginning with "Who Are We and Where Did We Come From?" by Martha Casazza, current president of NADE. Other series ' articles include "Developmental Education: Demographics, Outcomes, and Activities" by Hunter Boylan, director of the National Center for Develop mental Education, and "The Strategic Plan of the National Association for Developmental Education 1997-2003" by David Arendale, past president of NADE.

ABSTRACT: This article explores the essence of developmental education by looking at its roots in the American higher education system and how it has evolved into what it is today. The author emphasizes that this evolution was not without tensions and that some of today's concerns existed two centuries ago. In building a conceptual framework for developmental education today, a case study of a student is provided to clarify some of the definitional issues. The article concludes with four assumptions underlying NADE's working definition of developmental education.

In October of 1998 in Paris, UNESCO hosted a world conference on Higher Education. The conference was attended by 4200 educational professionals with government officials from 115 countries. The momentum behind this gathering was expanding access to postsecondary education around the world. Worldwide, postsecondary enrollment has grown from 13 million students in 1960 to 82 million in 1995 with an expected 200 million by the year 2025. The chair of the conference shared the following important idea: Absolutely nobody-not one single person-should feel sentenced to a lifetime of exile from the world of learning. It is a matter of human dignity, in fact, a matter of real democracy.

Where Did We Come From?

It IS a matter of democracy, and for that reason our system here in the United States has been looked at for years as a model of how to provide access for all learners who have the desire to be educated. One of the distinctive features of our model is the support we provide to students, all students, once they come through our doors. In other words, we do not provide "false opportunity"; instead, educators have created a range of learning assistance programs and developmental education courses to facilitate student success.

The United States' model of higher education has not evolved without tension. Ironically, when the nation was in its infancy struggling with how to achieve democratic ideals, institutions of higher learning experienced the growing pains associated with having very traditional, elitist models to follow while trying to open their doors to create more egalitarian models. A brief walk through history may provide a look at those "good old days" that are constantly referred to when comparisons are made to the "sad state of education" today.

One anecdote which illustrates the confusion and tension of these earlier times comes from Cornell University during the 1830s. Its founder, Ezra Cornell, approached the professor responsible for admissions decisions and asked why so many applicants were not passing the entrance exam. …

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