I'm not exactly sure where to start with this book. I suppose the best thing I can say about it is this: in ten years when I look back on the second stage of my career, I imagine I will look back at this book as the light that illuminated my path. In other words, I found Tough's book to be moving, profound, and inspiring. I felt a rollercoaster of emotions while reading this: anger, sadness and elation resulting in literal tears, a burning desire to create change crushed ten pages later by disillusionment in a rigged and self-perpetuating system of exclusion--just to name a few. While much of the focus is on elite institutions (many of which can spend six figures a year on students that already have affluence and advantage because of billion dollar endowments), I still feel it was an important read as a community college professor and department head. Many of our students are the underrepresented, underprepared, lower income, first generation and minority students that it seems many of the selective institutions have created false marketing claims about serving while truly protecting elitist interests. After reading, in my view, the absurdly corrupt practices of the College Board, I'm even more a fan of our multiple measure practices for placement in curriculum courses. It's a shame my alma mater (Clemson University) even comes across uncaring, but it's no real surprise. On the positive side, I have new heroes in Uri Treisman and David Laude. There are dozens of ideas in my head now about what I want to do for our students. It's exciting albeit a bit scary, but there's a passage written about Laude that will serve as my new grounding theme and rally-cry:
In the past, he'd always put the responsibility for students' failure in his class on someone else:
on the students' subpar high schools or their disengaged families or on the students themselves.
Now he decided the responsibility really lay with him. It his students failed, it was because he
was letting them fail" (Tough 213).
And so it is.