What readers think

Published May 27, 2007

Bill Maxwell's excellent articles make me wonder why Stillman College has so many enrollees who are antieducation, especially with tuition/fees of $11, 605.

Many youngsters attend college only because their parents are willing to pay their way and it enables them to postpone growing up and entering the big bad world of work. But those students do not regularly sneer at professors and burn and trash dorms. Generally speaking, they are not downright antieducation; they are just out for a "free ride" for as long as they can get it.

So why does Stillman have so many enrollees who are so fiercely antieducation? Could it be that the U.S. government is paying them to pose as students? According to the chart, 77 percent of the Stillman students receive federal Pell grants, but that accounts for a maximum of only $4, 000 per student per year, not enough to cover the tuition and fees. So who is paying and why are the "students" there?

I ask these questions because they seem intimately related to the question of whether historically black colleges should continue to exist.

Richard Marr, Inverness

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What a shame that a man of Maxwell's caliber has wasted two years! Although apparently he did touch several students' lives, he could have done so much more in a venue where students were there to learn.

Stillman's tuition is so much higher than that of Florida State. All students should be admitted to the traditional state universities based only on their qualifications. If their grades or attendance do not merit retention they should be dismissed; if their attitudes and actions are disruptive they should be dismissed.

It is understandable that many minorities feel more comfortable with their own. When students of every race, creed, color are equally admitted, there will be enough of each minority that the students can find friends with whom they are happy. The money now being spent to maintain low functioning black colleges could be better used by giving assistance to deserving students. The money also could be used to improve education in the lower grades so that students are prepared for college.

Maxwell has much knowledge and experience to impart to those willing to learn. Hopefully he will continue to teach in an environment where the students are appreciative of his skill.

Renee G. Salzer, Seminole

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We don't choose substandard surgeons, substandard building construction, substandard athletes, or even substandard dog food. To be blunt, why should colleges allow in substandard students? (Let me be clear: I do not think these youngsters are substandard human beings.)

Maxwell says that Stillman allows in students whose test scores do not measure up to other college's standards. Essentially, they let in substandard students. That's the problem. Let's put all the racial discussions, parenting debates, cultural philosophizing aside. If these young people can't measure up to national collegiate standards, they're demonstrating that they aren't ready to continue in the academic field yet.

There's no shame in that. Not everyone is bound for college at the age of 18, nor should they be. There are huge numbers of well-paying, meaningful career options available for those who aren't devoted to academic pursuits. Even now, school systems are recognizing this and are once again planning ways to offer more vocational training so that many students can graduate high school and go right to work in their chosen field.

Getting personal, I understand Stillman's driving need to give all students a chance, especially the "underdogs."

As a classroom teacher, I desperately try to push my underachieving students to become stronger readers, and, like Maxwell, it breaks my heart when life beats them down. Also, like Maxwell, I have learned that flexibility and caring (as well as providing classroom supplies) go a long way. I had many great success stories this year.

Yet, as this school year came to a close, two of my favorite students had been suspended from school for the rest of the year, two more failed the seventh grade, one didn't attend the entire last week of school at all, and another got himself into a fight on the way out the door to summer.

"I got 17 (discipline) referrals this year, " one boy wrote in his final reflection paper. Not to be outdone, another boasted of getting 27! These were students of all races. I deeply care for all of them. I will be extremely proud of them if they graduate high school. But I do not see college in their future at age 18. There should be no shame in that. I have faith that they can find their way in this world and be happy without a B.A.

Sarah Lehrmann, Clearwater

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Comments from other readers on Bill Maxwell's experiences at Stillman too often lay responsibility on our educational system.

After reading an earlier series in this newspaper following four students from a St. Petersburg high school, it is clear that the failure of parents and families to provide a stable home life is a much more critical problem and cause.

We cannot expect the schools to substitute for what is missing at home.

We need lots more financial and social support for the county programs that are trying to encourage parents to get married, stay together and provide stability for their children.

Mary Swearengen, Largo

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Bill Maxwell's experience at Stillman College may seem unusual, but it is not. It is only a matter of degree.

The nature of teaching is to have the dedication to correct some of that bad language he heard and read and correct faulty papers he threw in the drawer. It only shows how much is owed to those who have stayed with it and not dropped out.

At any rate, he gave it a try and now has something to write about.

Henry L. King, Clearwater