Blog: The Educated Reporter

Credit where credit is due.

I know reporters who won’t go into middle schools because it hits some sort of raw nerve; in my case, two years in middle school (for a newspaper series and then a book) made me want to stay forever. I don’t have many natural gifts, but connecting with children is one of them, and after my book was published, I wanted to become a middle school counselor.

A school near me offered a masters program in school counseling with a middle school specialty. At the program’s end, I was willing to earn far less than I made as a journalist, but three years of full-time schooling gave me pause. I had spent five years studying and writing about education for my job, and had not just already read most of what was on the program’s syllabi but also had spoken with most of the authors. Oh, and I was one. Not Much Just Chillin’ was required reading in at least one class. So I called up the dean and asked if I could get any credit for my knowledge and experience.

He said no. Worse, he said that I would not even be able to get into the program, because I had not taken behavioral sciences in college 15 years before. By this point I knew far more about psychology and sociology—the subjects I had been studying professionally—than I did about international political economy, the field of my bachelors and masters degrees and something I had not given much thought to in ages.

Had the university welcomed me and attributed some value to my prior learning, I am certain I would have persisted, graduated and made a good counselor. So I am not unbiased in saying I think this study of 48 schools by the Council for Adult & Experiential Learning (also not unbiased), highlighted in Insider Higher Education, is worth noting. Students with prior learning credits had a far higher graduation rate than those who did not. Hey, rigid educational bureaucracies: Flexibility can yield success.