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I BROWSE TILL 10:00 P.M. MONDAY thru FRIDAY Now In Our 13th Yor of srvic to Austin GARNER AND BeSTO7E 2116 Guadalupe Austin, Tex.: 78705 477-9725 Fine Food Draught Beer Outdoor Patio watch subsequent issues for .. . BILLIE CARR REPORTS Paid Pol. Adv. by Billie Carr Expense Fund 2418 Travis, Houston, Texas. 12 The Texas Observer we print with the union 15 Multi-copy service Lecture notes Collegiate Advertising 901 W. 24th St., Austin 477-3641 Call Today! Edinburg Juan Ortiz pulled his chair up to the side of my desk and focused his attention on the English composition which lay in front of us. His brow was furrowed and his muscles tense, as if he were attempting some much more physical action. He wanted to know what was wrong with the paper he had written in my freshman English class at Pan American University. For him, it had been hard work. He probably could not read any of the sentences on this page. He certainly could not comprehend the red-pencil shorthand in the margin of his paper. He had considerable difficulty understanding what I was saying to him. Juan is not stupid. He has enough inherent intelligence to learn and to do passable work at a college level. But, despite a high school diploma, he simply is not prepared. The harsh truth is that he cannot read or write. Even more damning, he will graduate from Pan American without haying learned to read or write. And Juan Ortiz is not atypical of other students at this institution of higher education. It is a case of educational failure by high schools, by Pan American University, and by the Texas Legislature. Juan is a native of San Antonio who grew up in a small town on the eastern slope of the Sierra Madre in Mexico. He graduated from a Texas high school. “After I go to school in my town, I return to San Antonio and go to school some more. I graduate after two years, but I did not learn anything. My mind was somewhere else.” As a result of waiting outside the recruiting station for a buddy, Juan also is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. “He was a nice man. We started to talk and pretty soon I taked this test. They gave me some time to say goodbye. It was hard, very hard. I did not understand anything. The Puerto Ricans did not speak my Spanish, and the blacks did not speak my English. I tried very hard. And now I am trying hard. I want to learn.” The paper we were looking at was one of ten which would be required during the five-week summer term. It was written during a ninety-minute class period. It extended 3/4 of the way down one side of a piece of notebook paper. There was not a sentence among the words, and the only message it conveyed was a vague one of hopelessness. Paul Willcott worked for several years as an English teacher and founding director of the Linguistics Research Center at Pan American University in Edinburg. The departmental course requirements for freshman English are not particularly stringentbe able to write a 350-word essay which displays unity, coherence, development, and relative freedom from mechanical errors. Juan Ortiz did not have the intellectual training to achieve that much in one term. Given the institutional limitations of Pan American, he probably will not achieve it in four years. The frustrations of teaching at Pan American University exist in direct proportion to the opportunities. It is a unique effort in egalitarian education which is almost entirely unsuccessful. Pan American is limited by the Legislature, which restricts its freedom to respond to community needs so drastically that the educational process amounts to little more than pretension. It is misled from the top by an administration that is overwhelmingly benighted and bigoted. The university’s officials are so concerned with enrollment figures and new buildings that academic programs to correspond to the unique opportunities have just not developed. As a result, most of the time teachers are faced with a painful choice. They can reject students completely by failing them. This means returning them unskilled and uneducated to a local economy which has the highest unemployment and lowest per capita income in the country. Or faculty can give passing marks to future teachers, nurses, policemen, and others who have learned very little, if anything, while in college. Students either fail or they graduate without having accumulated sufficient skills to help dismantle the cycle of poverty and suffering by which their limitations were created. Pan American is an open admissions institution which any high school graduate or holder of a General Equivalency Diploma may enter. Enrollment is up to about 9,000 and growing. Around 70-75 percent of the students have Spanish surnames. Roughly half of the families of the four-county area from which almost all of the students come are officially poverty stricken. About a third of the students come from migrant families. Because the local tax base is so low \(if for area simply are unable to prepare many of their graduates for college-level work, even though college admission is assured. On the A.C.T., an entrance exam used around the country, Pan American students score, on the average, a percentile ranking of 1. That means 99 percent of the entering freshmen Failure at Pan Am By Paul Willcott