The Valley Academic Mentors  

Our Philosophy

Doug Raybeck and I are questioners and arguers. We’ve been that way for a long while. In academic environments, most students do not question the instructor’s authority; students tend not to know how to argue even when encouraged to do so. When I teach a class in which at least some of the students question and argue, it brings out my best effort.

Verbal argument and written argument should follow the same form: carefully listening (or reading), considering both evidence and interpretation, questioning either or both, formulating an alternative. Most student papers are much closer to regurgitations of other’s analysis than they are to well thought out analyses of the question at hand.

Authority is found in many venues, from the classroom (and library,) to TV commentators, to politicians. Just as students gain immeasurably when they push their instructors, so the health of our democratic society is much better served when its citizens do not blindly accept any person’s arguments: questioning and arguing are vital.

Especially in this era of drop-dead achievement testing, critical thinking and critical reading skills are not encouraged at primary and secondary levels. The “best” students are those who’ve learned how to remember the “answers” to test questions. At post secondary levels, colleagues have told me they’ve given up trying to get students to think things through for themselves. Doug and I don’t.

Valley Academic Mentor’s goal is not to help our students achieve better scores on tests; but to help them develop and/or improve their critical thinking/critical reading skills: to help them realize their academic potential. Our small classes will allow us to focus on each student’s individual needs. We won’t pull any punches. The intellectual level of our classes is at that of an advanced college course. Thus, high school students will get a taste of what lies in their future; and what skills they need to maximize their investment in their post-secondary educations; while college students will be encouraged to think for themselves, rely on their own analyses. We will also spend some time talking about the college experience in general, and other kinds of skills students will need to learn: like time management and balancing ones social life with ones academic responsibilities.

We will be more than happy to write recommendation letters for high school students successfully completing our courses.

Ken Jacobson



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