Saturday, April 7, 2018

Community Colleges to the Rescue!

Middle-Class Families Increasingly Look to Community Colleges
(NYT, APRIL 5, 2018)
With college prices in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, more
middle-class families are looking for ways to spend less for quality education.

By KYLE SPENCER
PASADENA, Calif. — When top students from the sun-dappled suburbs that surround Pasadena, Calif., graduate from high school, they are expected to go to colleges that are prestigious, pricey and often far away. Last year, seniors from La Cañada High School, one of the highest rated in the state, fanned across the country to M.I.T., the University of Michigan and Yale.
     But 18-year-old Annie Shahverdian, the daughter of a commercial real estate agent and a nursing administrator, started her higher ed journey closer to home, 15 minutes down the road at the local community college. To save money, she is planning to spend two years at Pasadena City College, a two-year public institution, before heading to what she hopes will be a top four-year university where she will earn her bachelor’s degree.
     “My parents don’t want to just throw money around now,” Ms. Shahverdian said as she walked across Pasadena’s 53-acre campus, heading toward her English class. “I’m getting a great education at a fraction of the cost.”
     Community colleges have long catered to low-income students who dream of becoming the first in their families to earn a college degree. And for many, that remains their central mission. But as middle- and upper-middle-class families like the Shahverdians face college prices in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, more of them are looking for ways to spend less for their children’s quality education.... continue reading  

Sunday, April 1, 2018

In Defense of Community Colleges


In response to President Trump's inability to recognize the value of community colleges or even understand the role they play in higher education, we at Dissent received this spirited defense of the community college with which we share with you:

In Defense of Community Colleges
by Mary Harris
Mary Harris
Think what you like about the person with this opinion. I'm sure you already know what I think about him.

But maybe you don't know what I think about community colleges. Buckle up, kids, because I have OPINIONS and they’re about three pages long (after editing down).

As the author, Wong, points out, these places serve the students who might not otherwise have a shot at college, because we’re affordable and accessible. What she doesn’t really tell you is who these students are, and why we exist for them. Let me fill you in.

First, I want to clear something up. Just because we’re open access doesn’t mean we’re for “dumb” kids. In fact, let me tell you something about “dumb” kids, the kids who don’t pass tests, the kids who don’t do their homework.

Yes. Some of them, some small percentage, really have cognitive defects or disabilities. We work, sometimes, with people who have no other place to go, because they’re too advanced for the child-care like group homes available to them, but don’t have the skills/abilities to join the workforce. For them, we’re a space where they can be safe and feel like part of a community, even if they’re going to fail our classes every time. Even if, say, we’re a little embarrassed when they loudly announce to the whole writing center that they’re scared of working with you because they’ve read your “Rate my professor” and everyone says you’re really tough. They deserve the chance to try, and the chance to hang out with neurotypicals (if that’s what they want), and the chance to fit into our society. COMMUNITY COLLEGE gives them that chance.


Or take a student like Flower (names have been changed); let’s talk about her. She was in her forties. The first time I sat down with her in the writing center, I thought, “Oh, man, here we go. This is going to be IMPOSSIBLE.” She’d been in a car accident, suffered a traumatic brain injury, and she just didn’t get SO MUCH. She failed. I think she failed every damned course we offered at least once. But you know what? She was in the center every. single. day. She busted her butt. She read, and she asked, and she wrote, and she asked, and we talked and talked, and everyone in the center worked with her, and then…She did it, eventually. She passed WR2, one of our hardest courses, and she got into a sophisticated research university’s psych program. This is a woman who woke up one day who literally couldn’t read anymore, who worked her way back up that ladder of learning and made it. Why? BECAUSE OF COMMUNITY COLLEGE.

Then there’s the other “dumb” kids. These are the ones who went to schools where—thanks to our funding structure of property taxes supporting public education—they didn’t have any books to take home. Maybe they got to share an outdated textbook about history with a classmate or two during class, but they couldn’t read up on their own, they might not have had internet service at home (YES, that’s really still a thing), or worse still, they might not really have had a secure home to go back to. Maybe their parents are addicted, or missing, or working two low-wage jobs to try and just get food on the table for their families and a roof over their heads, and they can’t ask for help on their homework. Maybe they—and I have worked with students for whom this is true—didn’t do the reading because they can’t afford the textbook. Or they didn’t print their homework because they LITERALLY live in their car. Where do you think kids like that can afford to go, or where can they get accepted? COMMUNITY COLLEGE.

Oh, sure, you’re thinking, you bleeding heart liberal—blame everything on the system, but never the students. What about those LAZY kids?

Yeah, what about those lazy kids? Do they exist? Yes. I’m not an idiot. Sometimes, when they don’t do their homework or study for the test, it’s laziness. Pure and simple, they didn’t do it. Maybe they’re super smart, but coasted through high school and now they’re “stuck” at community college because they didn’t apply themselves.

Maybe, like Amy, dad died while she was in high school of some horrible disease, and understandably, the kid didn’t bother about school so much. She had the time. She had the ability. But she didn’t do it. Maybe, like Jim, he listened to his parents compare him every day to his older brother, who always aced everything. Jim didn’t ace anything. He busted his butt early on, but he just didn’t get it, and he got tired of being compared to Johnny and failing when he was working hard, so he decided to skip the working hard part and just fail. Maybe, like Greg, he just didn’t give a crap during high school, but after graduation, he realized the world wants some kind of degree now. Maybe he still has those old habits.


But you know what, in COMMUNITY COLLEGE you get another shot. You get to show up, like Amy, and realize that studying literature makes you feel better. You read about all these other people who struggled and a lot of times made it, and you start thinking you’re going to be okay, and you start reading and contributing. Maybe you’re Jim, and you come to college because your folks won’t get off your back, and you run into some hardass professor who won’t let you slack off, and you struggle, but you can’t stand that prof asking you one more time what’s wrong and why you’re not trying, so you give it a shot, and you do something right, and maybe you’re never going to be Johnny, but you can be okay. Maybe you’re Greg and you show up and you flunk your first semester, and they put you on academic probation, and you flunk most of your classes second semester, but it’s COMMUNITY COLLEGE, so they give you another shot, and you take a cooking class because it sounds easy and holy shit, you discover you really enjoy this. And you take a couple more, then ask one of your profs to help you write a letter to get into the Cordon Bleu program, and you make it, and you go on to work as a pretty great chef in a pretty great restaurant in LA.

And it’s not just kids, kids. How about Jane, who already had a job, who showed up in my creative writing class because her boss at work—for a software company where she helped out with their media image—didn’t like her writing. I expressed some concern: maybe she should have been at another college studying technical writing. But she wanted it to be fun. So she came to COMMUNITY COLLEGE because classes were cheap and she didn’t have to wait around to be accepted, and she could take classes in the evening after work. She read about poetry and fiction and creative nonfiction. She practiced different kinds of writing, and started studying her favorite podcasts like a writer, then presented podcast writing to us. By the end of the semester, her boss was trusting her with FIVE times as many projects, and she was up for a promotion.


Because I started teaching while I was working on my MFA and PhD, I’ve taught in some pretty primo research universities. The students we have are usually just as good. They’re here, at COMMUNITY COLLEGE, because something—money, family, jobs, prior situations—kept them out of what…“real” college? Maybe they weren’t sure about college and didn’t apply, and then they’re stuck alone while all their friends go off somewhere else, so they sign up, last minute, for classes with us. Maybe she got pregnant early and she’s been waiting till her kid was in school to get back to school herself. Maybe he was terrified of college, and this seemed like a good (cheap) way to test it out.

Proud father of gradaute.
Are we perfect? No. We still let way too many people slip through the cracks. We’re constantly trying to figure out how to have plenty of opportunities for all students but to run efficiently. And when you look at our “completion rate” numbers, they probably look abysmal. But those numbers hide a lot of real, human stories—real need, real suffering, and real triumphs. Vocational education is—or can be—fine. I think plenty of people who are in college would be much happier and much more fulfilled, and would better serve our society, by learning a trade. But you cannot convince me, not for a single second, that we should take the CHANCE at college out of the hands of anyone. COMMUNITY COLLEGE represents that chance and I couldn’t be more proud to work in one, more proud of the students who work here with me, and more proud of a country that supports everyone having that chance.

President Trump opines. 

8-14: do you regret all the lying?

✅ Trump Encourages Racist Conspiracy Theory on Kamala Harris’s Eligibility to Be Vice President NYT ✅ Orange County Sees Overall Coronavirus...

Goals and Values and Twaddle

blather: long-winded talk with no real substance*
The whole concept of MSLOs [measurable student learning outcomes] as the latest fad in education is somewhat akin to the now discredited fad of the '90's, Total Quality Management, or TQM. Essentially, the ACCJC adopted MSLOs as the overarching basis for accrediting community colleges based on their faith in the theoretical treatises of a movement.... After repeated requests for research showing that such use of MSLOs is effective, none has been forthcoming from the ACCJC [accreditors]. Prior to large scale imposition of such a requirement at all institutions, research should be provided to establish that continuous monitoring of MSLOs has resulted in measurable improvements in student success at a given institution. No such research is forthcoming because there is none….
The Accountability Game…., Leon F. Marzillier (Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, October, 2002)
In the summer of ’13, I offered a critique of the awkward verbiage by which the district and colleges explain their values, goals, and objectives —aka SOCCCD'S G&V (goals and values) blather.
I wrote a post each for the district, Saddleback College, and Irvine Valley College efforts. (See the links below.)
This verbiage—stated in terms of “values,” “missions,” “goals,” “visions,” and whatnot—is often badly written. It is sometimes embarrassingly trite.
It occasionally communicates something worthwhile.
No doubt you are familiar with the usual objections to jargon. Higher education, too, has its jargon—an irony, given typical college-level instruction in writing, which urges jargon eschewery.
Sure enough, SOCCCD G&V blather is riddled with jargon and with terms misused and abused. For instance, in the case of the district’s dubious blather, the so-called “vision” is actually a purpose. Why didn't they just call it that?
As one slogs through this prattle, one finds that "visions" tend to be awfully similar to “missions,” with which they are distinguished. The latter in turn are awfully similar to “goals,” which must be distinguished from “objectives.” But aren't goals and objectives pretty much the same thing?
These perverse word games will surely perplex or annoy anyone armed with a command of the English language. In fact, readers will be perplexed to the degree that they are thus armed. Illiterates, of course, will be untroubled.
Here's a simple point: the district and colleges’ G&V blather tends to eschew good, plain English in favor of technical terms and trendy words and phrases (i.e., it tends to be bullshitty and vague). Thus, one encounters such trendy terminological turds as “dynamic,” “diversity,” “student success,” and “student-centered.” Even meretricious neologisms such as ISLOs and “persistence rates” pop up, unexplained, undefended.
Does anyone see a transparency problem with all of this? Shouldn't the public, or at least the well educated public, be able to comprehend statements of the colleges' goals and values?
In the case of the district, to its credit, all it really seems to want to say is that it wants to teach well and it wants students to succeed. Admirable!
So why all the ugly, common-sense defying, buzzword-encrusted claptrap?

Districtular poppycock: our “vision” and our “mission” and our tolerance of twaddle - July 31, 2013

THEY BUZZ: Saddleback College's "Mission, Vision, and Values" - August 4, 2013

IVC’s vision, mission, and goals: nonsense on stilts - August 5, 2013

THE IRVINE VALLEY CHRONICLES: no ideas, just clichés & buzzwords - Sep 30, 2013

*From my Apple laptop's dictionary