Community Colleges and how easy it is to make fun of someone else

May 15 2018 Published by under Uncategorized

So there was a quote on the Tweets:

Just learned that not only do community colleges hold graduation ceremonies, they also shell out honorary Associate of Humane Letters degrees. This is the funniest shit I’ve read all day. And I’ve been grading fucking final exams, too.

Really? You think giving degrees is the funniest shit you've read all day?

I have a former-sib-in-law who teaches at a local CC. We got to be close, for a bunch of reasons (she's cool, I'm cool), but also because she's not from an academic family, didn't marry into one, and I understood what she was trying to do. She had been a high school teacher, a great high school teacher, but had done an adjunct stint at the CC, and found she loved it. It was work to get a full time job, get on the tenure track there (yes, they have a tenure track) and eventually get tenure. In doing this, she developed some really incredible programs.

What did she love?

She teaches remedial math, lots of algebra. She teaches calculus to the folks who want it the least but need it, perhaps the most. Some of her student go on to 4 yr degrees in various science disciplines. Some are getting credits for something work related, or continuing education, or hoping to move in their field. Lots are in 2-year programs that require some math to get going: all those other folks working at hospitals and SNFs (Skilled Nursing Facilities), IT programs. Vet Techs. Various criminal justice jobs. Media and visual communication. Work that falls between blue collar manual labor and engineering. Things that are solid jobs.

What did she love? She loved the students. They were older. They were committed. They appreciated the opportunity. Many had another job. Some had two other jobs. Lots were supporting a family. Some had made mistakes in their youth, or at least done things that in retrospect they recognized as compromising future choices. Some were younger, with priorities in partying, friends and minor substance abuse.

What did she love? She knew, deep down and without qualification, that she was making a difference to many people every term. Sometimes they said thanks, and sometimes they didn't. But it was like watching rabbit ears grow: you could actually see the change from day to day.

So, when these people finish, you think they don't deserve a ceremony? They don't deserve to be recognized? That somehow pompous ceremonies are reserved for four year schools? That honorary degrees, the goal of which is to bring somewhat/perhaps distinguished people with possibly something interesting to say, to honor the graduates, is worthwhile? that it's funny?

Crap. The older I get the more I want to honor not the glam stars who discover DNA, but the folks who figured out a way, through hard work, to do something more.


10 responses so far

  • xykademiqz says:

    I endorse this post 100%. Working at a state school has done a good job of curing me of my snobbery. I've met brilliant kids who are the first to go to college and who would kill it at an Ivy in grad school, but they have no hubris and are committed to getting a well-paying job and helping their parents.

    There are many more bright and capable people than those who receive shiny degrees from shiny places, and they do varied, important jobs.

    Your ex sib-in-law sounds like an amazing person.

  • pyrope says:

    I've been to a lot of graduations, but the one CC graduation ceremony I've been to was one of the most inspiring. Everyone, students, teachers & families, was overflowing with well deserved pride for that accomplishment. It was awesome.

  • Joe says:

    My father taught English at a community college. Mostly he taught remedial English. That can't have been a lot of fun, but his students were able to get better jobs after they had taken his classes. They come to see every Christmas (or at other times) bringing gifts, decades after they graduated.
    I took classes in the summer at that same community college between my normal years at a big state university. I learned calculus and chemistry much better than my peers who were in the weed-out versions of those classes at the university. The community college teachers worked harder at teaching and really cared about the students learning the material.

  • eeke says:

    A relative of mine has a high-school aged son with autism. He's a brilliant child, but he plans on attending community college for a few years before even considering a 4-year college. Several of his friends on the spectrum have done the same with very good results. I don't understand why this works better for them - it might have something to do with not being in a total immersion environment; a means to get away? In any case, I'm glad CC's exist; they seem to serve a lot of different purposes and those who graduate from there have every right to be proud and honored for their accomplishment.

  • becca says:

    For folks that attend a CC on route to a 4 year degree, the graduation ceremonies at CCs tend to feel a little "off" in an analogous way to those that get a MS en route to a PhD- it's like "yes, here's a milestone, but I've got so much more to go I don't feel happy celebrating". And so, in that context specifically, maybe I can see where the tweet was coming from.

    The alternative explanation, that this is unveiled classist bullshit, is still more likely, if more depressing.

    From my personal experience, there were two main differences between CCs and research intensive state universities:
    1) The courses at CCs were better taught. They were taught by people who care more about teaching, who had more experience teaching, and who were simply better at it.
    2) The relationship between professor and student was more respectful. No one assumed that a student who missed class was out drinking the night before. No one expected students to understand how Very Important and Very Successful their profs were as researchers. No one was appalled when a student asked a prof to make an accommodation for which there was a specific policy.

    At the end of the day, it sounds like that twit could use some exposure to a learning culture where students are seen as people with multiple dimensions.

  • Wow what a jerk. Community colleges serve a different need (and often a different clientele) than four year schools. Pissing on people who worked hard for a degree (and on the people who made that degree possible) is this height of elitist bullshit.

    becca, your institutions sound awful. Do people routinely do this, or is it that one asshole every department has?

    • becca says:

      Oh it's definitely the one asshole 🙂
      But "that one asshole" at the CC was just disengaged deadwood, a fundamentally nice person anyway. The assholes at research institutions are REALLY anti-social.

      That said, the "students are real people with multiple compelling demands on their time" vs. "students are children who are looking for excuses to do as little as possible while drinking themselves silly" division is real. It was very much a shock to come to university as a transfer student and feel like I'd *regressed* developmentally in the eyes of faculty (despite being personally very young at CC and more typically aged for uni).

  • A Salty Scientist says:

    If we are to combat anti-intellectualism, we must celebrate education and intellectual curiosity in all incarnations. There is zero room for elitism in this arena.

  • Kaleberg says:

    CC students are the ones who didn't get to ride the rocket. Not everyone has college aware parents, the college options, the good schools, the aptitude and motivation that take one straight from nursery school through a bachelor's degree in one solid shot. They may have had family problems, a crappy school, parental responsibilities, no motivation or what looked like a great job opportunity at the time. CCs are there for them. They can bite off what works in pieces, from a short course to a four year degree with work experience. CCs try to meet their schedules, and they cost less.

  • […] Community Colleges and how easy it is to make fun of someone else. Community colleges provide a better actual education than the vast majority of four-year universities. […]

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