Thursday, May 26, 2016

The True Nature of Community College?

By Professor Doom

     So now we’re looking at a typical “nontraditional” community college student, who has come to campus for the exact reason the community paid for the campus: real job training.

Gert is about done. She has no idea why she needs calculus and art history and chemistry to be a massage therapist…she is having big-time trouble finishing her thirty credit hour [now forty-one credits] certificate.

I don’t want to sound like a jerk here but…not everyone is academically inclined. Community college administrators only care about butts-in-seats, know nothing of education, and don’t care about helping people. And so they set up programs so that even massage therapists are taking “job training” coursework like calculus and chemistry that is utterly idiotic on the face of it…and spending much of their adult lives learning a trade that realistically takes a few months to learn all you need to know, at most.

The results are, of course, predictable:

This was her second try at art history, her third try at calculus [after taking five pre requisite math classes over seven years!], and her first attempt at chemistry…

…Gert had spent nearly eight years working on what should have been a one-year massage therapy program…been receiving Bell Grants, been able to get school loans,…
--by “Bell Grants,” the book means “Pell Grants.” Recall, this book is thinly veiled fiction at best. Every community college has classrooms filled with students like this.

     Does anyone honestly believe this mother-of-four, even if she someday manages to get that massage therapy degree, will actually be able to pay off all those years of loans? Like many student loan victims, she’ll see her social security checks garnished. Imagine how much better off she’d be if her certificate training program was put together by people that actually wanted to help human beings, instead of pitiless administrators out for yet another buck. Gert would have been working for the last 7 years, instead of just handing her loan money to the community college administrators.

     The vast majority, 80% or more on some campuses, of community college students are remedial students. While admin insists that these students can get up to par just by taking a few remedial courses, it’s a well known fact that over 90% of remedial students won’t get their degree within 3 years. Well known to people in higher education, mind you, but admin never tells the remedial student this important information. Instead, admin says “check this box so you can get loans that we know full well are guaranteed to run out before you get the quick degree we’re promising you…” It must be all administration can do not to laugh maniacally every time they screw someone over like this.

     I’ve seen so many poor students cheated in this manner, spending years and years to get that “quick and convenient” certificate, trying to fulfill course requirements that simply have nothing to do with the job training, and are far beyond the capacity of non-academically inclined student (i.e., the kind of student who will be going for those quick certificates). Many years later, these students are spit out with nothing but deep debts and no useful skills. My begging admin to modify programs to actually give students a fair chance garnered only administrative enmity.

Me, at a faculty-only meeting, addressing a deanling: “Hi. This meeting is for faculty only. What are you doing here?”

Deanling: “I’m here ex officio.”

Me: “Uh huh. And what do you think that means?”

Deanling: “I’m non-voting.”

Me: “Well, we’d be more comfortable if you weren’t here.”

Deanling: “No.”

--This kind of arrogance is displayed all the time, and, incidentally, the deanling doesn’t even know what ex officio means.

      And the leaders of these schools? They’re hideously ignorant despite their strange yet fancy degrees; I’ve been shocked time and again just how little these people know. The book highlights an all-too-credible Q&A with an administrator (and I’ve had similar ostentatious displays of ignorance with Education/Administrative Ph.D.-crowned admins):

"Oh, tell me, Doctor Preston—who was Karl Marx?" asked McDougal as if he did not know.

"Ah, well, let me think, he was, uh, yass, he was premier of the Soviet Union in the 1950's," said a reddening Dr. Preston.

"And do you know…who is Hugo Chavez?"

"Hmm. I believe he is president of Southern El Paso Community College—or at least somewhere over in Texas. Yass."

"Dr. Preston, what do ye think of collective bargaining?" queried the enlightened McDougal.

"Oh, Barb and I don't haggle over prices at garage sales," said the cheery Dean.

"I see. And just what is your doctorate in, Dean Preston?"

A beet-faced Preston replied, "What do you mean, what is my doctorate in?…I have an EdD in Educational Leadership."

"What did you study in school lad? What subjects?" asked the now-investigative highlander.

The dean seemed surprised. "What? Well, we studied, uh, diversity, networking, uh, email etiquette, operating PDA's and smart phones, salary negotiations, student organizations, dancing, program review, quality management, higher education leadership, TQM, collaboration, team development—-you know, an in depth look at management processes and dialogue—oh, and best practice theory."

     Seriously, the people running the schools all too often are embarrassingly ignorant of a wide range of topics, and knowledgeable of nothing academic. There is no reason to believe they care about education, and every reason to believe they hurt the vulnerable simply as a living.

     While the book might not be a complete discussion of the sad reality of community college, I find it fairly accurate and worth a read for those interested. 

      In the end, this “fictional” account of community college comes to the same conclusions all the real data presented in this blog comes to: community colleges are primarily a scam, helping a tiny minority at the expense of legions of victims. The book goes over every aspect of the scam in a great epiphany at the end:

Is this why they refer to themselves as leaders rather than stewards? Is this why they ignore the data—the information which shows real merit, real quality [education of students] comes from vocational programs? Is this why they can't decide on program review rubrics, learning outcomes assessment, and program assessment instruments?

Perhaps they don't want to know—they don't want to decide—they don't want better retention or more program completers. They want enrollment—continuous enrollment—and now they even count two-year degree completion after six or seven years of study as successful.

     If the conjectures above are all true, it does much to explain why schools where essentially nobody gets their degree on time despite what it says in the glossy brochure are nevertheless rewarded for their success.

      I really want to emphasize the key issue of the epiphany. Community colleges weren’t intended to be major centers of academics. They were supposed to be, and are sold as, jobs trainers first, with academics a secondary goal at best. Because of this, there’s very little scrutiny over what goes on, academically, in community college.

      Our higher education system has been taken over by a ruthless caste of vicious mercenaries, “leaders” they call themselves, and this caste has exploited the lack of academic oversight to all too often turn these campuses into their private plundergrounds, hiding their shenanigans behind a cloud of pseudo-academics.

      This book is presented as fiction, but I’m telling the gentle reader: it is an all too realistic portrayal of how community colleges function.


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