Friday, December 12, 2008

Topic: Community Colleges

10-second review: The issue is whether community colleges can maintain credibility as institutions of higher education and still accept almost everyone who applies for admission.

Title: Review of The American Community College, second edition. A M Cohen and F B Brawer (San Francisco: Josey-Bass, 1989, 460 pages). Reviewed by NA Pickett. College Composition and Communication (May 1990), 226-227.

Summary/Quote: “A question of growing importance to me [the reviewer] as a community-college teacher of 23 years and to all who are concerned with public education is whether community colleges can maintain their credibility as institutions of higher education and at the same time continue to accept almost every one who applies for admission.” p. 227.

Comment: This issue of the community college really bothers me. Most of the students I encountered in the community college in which I taught for three and a half years—four-year college drop-outs and older adults beginning a college career—were capable of matriculating in a four-year college. The drop-outs had allowed partying and bad study habits to cause their failure. The adults had never had the opportunity to go to college. They were delightful students.

One student who was dyslexic or learning disabled was, at the start of the course, incapable of putting together two or three consecutive words that made sense. He did every thing I asked of him. Gradually, he was able to put several connected sentences together into a coherent paragraph. Whether he could survive in other academic courses, I don’t know. But, at his present level, at the end of the course, he could not be considered a college-level writer. He had made progress, and I awarded him an A for his efforts. I needed desperately to talk to my colleagues so that they could continue to help him put together a college-level paper, but I was an ‘adjunct’ who had no connection to the full-time faculty or to the dean of the school of arts and sciences.

That student is the perfect example of the dilemma facing the community college. His papers were, after one course in writing, not qualified to be graded even a D. I gave him an A to encourage him because of the tremendous effort he put into doing what I had asked of him, and he had made progress. Apparently, no one in high school or in the previous no-credit course with which he had begun his career at the community college had been able to help him improve his writing. And my status as adjunct gave me no opportunity to talk to my fellow faculty.

Most students I encountered in the community college were college-level students. At least one was not but could have been if a coherent program had been put in place to help him succeed as a college-level writer. I don’t know what happened to him. My experience in the community college as an adjunct caused me to leave the college. RayS.

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