Community Colleges Can Be the Best, but Get the Least Respect

By Straw, Deborah | The Christian Science Monitor, March 2, 2001 | Go to article overview
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Community Colleges Can Be the Best, but Get the Least Respect


Straw, Deborah, The Christian Science Monitor


An elementary school teacher took a graduate course in education last semester here in Vermont. When her professor asked about her favorite college course, she said, "By far, the best course I ever took was US History at Community College of Vermont (CCV)." As the professor had neglected to mention the community college in

his lecture about area adult-education resources, a silence followed.

Neglecting to notice or mention community colleges' existence and the quality of their classes is

not uncommon. For 12 years, I have been an adjunct instructor at CCV, and I have received little respect from my professional friends for this work.

Having taught at five colleges, I know my most rewarding work is at community college. I find my students fascinating. They may not be the cultured, privileged kids you find at large universities, but they work hard, and they know the value of an education. These colleges are good for both students and faculty.

Community colleges warrant respect for several reasons. First, its students: Many are single parents. Most are committed to their education, seldom passing in late work, almost never absent.

I've taught students of many nationalities, mentally ill students, a deaf woman who worked with tag-team interpreters, and military personnel. I've seen students whose low self-esteem holds them back, who watch too much TV and never read for pleasure. Some haven't been to a museum or outside the state on vacation.

Classes are small - between eight and 20 students whose ages range from l7 to 70. Course offerings are substantial. We have a solid core of science, math, and business courses, plus many literature, writing, art, and language options. There are no "gut" courses. Research projects are generally required, as are oral reports.

Although instructors tailor material to students' needs, they do not water down their courses.

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Community Colleges Can Be the Best, but Get the Least Respect
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