Academic journal article Community College Enterprise

John Dewey and the Future of Community College Education

Academic journal article Community College Enterprise

John Dewey and the Future of Community College Education

Article excerpt

John Dewey and the Future of Community College Education Clifford P. Harbour New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015. 178 pages. $27.83USD/PaPerback

Editor's note: The book publishing industry has reinvented itself for the digital age, the community college is reinventing itself in the Obama age, so the way this journal reviews books about community colleges should try new ideas too. For our Fall 2013 issue we did a "book + author blog" review. For this issue, we were fortunate enough to have two community college philosophy faculty members interested in reviewing the same book. The reviews below complement each other; they highlight different aspects of the book's scholarship, and while there are several agreements, there is a valuable disagreement of the book's overall value in our age of reinvention. It brings to mind Oscar Wilde's comment in his preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray that "diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital"-and worth reviewing, from the two indispensable perspectives below. -BG

Reviewer: Michael Kilivris

Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Westmoreland County Community College

Youngwood, Pennsylvania

Surprising as it may be, President Obama's recent call to make community colleges free nationwide is not a new proposal. In fact, the idea is nearly 70 years old, going all the way back to the Truman Commission, which in a 1947 report recommended "free, public, community colleges." This is just one of many edifying insights to be found in John Dewey and the Future of Community College Education. Written by former community college faculty member and administrator Clifford P. Harbour, who is now an associate professor of education at the University of Wyoming, this expertly researched book offers a compelling, and much-needed, alternate way forward for community colleges in this crucial time of our institutional development.

Exceedingly well-versed in the history of community colleges, Harbour argues that they are now at a "crossroads." Down one path lies a greater commitment to what Harbour calls the Completion Agenda, characterized as "a broad reform movement asserting, as its central claim, that American colleges and universities must produce substantially more graduates." According to Complete College America, only 18.8% of full-time students finish a 2-year associate's degree in 4 years. As a corrective, Completion Agenda advocates recommend increasing completion rates 50% by 2020, as stated in the American Association of Community College's (AACC's) 2012 report, "Reclaiming the American Dream: Community Colleges and the Nation's Future."1

While certainly in favor of improving completion rates (as well as facing economic challenges like income inequality), Harbour raises a number of concerns about implementing the Completion Agenda at community colleges. For one thing, community colleges have historically, if not completely, been about access, enrolling 40% of undergraduates, including the largest share of low-income and underrepresented minority' students.2 What happens to such educational opportunity when community colleges, and the states on whose funding they largely depend, make completion rates their top priority? Harbour points out that some community colleges have started limiting registration to "college-ready" students, with the inevitable effect of lower enrollments. What is worse, in many states, public funding, already in serious turmoil,3 is still tied to enrollment, such that those community colleges that prioritize completion end up receiving less funding.

Harbor argues that in addition to limiting access to higher education, the Completion Agenda could make community colleges even more vocational, diverting students away from 2-year associate degrees, and thereby from bachelor's and graduate degrees. While only 18.8% of 2-year students graduate in 4 years, 27.8% of 1-year certificate students graduate in 2 years. …

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