Fewer limits, more success

Samuel Gonzalez

Before I write one more sentence, I submit an unconventional, but long overdue correction:

In the Feb. 8, 2013 issue of the Experience, my story about the Drama Department incorrectly attributes Sonia Azizi as having said that the department has a website called Funnystuff.com. The department has no such website, but they do have a link on LMC’s website where they can post videos.

With that on record, I dare write about accountability, and the reform movement underway for community colleges.

Having spent the last couple of years writing for this paper about the college system in tiny little bits at a time, I now see a top-down reform movement being pushed on the California Community college system.

I doubt many of the new and proposed policies will help the very students they’re supposed to, because the main effect of these policies is to place more and more limits on students.

The latest policy is the three strikes and you’re out (not the official wording) rule for repeating certain classes. I admit bias on this one, since I have failed algebra too many times and now have to go out of district to take the class.

The new repeatability rule is effective in taking the community out of community colleges. The message this rule sends, to me at least, sounds like, ‘We’re done trying to help you out, you are no longer worth our time and money, please try another district, that is, if you can manage the commute to a campus in another county.

I don’t blame anyone at LMC for my failure, but it would be nice if I could try again here at home instead of having to commute to Alameda for one class. Considering that enrollment has dropped all across the state, maybe this policy is worth a closer look.

There was also the proposed unit cap and changes to the priority enrollment structure, which did not make it through the state legislature.

While that idea won’t be implemented, I don’t think it’s the last we’ll hear of it, and like the repeatability rule, it’s all about placing more limits on students.

The ideas coming down from Sacramento also carry a nasty undertone that pits tax-fearing voters against students who don’t fit the states narrow, statistically based definition of success.

This attitude is visible on Internet forums attached to articles about this reform movement, where students who don’t complete degrees, transfers and certificates are written off as losers who aren’t worth a taxpayer dime.

Articles about this reform movement, the ones in the big papers at least, treat it as if it were Jerry Browns fight to help poor community college students, and as if each proposal was a proven incentive for success.

Really, the data the state uses for measuring success is incomplete and lacking context. The same goes for the dozens of think-tank policy reports and recommendations out there, which are nearly identical in their ideas and funding sources.

For these experts, there is no life beyond the walls of the institutions, no recession, no mention of the millions of people who lost their homes and jobs for no direct fault of their own.

The last time I checked, it wasn’t community colleges that dragged the economy down, and I don’t understand why we have to pay for it.

In my opinion, the reformers show a real lack of imagination in trying to do what’s best for college students, and considering the budget cuts and economy of the past few years, I wonder why there isn’t as vigorous a reform movement being pushed on those who push reform on the rest of us.