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  • Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.

Friday Fragments
May 17, 2012 - 10:36pm

The Boy had his first major band concert this week.  It was held in the high school gym, where the acoustics are every bit as good as you’d expect in a high school gym.  In our district, fifth grade is the first year for school music lessons and band, so the band sounded a little rough around the edges, but that’s okay.

The concert featured every level of band from the fifth grade through high school.  First the fifth graders would play, then the sixth graders, then the junior high, then the high school, then back to the fifth graders for round two.  (I’m guessing that was to prevent the fifth grade parents from leaving right after the fifth grade band finished.)  A happy side effect of having the other bands sit quietly while one band played was that you got to see them dance in their chairs.  When the fifth graders did their version of “Party Rock Anthem,” the high school percussion section started doing the “raise the roof” move.  Despite myself, I was thoroughly charmed.

It was also fun to see the kids all dressed up.  I helped TB tie his tie, which was a major milestone.  Watching uncomfortable ten-year-olds squirm in unaccustomed formal clothes is a parental guilty pleasure.

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Forehead Slap of the Day, Part I: Trade Adjustment Act (TAA) funding is available for workers whose jobs are judged to have been sacrificed to free trade.  (How that determination is made isn’t clear to me, but that’s another issue.)  It lasts for up to 18 months from the date the job is lost.  

We’re supposed to use TAA funding to get these displaced workers retrained.  Most of the eligible programs offer associate’s degrees.  Assuming full-time attendance, no remediation, no course failures, and no stopouts, a degree takes two years.

I know math is hard, but come on...

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Meanwhile, ceremony season is in full swing.  With both kids, and me, on the academic calendar, the seasonal crescendos keep crashing into each other.  At this point, the only thing that makes it manageable is when we get rainouts for the baseball and softball games.  I hate rooting for rain, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

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Forehead Slap of the Day, Part II: I mentioned recently that colleges that offer Federal financial aid will soon lose the ability to admit students under the “ability to benefit” banner.  That means that students who don’t have high school diplomas will first have to get GED’s before they can start community college.

Today I heard that Pearson has bought the GED, and that starting in 2014, it will become both significantly more expensive to take, and offered only on computers.  That means that students will have to type their essays.  (I don’t know if they’ll be robo-graded.)

So now prospective students will not only have to pony up several times more money to take the test -- I thought the private sector was supposed to be more efficient, not less -- but they’ll also have to have decent computer and typing skills.  Now, GED preparation will have to include basic typing.

I’ve got nothing against typing, heaven knows, but adding this barrier to the loss of the ability to benefit test starts to look like a pattern.  

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That said, anyone who doubts what community colleges do should attend a student awards ceremony.  Hearing what so many of them went through in life, and what they’ve achieved, is both humbling and cleansing.  Ceremony season is tiring, but this one is always worth it.

 

 

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