I teach at a community college. At commencement I get to watch students walk across the platform and pick up diplomas who have gone through some pretty tremendous shit. Working class people who have been told all their lives they’re stupid, only to find out they aren’t. Guys who got laid off from a manufacturing gig who learned how to program a computer. Divorced housewives who can write like nightingales sing but who were never encouraged to reach out for their intellectual potential, because our society is still burdened with idiotic sexism. Kids who were bright enough not to totally hock their futures for the debt you need for a 4 year degree and a chance at a decent life, wisely cutting their future debt burden almost in half.
Yeah, lots of people who go out for CCs don’t make it, for a lot of reasons. And if they just can’t cut it, I’ll fail them. But most of them are just thirsty as hell for something more than the crap they’re usually watered with. Amazing people. They want to learn so goddamn bad.
Agreed. My school is a four-year liberal arts university that used to be a community college. It still retains much of that identity, something that’s evident each spring when a couple hundred students earn their bachelor’s or associate’s degrees and walk across the stage to the applause of friends and family members who knew how long and hard many of them worked to get there. It’s the only part of commencement that I ever enjoy. The rest of it — the stupid anthems, the silly hats, the mediocre speakers and their fountains of banality — I could do without. But few professional experiences have been as gratifying as seeing my friend Cate graduate summa after patching together a degree for two decades as a Coast Guard spouse.