Here is a story on a poll that found Kitsap residents want access to higher ed classes, but aren’t interested in a traditional college experience here.
This brings up a few questions I have about alternative educational facilities, “university centers” or branch campuses, which are gaining in popularity and enrollment.
But beware, what you are about to read has earned me accusations of elitism. So, get your tomatoes ready.
To me, it seems like it’s lowering the bar. It sounds condescending, like a second tier system, and I would point the same accusations of elitism right back at my accusers.
I went to Seattle Central Community College. At Central, as we called it, I had many classmates from Bremerton, Bainbridge and North Kitsap. One, a friend of mine, a Running Start student, would hitchhike everyday from Suquamish to the Bainbridge ferry terminal to ride to Seattle.
So, why would so many students double or triple their commute time to attend what ostensibly are the same classes?
Could it possibly have to do with the diversity of the student body at an urban campus?
Could that mean there is more to an education than a building, a teacher and a book?
At the time, I assumed there wasn’t a community college in that green land that appears on the other side of the Puget Sound.
There is, of course, Olympic College.
When I started at UW under the direct transfer agreement, I had a lot of catching up to do. The papers that earned A’s at Seattle Central barely registered C’s in 200 level literature classes. It had a tinge of embarrassment to it, considering all the people in my classes were younger, smarter, prettier and richer than me.
And that leads to my second question.
I had quite a few outstanding teachers. But the occasions that I had my mind blown, the times where the sky opened up and suddenly the dense text made sense, was not from something I read in a book or something a teacher said during a lecture, but what another student said during a class discussion.
This seems counterintuitive, I know. We’re led to think that it is the quality of the teacher or the curriculum that determines our success in the classroom. What about the quality of our fellow students?
Third, isn’t a university education supposed to be horribly difficult and monstrously inconvenient? Isn’t that the point, that it isn’t easy? Isn’t that what gives even the lowliest bachelor’s degree in underwater basket weaving some prestige, because going through the ringer sucks so consistently?
I won’t regale you with the hardships of my educational experience, but they weren’t unique. I had classmates who endured more. Some were single parents, military vets, disabled people, older people, younger people, people from different ethnicities, from households that didn’t speak English and some people who were wrestling with horrible addictions and mental health issues.
At UW and the real universities we got ourselves admitted to, many of us stuck out like sore thumbs. We were older, fatter and harrier than the spry kids.
It was hard, very hard, and I had many occasions for exasperation and despair.
Some of my classmates didn’t make it. Most went on and did amazing things, and when I think about them, and what they’ve achieved, I get a little misty eyed.
And my final question, do our leaders think those of us without a silver spoon in our mouths aren’t capable of competing with their sons and daughters? Are we so sorry and in need of pity that instead of (1) reforming public schools so that high school graduates are prepared for jobs, (2) funding higher education at the level it was subsidized when our leaders went to college so that taking out a college loan isn’t tantamount to indentured servitude and (3) allowing financially independent young people to be evaluated on their own incomes, it is preferable for Olympia to just lower the bar, keep jacking up tuitions and continue to say it believes in higher education?
I’d also like to know how many of our leaders who support these feel good education alternatives would support their children going to a community college for four years.
If it’s just as good, then Harvard and MIT, watch out.