Community Colleges: Where Low Tech and High Tech Collide
is here. Microsoft is announcing for the end of summer's dog days Windows 10, a
"new" and "free" version of its operating system, called
fittingly a system "d'exploitation" in French, and other "high
tech" novelties try to lure us out of the doldrums as well, including
driverless automobiles, supersonic space searchers, and package-delivering
French magazine Le Point has stated, a "putsch" is upon us to promote
the new and the "more secure", to do away with the old and the
"too open." The social/demographic problems provoked by
over-population continue to promote fear and to provoke countries to seek
meantime, France and Germany, where old architecture often houses new
technological wizardry and where the European Union remains at once an attempt
to unite against the techno-cultural force de frappe imposed by the United
States of America and an effort to regain and then retain a consistency of
strength among small nations such as Greece and Portugal alongside larger
economies, the move is being made toward "low-tech", or even
"no-tech" to solve at least some of the problems posed by population
In France, for example, a plan is being promoted to
increase the use of bicycles in the center of Paris. Mayor Anne Hidalgo has proposed
at least doubling the "axes" of bicycle use in the city, where 1400
kilometers of new bicycle routes are to be laid down, in the hope of making the
city "The European Capital of Cycling." The mayor has pointed out
that her city once had very few automobiles, its streets were never planned to
serve the automobile as common transport, and people have been buying larger
and more polluting cars, despite all that. Smog has enveloped the City of Light, and orange alerts have
been called to try to keep people indoors, on their feet, or on bikes.
And in Germany, a system that Wired magazine calls an Autobahn for cyclists is being proposed for
the city of Munich:
14 two-way bike paths are to be constructed over an area of 400 square miles,
to encourage commuting to and from city and suburbs by bicycle. Birgit Kastrop,
an urban planner in Germany, has pointed out that the country's freeways and
public transportation services are "at near capacity,” adding that
"research has tied increased cycling rates to social, economic,
environmental, and health" benefits, as Wired writes.
meantime, Americans are ever more wedded to the electronic each day and in
novel ways. Caloric expenditure and intake, articles and books read, messages
sent or just thought about—all can be recorded and retained for safekeeping.
New automobiles are larger. Why use a hair-messing and sweat-inducing bicycle
when we can roll in surround-sound and Bluetooth comfort in a SUV? New
technology is more pervasive--why wait for a taxi or order a hotel room when
Uber and Airbnb can serve quickly? And why order from a restaurant waiter when
a cellphone connection is available to the kitchen?
all this have to do with community colleges? Let's think about it.
For most of
their educational lives, community colleges have existed to serve the
underserved or the un-served, the poor, the left out, the left behind, the
untraditional. We have also been the best among higher education options at
changing in accordance with demand, at meeting students wherever they might be
and transforming them into learners. We were the first post-secondary schools
to offer short-term, on-demand courses, the first to integrate certificate
programs into academe and industry simultaneously, and the first to be strongly
and substantially online.
But we have
also to remain sensitive to our origins, to our base. In southern California, it is becoming ever more difficult to get to
class without an automobile; public transportation is, like that in Germany,
"at capacity," but we have no plans to resolve that problem. The
students without a car are stranded, and bicycle routes are few and dangerous.
In the southern California
areas where I work, bicyclists take their lives on their wheels, and public
transportation prices are rising, even as service is being cut. Students are
left behind if they are without computers and/or smartphones—and yes, in a
district that includes Little Saigon and poverty-level Santa Ana, Garden Grove,
and Costa Mesa, we do have such students, still relying on pencils, pens, paper
notebooks, and hardbound texts—can scarcely sign up for classes, and getting to
them is an insurmountable difficulty.
And so, I
submit, community colleges must remain faithful to the tradition of being the
malleable members of the higher education world. How can we move forward with
the highest of tech, while remaining faithful to our call to serve the
underserved and the un-served? We must remain sensitive, I believe, and we must
be open to student needs, if not demands. We must continue to recall the
Learning Paradigm of some decades ago, in which it was stated that "no
policy, practice, or program" shall exist or be sustained that does not
serve the student, that does not incite in him the motivation toward learning.
High tech, low tech, everywhere tech, or no tech, our students are with us to learn, and that must remain our securest option.