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2016 January 5 - 09:19 am

A New Year Demands New Clarity on Community College Mission

According to readers of the news about community colleges as reported in NISOD (the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development) “mission” and “values” were of prime interest in 2015.

Apart from President Barack Obama's bold proposal to return to a decades-old promise to keep the community college “free,” open to anyone who might be willing to do the work to learn and without tuition, NISOD cites these two notions of "mission" and "values" as having been our clarion calls.

But as 2016 begins, I would like to reinforce a call that I have made in a number of presentations during this year and last: Let's make our “mission” and our “values” clear in this new year.

I fear that one of the (many?) reasons that community colleges have been misunderstood, been given a mistaken identity, or just been missed altogether in the public mind, not to mention the political mindset, is that we have not made these so-called “interests” of ours clear enough.

What is a “mission,” anyway? And is it ever accomplished? Is it something that we approach, but can/will never reach, like a mathematical limit? Does it have some sort of religious/spritual base, an ethereal nature, untouchable by us mortal beings? Let's define it for ourselves and for others in a clear, objective, perhaps even measurable way.

And what are “values?” Do they have to do with money, cost, price, remuneration of some sort? Or are they, too, somewhat spritual, ineffable, untouchable by mere mortals?

These are just a couple of things that I hope that we community college partisans can “resolve” in 2016. If any of you out there have already resolved them in ways that the hoi polloi can understand and that the politicians who all too often govern our pursestrings can grasp, then share your resolutions far and wide, so that we may all empower ourselves and our students (yes, that word "empower" has been hot this year, too), and so that we may all “evolve,” as everyone this year has seemed so wont to wish, at least as long as the term “evolve” is taken out of its scientific context.

Happy New Year to all! 

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