AFT: Completion means ‘cranking out’ workers

Corporate interests are pushing the “completion agenda” and turning  community colleges into “job training factories,” charges a letter from the American Federation of Teachers to instructors in two California community college districts, Grossmont-Cuyamaca and San Diego. The instructors are represented by the union, reports the LaMesa Patch.

California community colleges’ Student Success Task Force report calls for “a dumbed-down, totally instrumental view of our mission that focuses nearly exclusively on making community colleges more efficient machines cranking out workers for business,” charges the letter, written by Jim Miller, who teaches at San Diego City College, and Jonathan McLeod, who teaches at San Diego Mesa College.

Students are allowed to “wander” though the curriculum, according to the report, which calls for tracking students’ progress.

If only we do a better job of tracking and push our lax, waste-filled system with more accountability measures, all will improve despite a historic budget crisis the largest gap between the rich and the poor in modern history, and the legacy of systemic racism.

While the task force did not endorse linking state funding to student outcomes, its original charge, Miller and McLeod suspect that will be next.

The Lumina Foundation, which strongly supports the completion agenda, and other “corporate-funded ‘external partners’,” assisted the task force, notes the AFT letter. Lumina collaborates with ALEC, which the letter excoriates for many paragraphs.

So when Lumina joins forces with ALEC it means more than just a move toward influencing legislative policy; it means they are part of a larger network of monied interests pushing our country further toward plutocracy and corporate domination.

. . . Corporate interests collaborating to impose the business model in public higher education want efficient workers trained to follow top-down orders, not critical thinkers who might question their agenda or buck up against the slow creep toward “outcomes based funding” that would serve as a Trojan horse for privatization.

The task force recommends encouraging students to “declare a program of study upon admission” and requiring declaration by the end of their second term.

Students who declare a program of study are much more likely to complete a certificate or degree, according to a Community College Research Center study. But the real motive is to squelch intellectual exploration, the letter asserts.

Undeclared students should lose enrollment priority after their third term, the report recommends. So would students who don’t follow their education plan.

That would help new students who often can’t get into the courses they need because continuing students — including those enrolled for years without completing a degree — have priority. But it would make it harder for students to take courses that don’t lead to a credential.

In addition, the report recommends that students pay the full cost of courses outside their education plan.

Woe to the career tech student who might venture to take a course in geography, philosophy, or fine arts!  What is the utility of radiation technology or mathematics students enrolling in political science to learn about legislative processes or the impact of free-trade agreements on the national economy and labor force demand?

Students will be able to “wander” for two terms before they decide on a plan, if the task force recommendations are adopted. How many years should they spend taking classes that don’t help them reach their goals?

Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott and Constance Carroll, chancellor of the San Diego Community College District and a member of the Student Success Task Force, defended the success plan in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The “old guard within the community college establishment” opposes the task force recommendations “because they claim they are prescriptive, limit faculty control and deviate from the historic mission of serving all students regardless of their intentions, writes Gary Hart, a former state education secretary, in the San Jose Mercury News. But the system isn’t serving students now: Only 30 percent complete a credential or transfer within six years.

POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON December 5, 2011

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