Is Education Like a Cell Phone? A Call to Action

By Dean Murakami, President, Faculty Association of the California Community Colleges (FACCC)

The following remarks were delivered at the opening general session of the FACCC Advocacy and Policy Conference in Sacramento, California on March 2, 2014. 

California is finally coming out of the horrible recession where our state legislators cut the funding for community colleges and other social services at the time when the people of California needed help the most.  600,000 students have left community colleges! That’s more than the total number of students who attend the CSU [California State University]  system! That’s more than the population of the city of Sacramento!

I believe that it is unforgiveable that our government has left behind so many students, a generation of students who will never attain their educational, social, and economic potential. That will be their everlasting legacy!!

This is the eighth largest economy in the world, 1 out of every 10 billionaires in the world live in California, so there was no excuse for the neglect that was given to public education and other social services in California. We needlessly hurt so many students and people in California.  Proposition 30 showed us that the money was there all along, and Prop 30 did not destroy the state’s economy, millionaires have not fled the state; the fact is that our legislators were just not willing to stand up to the 1%. [Proposition 30, passed by California voters in 2012 increased taxes, especially on the wealthiest taxpayers, in order to restore public funding to education and other services.  Opponents had claimed that it would drive the wealthy from the state and discourage business investment.]

There is this corporate lobby that is attempting to change public higher education so that it exclusively serves the interests of the 1%.  That lobby, such as the Eli Broad Foundation, Bill Gates Foundation, Koch Brothers, and others, is well funded and organized. This is what they are pushing:

• Higher student fees & tuition
• Fast tracking for students who can pay
• Performance based funding
• MOOCs
• Unattainable accountability Goals
• Antiunion Initiatives
• Attacks on public pensions

This is all part of the corporate agenda.  But, I want to just highlight this one.  How many of you have heard from the President or Governor that we need a buzzillion students graduating with bachelor’s and master’s degrees by 2025? WHY???  Because those graduates will help serve the employment needs of the corporate elite, the 1%! They tell us that if public higher education doesn’t meet these graduation quotas for Bachelor’s Degrees and Master’s Degrees somehow business and society are doomed to failure.  What a bunch of bull!

While we highly value all of our students who earn transfers, degrees, & certificates — and that is a critical part of what community colleges do — that is not the only mission of community colleges. We also serve students who want to improve their job skills — maybe that student wants to get a better job, or maybe they just want to become a better educated citizen in the community. What’s wrong with that?! Those students are just as valuable and they should never be considered as failures!

Community colleges are here to serve the education needs of 100% of the people in California, not just the 1%, because if we fail to meet the educational needs of the other 99% as well, that is when this economy and society will surely fail!

I am so sick and tired of hearing legislators and administrators say that faculty are only interested in student access and not success.  Are you kidding me?  Faculty are concerned with student success every time we teach a class or every time a counselor or librarian meets with a student.  Now many of these same legislators and administrators are advocating for MOOCs!  Why are they pushing MOOCs?  Because the corporate lobby wants it, that’s why! All access and to hell with success! It just goes to show you that they are nothing but a bunch of hypocritical bombastic idiots!

They say that faculty and the unions are only interested in the status quo, that we are barriers to creativity, innovation and improvement in education.  Well even an old dinosaur like me has gladly adopted smart classrooms where I seamlessly incorporate text, audio, and video into my lecture and lab components, class websites with extensive supplemental information and interactive assignments, use electronic textbooks.  We all use email, online and hybrid classes…the list goes on and on.  Status quo my ass!

We are at the beginning of a new era of positive budgets and with that the opportunity to set a new course for community colleges.  The fight for the future of community colleges could not be clearer.  The corporate elite would like a service model for community colleges where students are solely responsible for the costs and debt of their education and it is streamlined to serve the purposes of the corporate elite, the top 1%.  Their view is that education is no different than a customer buying a cell phone.

All of us are here because we believe in a civic model of community colleges where everyone invests in education through our taxes.  Because we believe that public investment in education is good for our society, we believe that education is our civic responsibility, and community colleges must serve 100% of the people in California.

Those are the values and principles we hold dear and are willing to fight for.  It would be my honor to stand with you and fight for those values and principles.  Are we going to stand together and fight?!!  Are you ready to fight for your values?!  Are you ready to fight for your principles?!  Do you have the passion for this fight?!  I swear to you here and now that the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges will always be here to fight at your side.  This organization will not fail you, ever!  So be proud, yes be very proud that we are all a part of the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges!

One thought on “Is Education Like a Cell Phone? A Call to Action

  1. Pingback: FACCC: Changing the Narrative | Academe Blog

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