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“Professor X”’s essay entitled, “In the Basement of the Ivory Tower” discusses a view of community college that isn’t idyllic, but rather, an image of monotonous and futile defeat for the general population of students. He discusses the futility of a technology-mandated era, and of teaching English in a literature and film deficient population. However, for many people, community college is not a “last resort”, nor is it always a sign of having “screwed up”; however, college should not be accessible nor required for the bulk of people, because even though community college can be a wonderful and useful academic stepping stone into a four year education, not everyone is built for the academic path in life.
Professor X speaks on community college as a last-ditch option when he writes, “I work at colleges of last resort. For many of my students, college was not a goal they spent years preparing for, but a place they landed in” (Professor X, 2008).
However, many people do not view community college to be such a flippant choice. In fact, many have used it as a stepping stone into a four-year university, when they felt unable to bridge the gap between K-12 and higher education. In fact, The New York Times writes an article on one of these students. “They attract students like Rachel Patrick, 20, who graduated from high school in Clarksburg, Md., with a 4.0 grade point average and a 1380 on her SATs. She was accepted by several four-year colleges but surprised friends by choosing Montgomery College, a community college that admitted her on full scholarship in a selective two-year honors program” (Frerking, 2007).
She later reasons that “The small classes foster a close rapport with teachers and classmates” (Frerking, 2007). This reasoning is common amongst community college students at NOVA who I have met, who often felt emotionally and socially unprepared for the new, non-academic challenges that college proposes.Professor X’s essay continues on this non-idealistic concept of community college where, “Our presence together in these evening classes is evidence that we all have screwed up. I’m working a second job; they’re trying desperately to get to a place where they don’t have to. All any of us wants is a free evening” (Professor X, 2008).
However, not every community college is teeming with young mothers and bored, academically deficient jocks. At NOVA, I have met a collection of people my age who believe that NOVA is a wonderful place to learn and find release from the monetary pressure of a university. They didn’t “screw up”, but rather felt that they didn’t want to be in the future. Texas Southmost College wrote on their website about how community colleges help students save money: “Living on campus in either a dormitory or an apartment can be costly. Dormitory housing can cost as much as $4,000-$5,000 per year. Living at home while attending a community college for your first two years of school can save you thousands of dollars” (n.a., 2018).
So in contrast with what Professor X says, many students go to a community college to NOT be in the position of working a second job, or striving for a single free evening, and the monetary flexibility of community college allows for that.Lastly, the essay seems to inherently urge against many community college mandated for the large group of people. Though I have disagreed with Professor X at every point, I can agree with him on this singular one. “There is a sense that the American workforce needs to be more professional at every level. Many jobs that never before required college now call for at least some post-secondary course work” (Professor X, 2008). This unfortunately, is the current state of our country, making it very difficult for even graduated students to receive a well-paying job. A teacher once said to me that, “We set students up for either a career path or a college path, and many are not made for the one that is typically favored”. This could not ring truer than it does today, and therefore, college of any sort should not be mandated in order to succeed. Forbes wrote, “It is irresponsible to urge students to attend community college by providing free tuition when two-thirds of enrollees end up with no degree six years later” (Cooper, 2016).
Though this is a bleak outlook, it is true. Many students do not finish schooling, not due to lack of trying, but because they are simply not made for the “college path”.My experiences at NOVA have been positive in almost every turn. Being at a community college as wonderfully popular, developed, and intimate as NOVA allows for a certain cushion. The classes are not in large lecture halls with professor’s that have names I can’t remember. The students are not distant and vacuous, but thoughtful and helpful. Being at NOVA has decreased the stigma of community college that has been ingrained in me since high school, and has laid out a path for the successful future that I have always sought. I do not think that NOVA is a last resort school, but rather a stepping stone emotionally, academically, and socially into a career or university of my choosing. Though thought-provoking and impassioned, “In the Basement of the Ivory Tower” is only one view – and is a rather bleak one – of the community college. Community college isn’t a purgatorial existence between high school and university, or a place for those who “screwed up” but rather an opportunity to find out what path one is geared towards.
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