Schools have always been political institutions, but recent decades have found them increasingly political. This appears to be grounded in the electoral benefits that can be gained by politicians who promise to “fix education.” Other societal factors including demographic changes, calls for accountability, financial influences of publishers and philanthropists, and rapidly-emerging industries have influenced school leaders’ decisions and classroom directions as well. Further, recent decades have seen a shift in the United States away from “education for the public good” to “education for the individual good.” The mantra “go to school to get a good job” is a rather recent phenomenon, and it has quickly become “the reason” for individuals to enroll and peruse certificates and degrees. Many instructors conclude these factors “have nothing to do with me. I’m just here to teach and make sure students get the information they need.” While instructors may avoid contemplating these issues when preparing for students, they do affect the context in which they work with students and the expectations placed upon them. It is likely your school…
…is seeking to “improve itself.” In many cases, the improvement is grounded in the recommendations made during accreditation processes. If you are a new instructor and you hear conversations about “accreditation,” know they are serious. If you are an experienced instructor, you know “improvement” is never-ending and cyclic. This can be frustrating for those who work in the directions they are directed only to find that work dismantled when the next initiate begins.
… is worried about enrollment. I live and work in a region that has seen many small schools close in recent years because they could not attract sufficient income from tuition to stay open. The pressures are real, all schools are competing for a shrinking student population.
… is dealing with on-going conflict between liberal arts and professional programs. Just as schools are competing for external resources (namely students), there is competition within schools for limited resources. In general, there are two types of students in community colleges, those who seek to transfer to four-year programs (who are interested in general education courses and those who are seeking professional preparation.
… is struggling with the need for developmental education. Many students arrive at community college and discover they need to strengthen their reading, writing, and mathematics skills so they can succeed in college courses. While providing this support is and admirable and valuable role for community colleges, it is problematic as enrolling in developmental courses delays students’ completion; it also requires tuition for courses that may not count toward graduation and may not be transferred. Your school is struggling with how to minimize the number of developmental courses students must take.