Friday, September 25, 2009

Does "Community" Look Like Your Community College?

After watching promos for Community for what felt like the whole summer, by the time I sat down to watch the show last night, I felt like I had already seen the show. I've taught English at lots of community colleges, both in South Florida and in South Carolina (in Columbia and Charleston), so I was interested to see how the community college would be depicted.

I found the Spanish teacher least believable. To be having that kind of meltdown so early in the term? And over student expectations of what an Asian person should be doing? What, is he a new teacher? Is he not used to this by now? Does he not see it as a teaching opportunity? And to get in people's faces--literally!--the way he did? To be abusive to students? At most community colleges, I suspect that such a hair-trigger teacher wouldn't last very long. If that kind of scene happened in a classroom, half those students would be in the offices of various administrators complaining.

I found the set of the show to be more like a research university or a small college. Everything looks clean and bright and new. Most community colleges were built in the 1960's, and with the exception of a new building here and there, those buildings haven't been updated much since (I'm leaving the gleaming buildings that the Health/Medical students have out of the equation). Where were the broken desks? The shabby, stained carpeting or ugly linoleum? Why did the outside scenes look like the vegetation had been manicured? Where were all the huddles of smoking students?

But what I found most unbelievable was that all these students seemed to have so much free time. They met in the library to study. They worked on a Spanish assignment half the night. They put together a protest about Guatemala--a protest which had students show up.

Most community colleges serve a very transient population. Students come for class and then dash away to their job--often several jobs. They might wish they had time for study groups and protests, but they don't. They have children that need care. They often have older relatives who need care. My community college students faced more obstacles than any other students I've ever seen--and they often managed to hold it all together.

I'm happy that people in government are finally seeing the importance of community colleges. I worry that this T.V. show won't, that it will all be fodder for a series of smirking jokes.


Karen J. Weyant said...

I didn't see the show -- but I would imagine that I would feel the same way about Community as my nursing colleagues feel about the tv show, Nurse Jackie!

Sandy Longhorn said...

I watched the first episode last week and was so disappointed, I won't watch again. I burst out laughing when they showed a professor's office. It was large, with a window, room for visitors, etc. Mine is pretty close to being a closet! I agree with all of your observations above, as well.