Monday, July 6, 2009

Political Science at LBCC: Training the Next Generation of Leaders

"I love it - slouching behind his keyboard in his junior college office, hurling threats like some 1930's tough guy in a bar fight. Well, I guess that's all it takes to be a conservative intellectual."

**********

Readers might recall my post from a couple of months back: "You're a Professor, Really?"

In addition to the "I can't believe you're a professor" slur, I also get put down as "he's only a junior college professor." TBogg at Firedoglake perfected it into snark, with "JuCo Toynbee." The comment at top is from radical leftist Green Eagle, who joined the attackers during my recent go-'round at Brain Rage.

But as I've noted many times, when the leftists slam community college professors, it's a particularly good indicator of their indifference to students of lower socio-economic status. Actually, leftists are all about radical power (and not about not caring, citizenship, and community-building). You'd think leftists would be the first to respect those who work with the disadvantaged. But it's generally not the case. The "junior college" repudiation is a dime-a-dozen during the online debates.

It's funny too. There's really no better place for someone to truly experience our incredible diversity than on the average community college campus: In almost ten years, I've had battered women come to me seeking help and personal counseling. I've mentored women making the transition from welfare to work, as part of my college's workforce development programs. As the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported, "The college serves about 530 such students per semester and has the capacity to serve 1,500 per year." A couple of summers ago, I had a rebellious classroom. It was a difficult situation. A lot of students were unruly, and management was an issue. A student came to my office to share her thoughts. She felt for me. She was a black woman who had lost her daughter to violence. Her baby was strangled at five years old. She was coming back to college after years of alcohol and drug abuse. Our lectures and discussions on civil rights were thrilling. She felt empowered. She was happy to be clean and getting back on track. I almost cried after hearing her story. And she was only unusual in that she openly shared her experiences with me. Lord knows how many of the other stories of hardship and trauma that I've never heard about.

Our demographics are as diverse as anywhere in the country. A 2001 study found Long Beach to be the nation's most diverse city "in a ranking of the 65 biggest cities in the United States." And a U.S. Census report in 2004 found "that a roughly 13-square-mile area of southern Los Angeles County from North Long Beach to Bellflower to Artesia is among the most linguistically varied swaths of territory in the nation." It's not unusual, during classroom discussions on immigration reform, for students to regale first-hand stories on the entrenched poverty and socio-economic islolation found in the region's unassimilated ethnic enclaves.

I'm getting more and more veterans from our recent wars as well. I couple of semesters ago I had a student who did two tours in Iraq. He went back for his second tour after recoving from a grenade attack that blew off his left calf. THESE GUYS LOVE MY TEACHING. One of my former students is a regular commenter at my blog. I mentioned him previously, in my post on Glenn Beck's recent "survival scenarios" (see, "Worst Case Scenario? Preparing for Anarchy in America").

Sadly, many students come to my classes unable to read. My second year teaching I had a young woman - she looked like she could have been a sorority hottie - who could not write a single paragraph on a page. I asked her what happened. Was she getting help? She said her parents were longshoremen. She came from a Long Beach white working-class background. I sat her down in all seriousness and indicated that she was nowhere near college reading and writing ability. I made sure she was in touch with the appropriate staff on campus, so she'd have the remedial resources to help her succeed. Every now and then I get term papers from students who have obviously never written a formal report. They can't perform basic word processing functions, such as formatting double-spacing. I've had some students - of all racial backgrounds - turn in papers handwritten - and these are formal writing assignments. Not only did they not have access to a PC at home, they simply hadn't used one before.

Faculty who work with student populations like this are more than teachers. For many students, community college professors are the most highly trained people they've met. Most students don't address me as "Dr. Douglas," because they have no idea what that professional title really means; nor do they understand the kind of educational training required for the doctoral degree. It's meaningless for most entering community college students. They call me "Mr. Douglas," and that's perfectly fine, respectful even.

It's really an honor to work with such a population, and often in the daily grind of teaching I forget that. I get tired of discipline and classroom management issues, and that's not to mention the same kind of apathy and entitlement that we find in classrooms across the country, irrespective of income or race.

So I simply rejoice when I get heartwarming e-mails from students who have been accepted to university political science or graduate programs. I received an e-mail today from a student a few years back who was planning on transferring to Cal State Long Beach. But after her experience in my class, and in the classes of a number of other outstanding faculty mentors, she raised her sights on transfer to USC. She took a double major there, in political science and social policy. She contacted me in June for a letter of recommendation, and I got this in my inbox this afternoon (shared by permission):

Good Afternoon Dr. Douglas,

I hope you had a wonderful weekend. I found out last Friday that I was accepted to the Master's Program at Cal State Dominguez Hills : ) Thank you very much for writing a letter of recommendation for me. I will start the program this fall.

I am super excited and grateful to have your continued support!

These notes provide the single most rewarding moments as a community college instructor. This student worked extremely hard. When she was admitted to USC, her parents wrote a personal letter to the college adminstration and faculty mentors to thank them for helping their daughter "make it." These probably aren't the kind of stories you'd get from parents of Harvard-bound students (or Berkeley-bound super-achieving suburban high-school students, etc.).

Another student of mine is currently featured on the front of my college's webpage, at http://www.lbcc.edu/. I've uploaded the picture and copied the story below for posterity. Ashlee Redden was mentored by my colleague Paul Savoie, who is current the faculty director of the campus Honors Program. I was fortunate to have Ashlee take my American Government survey course in 2007. Ashlee also took my Introduction to World Politics course in Fall 2008. Now she's headed to UCLA for her upper division studies in political science. Ashlee wants to attend law school. She's putting herself though college, working as a waitress while attending classes in the daytime.

Ashlee's full story is below. I'm saving the entire original story from the college's website for good keeping. I'm proud of her.

I'm also proud to be teaching at Long Beach City College. I'm proud of the work that I do. And I'm proud of my dedicated colleagues.

My political science department webpage is here. I hope readers will keep this story in mind next time you hear the left's Democratic-elitists attack those "faux intellectuals" teaching at "junior college"!

**********

Long Beach City College Professor Paul Savoie considers the Image of Paul Savoie and Ashlee Redden
LBCC Honors Program to be the ultimate lifetime warranty. "As the coordinator of the honors program, I tell my graduating students to think back to their Long Beach City College experience," said Savoie. "Throughout their time at LBCC it's an exciting dimension of their personal and educational lives, and while they all face bumps in the road, they learn how to overcome the obstacles here, so that is something they will use the rest of their lives."

Recent honors program graduate Ashlee Redden readily agrees with Savoie. "The honors program helps all of their students," she said. "The program gave us so many opportunities, and the staff and faculty were always there to help with a smile." Redden is now heading to UCLA this Fall.

More about the LBCC Honors Program If you plan to transfer to any competitive university, your first step should be to apply to the LBCC Honors Program. For over a quarter of a century, high-achieving LBCC students have flocked to the college's Honors Program for the intellectual challenge it offers. Students who complete the program earn priority consideration for admission to select public and private universities. Generous financial aid packages are available to those students who qualify based on outstanding scholastic performance and financial need. Participating private schools have set up scholarships available only to Honors transfer students who meet the selection criteria.
HONORS CLASSES
Honors courses are specifically designed to build critical and creative thinking skills through an intimate, interactive classroom experience. Students receive training in reading, writing, analysis and synthesis, boosting their readiness for success in upper division courses.
APPLICATION PROCESS
In order to enroll in Honors classes, the student is required to complete the application process. For the Spring semester, applications must be received by November 30, 2008 (before November 1, 2008, for admission decision before beginning of registration). To qualify, all students must place in English 1 (through the LBCC Assessment test), and need to meet one of the following criteria:

  1. For new students, a sliding scale of grades (overall GPA) and test scores (SAT or ACT or equivalency):
    GPA SAT TOTAL* OR ACT COMPOSITE*
    4.0 800 20
    3.9 850 21
    3.8 900 22
    3.7 950 23
    3.6 1000 24
    3.5 1050 25
    3.4 1100 26
    3.3 1150 27
    3.25 1175 27
    Students who believe they are eligible for the Program based on other criteria may make an appointment to see the Honors Coordinator after filling out the application. However, students must be close to the minimum requirements based on the SAT/ACT and GPA, have excellent letters of recommendation, and offer academic evidence showing why they believe they should be allowed to enroll in the Honors Program.
  2. For continuing students, 3.00 overall GPA in 12 or more Long Beach City College units (courses numbered 1- 99) or by petition through the Honors Program Office (L203A).
  3. Classes are also open to honors students who are members of the Lakewood, Millikan, and Wilson High Schools' Distinguished Scholars Program, and/or are high school seniors, and have met the qualifications for the Honors Program.

To receive an application, call (562) 938-4354 or visit http://honorsprogram.lbcc.edu/application.html

Visit the Honors website at http://honorsprogram.lbcc.edu/application.html

11 comments:

Tim said...

Good stuff. Keep up the good work.

smitty1e said...

You're a JC prof?
My respect for you just cranked up a notch.
I had started a PhD at GWU here in DC.
Education is great. The educated themselves, well, let us say it's a standard normal distribution. ;)

Reliapundit said...

AWESOME!

Grizzly Mama said...

I just got done thinking about the left and their supposed support for women and minorities.

The lefties don't really support women OR minorities. They say that they do, but they don't. They hate women, evidence attacks on Sarah Palin - which go WAY beyond mere philosophical disagreement. Roger Simon recently called her stupid, or possibly pregnant. Is that a way for a champion of women's rights to talk???

Now I read your entry. They really don't give a damn about minorities, or educating minorities or the underprivileged either. They sneer at them, look down on them, and pretend to believe that their highest calling is to help them. Help them how? By mocking them??

As hard as lefties try to hold the mask up, it keeps slipping. The ugliness is revealed. They're grotesque.

PrivatePigg said...

So what exactly do these critical blogging lefties do for a living? I doubt they are helping the socio-economically depressed with their educational needs...

Why would it ever be relevant to policy discussions that you are a professor - anywhere? Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeak.

Dr. Sanford Aranoff said...

"leftists are all about radical power..." Excellent! My solution is to focus on the basic principles, rules of logical deduction, and empirical verification. They shout, but if we analyze their thinking, it is faulty. We professors have to stress correct thinking. See "Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better" on amazon.

Rusty Walker said...

This was a heartwarming post, and you should be commended on managing such an important blog while dealing with such a diverse group of students. They are in need of more than just a teacher in a class. The role you provide is role-model and mentor.

I often wonder how these students who cannot write even can end up in a junior college classroom. It is a big step, and takes a lot of courage for them to sign up and walk in and stay. The lefties that throw bombs at you are obviously not moved by the human side of these stories.

I particularly liked the “Mr. Donald” commentary. When I was teaching in college I was called most often called “Doc,” but, by one group of hip hop style students nicknamed me “Ice Rus”! That was my favorite. Like you, the ones that make it through make it all worthwhile - the raison d’etre for teaching at all.

We need your kind of humanity in the junior colleges, reaching these students that are searching for what education will ultimately mean in their lives.

Steve Burri said...

It's really an honor to work with...

There it is!

rbosque said...

You're doing great Doc! You're a gentleman among thieves, a sheep among wolves, a light in a dark tunnel!

ProfSeeman said...

You make some good points above.
However, I also think that this can be helpful to you:
The book and Training Video: PREVENTING Classroom Discipline Problems

If you can get this book and video: [they are in many libraries, so you don't have to buy them] email me and I can refer you to the sections of the book and video [that demonstrates the effective vs. the ineffective teacher] that can help you.



If your library does not have them, you can get them at:

http://www.panix.com/~pro-ed/

that are also used at this online course:
www.ClassroomManagementOnline.com



See: Reviews at: http://classroommanagementonline.com/comteach.html



If you cannot get the book or video, email me anyway, and I will try to help.


Best regards,

Howard

Howard Seeman, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus,
City Univ. of New York



Prof. Seeman
Hokaja@aol.com

Aztecking562 said...

Dr. D! Its Elvis Diaz still in Brazil! Keep up the good work! Loved your lectures, really helped when debating Brazilians in regard their foreign policy (e.g. Iran nuclear issue). All the best!!!!