Yesterday I got myself into a bit of hot water during our regular curriculum committee meeting. For anyone who works in any level of academia, you'd know this committee, the one that approves new courses, deletes old ones, and approves of or suggests revisions to course and program revisions. In some respect, we are the guardians of the institutions academic integrity, whether it's involving college transfer or technical/professional education, what many who are not in the community college loop would consider to be job training degrees.
As a group, we ended up discussing this because a program change for a one-year certificate came before us for approval. In some respects, a full load for one year is 45 credits (we run 11-12 week quarters, where a student typically takes 15 credits as a full load). This one-year certificate came in at 43 credits. The difference is, when a certificate is less than 45 credits, no related instruction is required. That means no reading', writin' or 'rithmatic, along with no sociology, psychology or what have you. The education becomes all about the job, more training than education. Generally, we want to discourage this sort of thing. Also generally, students who just want a job want to discourage the inclusion of the so-called "soft skills" of critical thinking, exposure to the humanities, and so on.
I got in a little trouble, though no one, i hope, is out to get me because of it, when I said that it seems, because we don't expect our certificate students to have reasonable exposure to our college wide abilities and outcomes, that we were offering them a second rate education. I didn't mean that tech/prof is second rate, but that we have lower expectations when it comes to other than the job market. We have diminished them as human capital to put something of a marxist spin on things. I think this is a problem.
Part of the reason I think it is a problem is because, even though it's somewhat self selecting, students are tracked into a "get a job" right away program, and these jobs often pay well. But I don't think that should be the over-riding emphasis, even with prof/tech programs. Pretty much any professional job training program will require that students have some exposure to the social sciences and humanities along with their job training. Doctors and Lawyers and Engineers and Accountants and Journalists and so many others get this exposure while earning a bachelor's degree. Why do we downplay this sort of thing for the student who is going to work elsewhere?
Joking, I think, I was called an elitist for suggesting our tech/prof students get a second rate education. Again, it's not that our tech/prof faculty are second rate or that their job skills are second rate, especially since many, maybe most, of them will earn more than me, which is a whole new discussion. But why is the enrichment of the wallet so much more important than the enrichment of the soul, psyche or call it what you will? This strikes me as the sort of tracking that used to, and still does to some degree, takes place in high schools, where the bright and financially capable students were on college tracks and the apparently not so bright of financially capable students were directed to work force development. This is what I think is elitist, that working and lower middle class students don't need the same cultural and aesthetic experience that college transfer, more solidly middle class and bourgeois students come to expect from their college years.
One reason I want to see prof/tech students, even in one year certificate programs, get some exposure to more than they do at present is because so many of them come into school with blinders on. Damn near every recovering addict or alcoholic is headed into the chemical dependency counselor program. I have nothing against this, but this is a clear indication of people not seeing what is available to them, and just what they are capable of doing. The same sort of thing happened to me. I started with an eye toward a professional/technical degree (civil engineering technology--surveying and map making to some degree--cartography) because I didn't think I was smart enough to do more than that. I ended up bailing out on that degree and deciding on a four-year degree (mechanical engineering). And I ended up bailing out on that to do what I really wanted to do (journalism so I could learn how to write, really write, as in churn out text that made sense), which was probably a financial mistake, but the best choice I could have made for myself when it comes to being happy with my life.
That's why it took me a little over six years to get a BA, but in the end, it was well worth it. I want to be sure other students have similar options and opportunities, and if we allow certificate programs to skirt the expectations of the college and what it means to be educated, rather than trained (I once had a boss who said you teach people, but train animals, and that may still be apt in thinking of work force training--these students are lesser than) then we are providing students a second class education.