Facing the Community College Fad
By Lee Binz
Arm Yourself with Knowledge
When I speak to groups, I sometimes express my dissatisfaction with dual enrollment in community college. Extremely popular with homeschoolers, I often get asked why I am hesitant about such programs and the current trend.
“Rated R” Environment
In my own experience, and in talking with other parents, I have determined that community college is a “Rated R” environment. With careful control or the curriculum and selection of the teachers, it is still an “adult” situation.
Professors at these schools have told me that they use the “sex sells” approach. In a high school, although there are many issues, there are generally limits to the use of inappropriate material to sell their educational product. There are no such limits in a community college. Community colleges are meant to be an adult environment. They cater to the broad expanse of adults, not the unique subset of homeschool young adults who don’t want to mix education with unrelated material.
Community college will provide the socialization you normally see in a public high school. Because they are public institutions, community colleges come complete with all the “public school” worldview and academics - which is often the reason many homeschoolers avoid public school in the first place.
I know that I have a very unique perspective on community college, and I don’t think for a minute that my view is right and others are wrong. Community college is a current fad in homeschooling, and my job is to provide information. I want to provide both sides of the full story so that parents can make a wise choice based on what they know about their own children. Armed with this knowledge you can avoid the lemming mentality, and make choices with your eyes wide open. Parents are the best people to make these choices, and my job is to open the discussion. I see parents feeling pressured to put their children into dual enrollment in high school. I’m trying to remove that pressure, so that people can make judgments based on their understanding of the situation, and not do it just because other people are doing it.
Our Community College Stories
My children attended community college for one year, during their last year before the university. These are our experience with a local community college.
- The student bookstore sold pornographic magazines next to the engineering textbooks.
- The calculus professor dropped the f-bomb in every sentence. We were able to choose a professor that was a homeschool graduate. He even came to our own graduation celebration, and he wrote a fabulous letter of recommendation for my children.
- The physics professor used marital positions to describe physics principles. As luck would have it, we were assigned to a different professor.
- In the Music Improvisation class the books said, “I capitalize the word ‘Self’ because I was taught to capitalize the name of God, and only God can create music.” The class included a mantra each day, “I am Good, I am Great, I am God.” We declined to take that class.
- The French teacher showed movies with unclothed people to demonstrate the culture.
- The speech teacher and the curriculum were great, but one of the other students did a speech on the religion of sex that was eye-opening.
- The Political Science class was taught by a self-proclaimed Marxist.
- My students were well prepared for college. Within the first 2 weeks of community college, they had done all the reading and completed all the assignments they could. They spent the remaining 6 weeks learning how to do nothing and get A’s without trying.
- We couldn’t find many classes that would challenge my sons and at the same time not offend our faith. My political science aficionado ended up taking only engineering science and math classes. I’m certainly glad he was able to tolerate differential equations!
- On the bright side, the community college did have an honors program. With additional coursework you could get “honors” with each course. That seemed to help the academic level slightly, but it still did not bring it up to the difficulty level of our homeschool.
- We noticed that for the first time, my children encountered people who didn’t want to learn. Some students felt that a 0.7 GPA was a passing grade and that receiving a 2.0 in a class was “good.” Many students didn’t show up for class, or didn’t participate in classroom discussion even when they knew the answer.
- I go to a lot of college fairs. One community college representative took me aside and said, “Please tell homeschoolers not to send their children to community college! We have adjudicated people in the classes!” She said that felons, and registered offenders were known to be on campus, and she worried about innocent homeschoolers. . I’m sure the criminal element is relatively rare (although how would we know?) but the point is still important.
Stories from Jen
My daughter just started attending the local community college this week. Already she has an assignment from her Art Appreciation professor that has me wondering what colleges are teaching these days. *rolling eyes*
A piece of paper was passed around the class with a list of two items to compare. They were to choose one set and are to write a paper. My daughter saw the word “chapel” and picked it, although she didn’t know what the other word was.
We now know that it’s a series of “art” (cough-cough) films called the “Cremaster Cycle.” She and I have seen the trailer, and both of us have found it to be offensive. The artist based his work on a specific muscle of the male anatomy, and the whole movie is bizarre representations of the reproductive systems. Plus, there are some gruesome death scenes too. We saw all this during just the 5 minute trailer!
She’s said that she’s going to talk with her professor about picking a different group to compare. I pray that the teacher is understanding and won’t give my daughter a hard time. I know that “art” is subjective, but SHEESH! ~ Jen in Texas
Jen was extremely surprised that this could happen at a community college in her area, because they live in the middle an area that is very much the conservative Bible-belt region.
Being forewarned is not enough. Linda heard me speak at a College Fair and was well aware of the risks. Last fall she sent me this note,
Two weeks into our 16 year old daughter's first quarter at community college, two pornographic reading assignments were handed out in her required English class. I knew from prior discussions with you that dual enrollment was risky. However, I thought that if we were "selective" in the classes we took, we could avoid the problems you had warned me about. We are looking for alternatives at this time.” Now her daughter is faced with a permanent academic record that may include a withdrawal or failing grade, and the parents are considering their next steps.
~Linda in Washington
It’s not Naivete'
I do not believe that the experience at community college is only a problem with very young students, and I don’t believe it has anything to do with naiveté in general. Read this mother’s blog post.
Now the bad news. There are no morals, no discipline, and evolution and political correctness reigns supreme. The students in the classes were very disrespectful. I could not believe how much they mouthed off to the teachers. In my algebra class, students would say, “I hate your teaching.” “You are the worst teacher.” etc. In speech class, one student offered to pay for the exam ahead of time. Cheating was rampant. If you want to pass without studying, I suppose it’s possible. Students were programming answers in their calculators, getting up to “go to the bathroom” during the exams, and the math teacher even left the classroom while we were taking an exam!
As far as sending your kids to these colleges, all I can say is that you better be sure that your child is real grounded in the Word. That they have more than a head knowledge of God and that they are determined to live by His principles. If not, you are sending your child into a war zone without weapons. It was bad in my day (1960?s) but today, it’s unbelievably worse. In the 60?s, at least there were some morals left. Today, there are none. I was talking with one little girl who was programming her calculator with answers to the Algebra quiz. She offered to program mine since I didn’t know how to do it. When I said that I couldn’t sleep at night if I did that, she answered very sincerely, “It’s not really cheating. I’m only taking this course because it’s required. It’s different if it’s your major.” She was sincere in her answer and believed that that was ok!
~Cindy Downes blog post “My First Expose of College”
Cindy is neither a young student, nor is she naive, and yet she had issues and unique difficulties. The stories we hear about homeschoolers going to college are the same stories we would hear if our adult friends were going to community college. It’s not the children, it’s the environment.
Another mother reported that her local Christian college does not accept community college writing courses at all. They believe report that community college English courses involve topics that are much too controversial for high school students. That university has responded to the community college environment by rejecting all such college credits. Although this is unusual, it’s best to check with the university your child hopes to eventually attend, so you aren’t disappointed.
Community college mixes the best and brightest students with those who struggle the most – and put them in the same class. One website explains: “Our Honors and Early College/Dual Enrollment programs attract some of the best and brightest minds. Our open-door policies allow students who need remediation to get the skills they need for college-level courses.” http://www.fldoe.org/cc/ Two such varied situations, two sentences side by side, representing two students sitting next to each other in class. It can be difficult for either child in that situation.
Public universities will often (not always) have higher academic expectations, and the students population will often have higher academic expectations. Community college students are frequently remedial in one way or another. The students are often not ready for a university – financially, academically, socially, or for some other reason. That means they can be a challenge to educate, which makes it a very unique educational setting.
I asked my son if he thought community college had been a mistake. At the age of 20 he said “YES!” If I could do my life over again, I would have not done dual enrollment. I would have either continued homeschooling and achieve outside documentation through testing, or I would have graduated them a year early and sent them to a Christian University where the cultural and academic clash would have been less severe.
Is community college right for your family?
Ask your local friends about their community college experience. They may start with the positives. When you talk to parents who have gone before, they will say things like, “We had a wonderful experience but….” Listen for the “But….” If you had heard that disclaimer about a public high school, would you be tempted to enroll your child?
Think deeply about your feelings about public and secular universities. If you would not want your child to go to a public university or if you are concerned about the values at a private university, then community college will not be a good fit. One parent enrolled her children in community college and then explained, “My husband and I think that college is not worth the money and what kids are taught in college is questionable. If they choose to go to college, the school will be carefully chosen.” Consider that if a university is not a good fit for moral or religious reasons, then perhaps a community college is unlikely to fit your family either.
If you choose to send your child, there are some strategies that may mitigate trouble. Find a support group of like-minded individuals, either homeschoolers or Christian groups that meet regularly. Utilize the “buddy system” and keep your kids in class with another homeschooler. Carefully read all online comments about the professor on “RateMyProfessor.com.” Preview the textbooks before the first day of class.
Alternatives to Community College
Community college can be great outside documentation of academics, but there are alternatives. You can provide test scores instead, using SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, CLEP and AP. You can provide letters of recommendation through internships and apprenticeships. You can also homeschool some college using online courses or credit by examination. CollegePlus! is a mentoring program that assists teenagers who plan to homeschool college. For more resources, I have a webpage called “How to Homeschool College.”
When you are considering community college, don’t see it through rose-colored glasses, and think it’s a perfect educational utopia. Keep your eyes open to the fact that it may be more “Rated R” than your student is ready for. If the crowd seems to all follow the community college route, that doesn’t mean you have to follow along yourself. Consider carefully, know your child, and trust your own judgment.
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