Lance Bolton, Ph.D., February 2, 2012
Occupy movements initiated in New York City this past spring spread across the nation and the globe as protest returned to our nation. It’s been decades since Vietnam War protestors took to the streets en masse and impacted American policy in Southeast Asia. The Arab Spring has also put protestors back in the headlines as men and women across the Middle East have faced down dictators and brutal attempts at suppression with little more than cell phones and courage.
Recently, Time Magazine named the protestor as their person of the year. It’s left me wondering about the future of protest and dissent in America. Not unexpectedly, many authorities have condemned the Occupy protestors and labeled them lazy malcontents with a misplaced sense of entitlement. It is expected that authorities will whip out the easiest and most convenient labels for protestors; we can hardly expect our establishment to agree that, indeed, most Americans do face a future of limited opportunity.
I haven’t seen it addressed, but I believe community college students have a significant stake in the Occupy movements. Our students often represent the working poor who struggle most valiantly to climb America’s economic ladder. Statistics clearly show this climb is very difficult, even here in the land of opportunity. Yet, PPCC and all community colleges offer an affordable and accessible path to professional careers for people from all walks of life.
The path is fraught with challenges for our students. We know they sometimes come to us with complicated lives, limited financial resources and scant support or encouragement from their family, friends or communities. They are often folks who have not been high academic achievers but still they come to us with their hopes and dreams, fragile and yet capable. Community college success numbers speak for themselves; we lose many along the way, yet many succeed and do so, in part, because of us. They succeed because we care.
I continue to believe in the ideals of Thomas Jefferson, who, in founding the University of Virginia, advocated that an educated populace is the backbone of a successful democratic society. The key to success for our students is to keep our rigor, quality, and caring at the highest possible levels. With degrees earned through rigorous programs of study, our students may enter the work force and take their rightful place among those demanding a fair share of the American Pie.