The Community College Movement
reviewed by John D. Millett - 1963
This volume is another attempt to portray that unique segment of the American system of higher education which seems increasingly these days to be labeled a community college. Professor Fields finds the distinctive element of this particular organizational device in its "community-centered" educational program. He contrasts this point of view with that of the liberal arts college and the large university as a separate attitude guiding a distinctive endeavor.
In setting forth the characteristics of the community college, Fields uses three descriptive words: democratic, comprehensive, and community-centered. It is democratic by being low-cost, geographically and socially accessible, and non-selective in admission. It is comprehensive by offering college and university transfer courses, terminal or semiprofessional courses, and adult education. It is community-centered in support and control, in utilization of community resources, and in community service. In this particular, the author stresses the adaptability of the community college to the peculiar social and economic circumstances of the individual locale.
After a general discussion of some 100 pages, Professor Fields presents four case studies of particular community colleges. These tell the story of the Orange County Community College in Middletown, New York, Long Beach City College in California, the junior college of the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, and Tyler Junior College in Texas. These case studies reveal considerable diversity in setting and program and provide evidence of community orientation. Faculties are regarded as comprising "on the whole well prepared and experienced teachers."
In a final section, Professor Fields discusses the issues facing the community college in the years ahead. He gives primary attention to the questions of who should go to the community college and of what vocational education the community college should offer. He finds a possible answer in the interrelationship of the two problems. Vocational needs on the one hand and individual talents to meet those needs on the other hand suggest the solution. Exactly who will do this planning is answered only by implication: the local community.
Professor Fields gives only passing attention to the critics of the community college. He insists that the liberal arts college and the university have already obliterated any line between "academic" and "vocational" programs. Many would certainly quarrel with this conclusion. He believes that standards should be appropriate to the field of occupational performance and dismisses the idea of any absolute standard of educational quality. Similarly, he places more emphasis upon purpose in learning than upon ability. Obviously, there is room for dissent from all these propositions.
The enthusiast for the community college will find ammunition here. The skeptic will probably not be convinced. The real challenge to the community college is yet to be squarely met: Has the community college a distinctive role which university branches and vocational high schools cannot meet? Perhaps the next ten years will provide an answer.
JOHN D. MILLETT
Miami University, Ohio