The elections are over; in California, the wave is a beautiful deep blue. Our new governor was inevitable, and his pro-education stance is relatively predictable. He’s the father of four young children, and like most of us who’ve watched children grow, he recognizes the importance of high-quality preschool experiences. We’ve heard from spokespersons as diverse as David Kirp of Berkeley, Rob Reiner of Hollywood, and Bruce Perry of the Child Trauma Academy in Houston, that these early years are the ones in which stimulant-rich environments and consistency of care build both neurons and resilience. We’re on board.
But we’re too late in our students’ lives to serve Newsom’s mandate. What can we do? One of the concerns that has been addressed by researchers, from Gloria Ladson-Billings to Carol D. Lee, Tara Yosso to Daniel Solorzano and other mighty scholars of secondary and post-secondary studies, is the question of culturally responsive pedagogy. At GCC, we’ve begun that conversation. We have lots of talk and even more practice ahead of us. However, a strand of culturally responsive pedagogy that the Academic Senate of California Community Colleges (ASCCC) is eager to see enacted is the improved effort (ideally, with an improved outcome) to hire a more diverse faculty. We know well from the work of the scholars above, among thousands of others in the field, that when students see themselves and their academic journeys reflected in the faces at the front* of the classroom, their academic outcomes improve.
It’s interesting to note that preschool teaching, along with elementary and to a large extent middle and high-school teaching, is so far from esteemed work in this nation that its instructional ranks tend to be more diverse than those of community college or universities in the United States. In their book, Academically Adrift (2010), Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa found that one of the few elements of a university degree that measurably increased critical thinking among college students was meeting peers from cultures other than their own!
The latest data from the Student Success Scorecard shows GCC’s student population to be 30% Hispanic. More than 5% of students are of “unknown” ethnicity, and two and a half percent declare that they are of two or more ethnicities. We continue to have a very small percentage (2.3%) of African American students. But these percentages are not reflected in our faculty’s make up. It’s striking that when we read works by Michelle Alexander and Marc Mauer, we become righteously incensed at the inequities of sentencing practices in our carceral state, yet we do not feel the same urgency of inequity when looking at other disproportionate representations in our society.
The Institutional Effectiveness Partnership Initiative (IEPI) will run a Building Diversity Summit on February 8th and 9th, 2019. Registration is $125, but there may well be funds to support your involvement. Please consider taking part in this effort on behalf of a future GCC that looks more like its students! A free conference on the same institutional effort will be offered on February 21st in Bakersfield by the statewide Academic Senate, ASCCC. This is another, perhaps less corporate effort to help us diversify our faculty by rethinking how we write our job descriptions, where we post our job announcements, who populates our hiring committees, what our interview questions privilege, and how we determine equivalencies when sorting our candidate pool.
Community Colleges – especially California’s well-subsidized colleges – have always been places of revolution. Let’s get on the barricades.