Opinion: Community colleges teach what universities can’t

John Ferrannini and John Ferrannini

“So, you’re telling me you’re not going to college?”

Telling my parents I was going to community college because I didn’t have the grades to go to a university straight out of high school felt to me like I was telling them I needed to go to rehab. I purposefully planned the occasion for the night before they left town for a weekend.

Little did I know, however, that going to American River College would teach me things I couldn’t have learned going to Davis or even Sacramento State.

It wasn’t entirely my mom’s fault for thinking that going to community college was “as bad” as not going to college at all. A lot – certainly not all, but enough – of my high school teachers made no secret about the inherent inferiority of community college.

Once, while explaining the electoral college, a teacher of mine said “The electoral college is called a college because it’s supposed to be filled with smart people. Well, then there’s American River College.”

The class laughed. I laughed too. We all got the joke.

What’s not a joke is the woman I met in my first math class here. I can’t remember her name, but I remember that she was in her twenties, had two kids, and was taking Math 100 as part of her general education.

I don’t know how she got here, but I know when she did get here she applied herself, went to tutoring every day for hours after class, and ultimately passed the class.

ARC has a problem with crime. We have a problem with seemingly endless bureaucracy and red tape. If my high school teachers were right about something, it was that an ARC education is not considered impressive.

What is impressive are the veterans I’ve met in most of the classes I’ve taken here, coming back to school in their 20’s or their 50’s to make a better life in the country they fought for.

What is impressive are the students who live on their own, barely making the money stretch from paycheck to paycheck, who stay up after their night job to study for the next day.

What I’ve learned at ARC is that the world is a lot bigger than a tiny high school bubble using petty judgements to determine who’s up and who’s down, who’s in the in group and who’s to be avoided.

What I’ve learned is that everyone has a unique cross to carry, and succeeding in life is not about covering that up. It’s about carrying it well.

Ultimately, ARC has given me and all of our fellow students a second chance. And through that second chance, we have the opportunity to see other people for who they are, not through their effect.

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school,” Albert Einstein said.

Now that’s a source someone with a university education can respect.