trailer trash intelligentsia
stole that title line from geekward ho
, and plan on using it in conversation regularly.
this is rather long, but hopefully interesting. at least, once i get to the point, anyway...i'm going to attempt to describe to you what the atmosphere of a community college is like. if you've never attended one, you're missing an interesting experience. i know what the popular conception of community college is, and while the buildings aren't very pretty and the educational standard probably isn't as high as a "real" college, i'm glad i decided to go there.
breifly, here's why. first off, i don't really need the top of the crop teaching me pre-calculus, i can get just as much out of this as i can from an intro class at a university. and they have it set up so that classes here will transfer to just about anywhere. second, it's cheap as hell. third, the schedule is more flexible since they cater more to workin' folks. and fourth, i needed to get in at the drop of a hat, wanting to get on with my life and not waiting for a lengthy application process.
so, two years here, then, barring any unforseen circumstances, it's off to work on my sheepskin at a real school, potentially even a really good one (i have my best-scenario sights on carnegie mellon, they pull about 10 to 15 people per year coming out of the community college i'm in).
anywho, enough about me, back to the point. i mentioned earlier that i had one well misspent year at a public school, so comparing the atmosphere of this school to a self-proclaimed "party school" is interesting. the most obvious difference is the income disparity, most of the folks there certainly don't have much money. there's a higher minority percentage, a higher handicapped and esl percentage, and the average i.q. is probably lower than at a university. that's the surface stuff. the diversity goes much deeper, in my english class alone we have two high school kids (yeah, that cute girl across the room is 16), a bunch in their mid to late twenties, some with kids, and a retired port authority driver with four grandkids going back to school because she wants to work with children. also in the same class, we have the usual american whites, browns and blacks, as well as an indian (like india indian, not "native american"), a woman from somewhere in eastern europe, and a guy from ireland. i'm not normally big on the whole diversity for diversity's sake thing, but that group makes for some interesting conversations.
but beneath all that, the spirit is different. i remember my time at the university being a very laissez-faire affair, you went to class to pass time between the weekends. the general opinion among a lot of people was that they were at school either to party, or to make friends, or because their parents made them, or just because that's what people are suppossed to do after high school. sure, there were plenty of kids there to actually learn, but i would say overall that motivation often took a back seat to social concerns and societal expectations.
not so at the community college. the underlying emotion in a classroom here is a driven, stubborn, almost desperate need to do what they're there to do, and well. the high school kids are driven by an exceptionally early desire to get ahead, they know what they have to do to be successful and don't intend to let anything stop them. and as for the adults, most seem to know that this is it, their last chance. there's no going back to the parent's house if you don't succeed, no safety net, you're at the point where you move ahead and become a productive person or spend the rest of your life chained to that register at the local quick-e-mart. often there's mouths to feed, jobs to be held, bills to pay, many have passed on or screwed up earlier chances and know it now, have paid for it and now approach school as a mature person looking down the barrell of their future. the sheer grim willful determination is a total 180 from the carefree, lazily cheery atmosphere of a university classroom, and is at once both depressing and inspiring.
if you take the time to notice it, that is. most have something else they need to do.