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Friday, August 13, 2010

I am in the transportation business?

Thoughts after the 2010 Convocation at Diablo Valley College.

During one of the speeches at yesterday's convocation, somebody, I think it was President Judy Walters, stated, "We are in the transportation business." That stuck with me.

I get it - it's a metaphor for education. Taking people from where they are now to where they want to be.

But the way my brain works, it latches on to this metaphor, and creates a whole movie around it. The transportation business as a metaphor for community college education, for me, means public transportation. Let's make it a bus.

We have established routes and schedules, fees and types of buses. We desperately are trying to create a system that serves the most people most of the time. But there are some people that just can't make it in this cookie-cutter system.

Let's see. There are those passengers who take really long to get on the bus; those who get on but then want to get off right away; those who get on the wrong bus; those who don't have the money to pay; those who wait on the wrong side of the street; those who don't correctly identify a bus station as such, and wonder why the buses pass them over and over again...

Then there are those passengers who get on the wrong bus, but don't know it. Those who get on a bus because their parents make them, because their friends get on that bus, because they have nothing better to do...

And then there are changing patterns and needs. One bus line used to be crowded all the time - and now it's running almost empty. Or at certain times, the bus is really, really full, and at other times it's a ghost bus. And on the other side, passengers have to walk a long, long distance to get to the nearest bus station, even though more and more people are having to make that long walk.

Ok, I'll stop milking this metaphor totally dry - the bottom line: If we community college educators are indeed in the transportation business, then, "Because we've always done it this way" just isn't good enough. We need to be in touch with passengers' needs, and change routes, create new schedules, offer a variety of buses, and place bus stops where the people need them.

"Trans" - a prefix indicating "change." For us as educators, too.

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