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Seth L. Ewing: Value of education

Seth Ewing
Seth Ewing

You no longer have to assemble a team of economic scientists to ascertain that we are in a financial crisis since we no longer have a state budget.

Our local students of Merced College and the UC are aware of this. I consider it insulting to my readers to assume that it has not affected them in some way. Frequently in class, the failed housing market is discussed in lectures as examples of proper topics for public speaking.

The strain on faculty is real.

Certain departments, such as math, still have students trying to add the class after three weeks of school. But I won't cite too many of these examples. It's too depressing.

Regardless, I asked the editor what topic I should write about, hoping against hope that he would direct me to some other crisis -- but I was fooling myself. It was dread that I experienced when it came through the wires that this would be my assignment.

Having no choice but to fulfill my duty to the Sun-Star, I started my research. I called Robin Shepard, who is in charge of public relations for Merced College, to, hopefully, get some kind of examples of programs being cut. He said he couldn't talk to me without some kind of verification or press credentials. I said fine.

He did direct me to some informative articles. So I took his tips and read a Feb. 3 article in the Los Angeles Times: "California's community colleges near the breaking point," by Gale Holland, education writer.

Now I will admit that it was a well-written article, but one of the paragraphs bothered me: "The reasons for community colleges' relatively low transfer rates are hotly debated. Two-year campuses serve many masters: returning adults, vocational education students, English learners, slackers trying to put off working and residents looking for a yoga class -- or a girlfriend. Not everybody plans to move on to a four-year college."

When I first read this, I asked myself, How did she know I enjoy avoiding work and filling my evenings with yoga and new girlfriends? I do plan on transferring to San Francisco State University. After all, why do people go to school? The answer is simple: to get out of places like Merced.

I will give Gale Holland the benefit of the doubt and assume that she thinks it is students' ignorance and laziness that prevent them from transferring, and that this is the correct assumption.

But that is not my question. My question is: why is there so much emphasis placed upon attaining a degree? Isn't the real reason for education to instill some type of method of critical thinking that would enable a person to see the fallaciousness of people like Rush Limbaugh and Fox News?

I am biased in the sense that the real reason I am angry over Holland's absurd statement is that she is encroaching upon my own territory. My domain being the realm of extreme opinionated views.

Everybody knows that this is the destiny I was put on this Earth to follow. I actually e-mailed her about what she actually meant by this absurd comment. She just played it off as "everybody has their different reasons for going to community college."

I explained my "critical thinking philosophy" to her in a return e-mail that she has subsequently ignored.

But why is a low transfer rate a bad thing? Isn't some education better than none at all? Not to mention that I have not even touched on the fact that she referenced non-English speakers as being time-wasters at our community colleges. Oh, no. God forbid that our immigrants learn English.

I know that not everyone is getting financial aid either. I myself pay for my education with my G.I. Bill, while other students hold jobs. I argue that the more students, the more money for the college.

My readers by now realize that I am a liberal and proud of it. I suggest that everyone Google Holland's article and make up their own minds. Rest assured that our community colleges serve a legitimate purpose. Why is so much emphasis placed on passing and transferring? Whatever happened to the simple concept of learning?

Specialist Seth L. Ewing is an Army combat veteran of two tours in Iraq. He now studies journalism at Merced College.

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