The California Community Colleges Crisis

College Diploma

When I went back to San Jose City College to learn computer programming ten years ago, I knew it would be tough. The dot com bubble went kablooey. Computers were out, health care was in. I couldn’t get the classes I needed in the beginning because there were too many students, and the classes I needed towards the end were cancelled for not having enough students. After five years of going to school on a part-time basis while working full time, I made the dean’s list  in my final semester for maintaining a 4.0 GPA in my major.

Unless I won the lottery and returned to San Jose State University to complete my bachelor degree in something (I was a mathematics major before they kicked me out in 1995), I wouldn’t dream of going back to a community college for classes. As reported in the Los Angeles Times, the community colleges are so impacted from the Great Recession that many students are lucky to get any classes at all.

Frustrated students linger on waiting lists or crash packed classes hoping professors will add them later. They see their chances of graduating or transferring diminishing.

It’s a product of years of severe budget cuts and heavy demand in the two-year college system. The same situation has affected the Cal State and UC systems, but the impact has been most deeply felt in the 2.4-million-student community college system — the nation’s largest.

Taking forever to get a college degree used to be optional. Now it’s a requirement. If you want it, persevere until you get all your classes. If you don’t want it, work at Taco Bell until you retire.

Perhaps I was lucky to return to school when I did. Uncle Sam paid for my books and classes with a $3,000 USD tax credit meant to transition workers into a new career. Ironically, I never did get a programming job after graduating in 2007. The only programming I do now is for maintaining my websites.

I got a help desk job at a Fortune 500 company in Mountain View in 2005. Unlike finding and reporting bugs in video games, I was finding and documenting solutions for problems that users were reporting. The pay was better ($24 USD versus $16 USD) for fewer hours (40 hours versus 80 hours). I stayed at this job for nearly three years. Help desk, like becoming a video game tester years earlier, became my new career almost by accident.

The only educational opportunities I have is updating my tech certifications. The A+, Network+ and Microsoft Windows 2000 certifications that I got while in school are long in the tooth. The certifications that I need today are Microsoft Windows 7 and Apple Mac OS X. I can study for those without taking any classes. Between working help desk during the day and writing at night, I have very little time to sit in a classroom even if I could get classes.

Who Celebrates Columbus Day Anymore?

Columbus DayI was driving into work yesterday when the KGO 810AM traffic report on the radio mentioned that traffic was light throughout the San Francisco Bay Area because of the Columbus Day holiday. That didn’t make any sense. The northbound traffic on the 280 came to a crawl because of an accident in Cupertino. Not surprisingly, the accident was long gone when I drove by and the next traffic report mentioned the slowdown. As for Columbus Day, who celebrates Columbus Day anymore?

The last time I celebrated Columbus Day was in the second grade in the 1970’s, where the boys wore Indian feathers, painted red “war” paint on our bare chest, and ran around with rubber tomahawks to menace the girls in their “settler” sundresses. I didn’t want to be an Indian. I wanted to bring in my cap rifle and guns to shoot the Indians dead (I had grudges against several of my classmates), but there were no cowboys around when Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492.

I inquired with a co-worker if we were supposed to be at work since Columbus Day was a holiday. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that kind of a holiday. This paleface wouldn’t be driving back home to go back to bed. This was Monday, work had to be done and I needed the paycheck. Getting up late in the morning was for the weekends and real holidays.

My co-worker also told me that Columbus Day should be called Indigenous Day of Remembrance—not to be confused with American Indian Heritage Day in November—for all the evil things that Columbus did when he set foot in America: the slavery and small pox epidemics that decimated the native populations. All the stuff I wasn’t taught about in the second grade. No surprise there. I didn’t learn anything about American history until I took courses in college.

The only time Native Americans are discussed in modern day America is whether or not Elizabeth Warren has Cherokee and Delaware ancestry and Senator Scott Brown’s supporters are doing the tomahawk chop in the U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts.

I’m not even sure if Italian-Americans celebrates Columbus Day. At least, not in Silicon Valley. None of my relatives from that side of the family invited me over for spaghetti and meatballs last night. Considering that the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s are reeling in the playoffs, no one was in a celebratory mood. Forget about some dead old white guy. Another “Battle of The Bay” world series may not happen this year.

MAD Magazine Exhibit At Cartoon Art Musuem

MAD Magazine - March 1984 - Pissing 1984 Into The Snow
MAD Magazine

The 60th anniversary MAD Magazine exhibit at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco will be coming to a close on September 16, 2012. Put your SPY VS. SPY gear on and see what the fuss is all about before it’s too late.

MAD Magazine was notable for defying the Comics Code Authority that restricted the content that could appear in comic books by switching over to the larger magazine format. Although that was a risky move in itself, MAD survived and paved the way for the underground comics to flourish in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The only censor for controversial comic material today is your own taste—or, lack thereof.

My favorite MAD cover was the March 1984 cover, where Alfred E. Newman pissed “1984” into the snow. My friends and I had a running First Amendment battle with the vice principal at John Steinbeck Middle School in San Jose over this magazine cover. We made sure that he caught us reading the magazine in the school library before classes, he would come over to confiscate the magazine without explaining why it was inappropriate (of course, we all knew why but wanted him to tell us), and the librarian would put the magazine back out the following week. The magazine got worn out from this constant tug of war.

Making Policy With Professor Schwarzenegger

California’s favorite maid-banging action hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger, turns up at a new gig to make policy at the Sol Price School of Public Policy with the Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy. If you’re a University of Southern California student interested in learning “post-partisan” policy, Professor Schwarzenegger—he earned an honorary degree from USC in 2009—will pontificate on his views of body building, acting, entrepreneurialism, governing and maid-banging. And let’s not the forget the fine art of leaving a hidden F-bomb in a public policy statement.

Food Blog Gets Nine-Year-Old Girl Into Trouble

Buckwheat Groats With MilkA nine-year-old Scotland girl, Martha Payne, got into trouble when the local newspaper ran a headline about her food blog that featured photos of the meals served at her school and the small minds of the school board banned her from publishing any new photos. That got the blogosphere riled up. Soon the small minds were backpedaling away from the ban as the controversy attracted the attention of political higher ups. On top of that, she was also raising money to feed children in Malawi.

Publicity caused by the ban helped the schoolgirl smash through her £7,000 fundraising target for the Mary’s Meals charity – with total pledges of more than £30,000 being made by Friday afternoon.

The total stood at only about £2,000 on Thursday evening.

A Mary’s Meals spokesman said: “We are overwhelmed by the huge response to her efforts today which has led to so many more people donating to her online donation page.

“Thanks to this fantastic support, Martha has now raised enough money to build a kitchen in Malawi for children receiving Mary’s Meals as part of our Sponsor A School initiative and has broken the record for hitting a Sponsor A School online fundraising target in the quickest amount of time”.

Thanks to the small minds of the school board, Mary’s Meals will have more than enough money to open kitchens to feed as many children as possible.

Rick Santorum Needs A California Education

Rick Santorum, running for the Republican presidential nomination beat a dead horse contest, talked about the California education system while campaigning in Wisconsin. The newest Santorumism is that American history is no longer taught in California. That’s news to me. I took quite a few history, literature and social studies courses in college, where AMERICA was mentioned a few times. That was much better than what I was taught in grade school in the early 1980’s, where the teachers didn’t even mentioned Watergate and President Richard Nixon’s resignation because the 20-year-old textbooks didn’t include them.

The traditional conservative complaints about the California education system is all those multiculturalism classes that you need for graduation.

If you’re a fat white guy like me, you have a target on your back if you’re the only fat white guy in the classroom. When I took black social studies, I took the heat for slavery,  Jim Crow and Michael Jackson. When I took women literature, I took the blame for every woman being naked, pregnant and in the kitchen. When I took small group communications, the Vietnamese guys made me do all the work and speak in front of the class (the instructor gave me all their points as a bonus). These were uncomfortable classes even for a moderate conservative like myself.

As a fat white guy today, I’ll probably take the heat and the blame for Rick Santorum. *sigh*

Updated 4/17/2012 — Closed the comments on the blog post. For whatever reason, this blog post had attracted 80+ comment spam with Asian logograms per day. Who knew that Rick Santorum was so popular with Asian spammers? After two weeks of this, I’m tired of cleaning out the spam folder. If you’re a spammer reading this, your business isn’t welcome here.