community colleges in prime time

Let’s face it, community colleges are often the Rodney Dangerfield of higher education on film and TV. I have cringed at the cheap shots.

But I get it.

Community colleges began in 1901 and swelled in the 1960s and ’70s, some 200 years after the first public US university opened. Until this current generation, two-year colleges were largely overlooked, serving primarily students with no other options. It was only a generation ago that most were junior colleges that looked a whole lot like 13th and 14th grades.

My how times have changed. Public community colleges are now the predominant mode of higher education nationwide and in Florida, enrolling 46 percent of all U.S. undergraduates. There are many other wondrous facts I could share with you about university-transfer rates,  closing achievement gaps, affordability, honors opportunities, diversity, lifelong learning and the like — but I’m really preaching to the converted here.

I raise the issue because NBC is unveiling a new fall show on Thursday nights, “Community,” debuting Sept. 17 at 9:30. I find it encouraging that we’re working our way into prime time; after all, most educational sitcoms take place in high schools. Is this a sign of our ubiquity?

It stars Chevy Chase. I’m not sure what that means exactly; I’m afraid I’m having a “Caddy Shack” flashback. The early previews (“a place where anyone can begin again”) are somewhat promising, though the description on the NBC website plays up the stereotypes. Of course comedy relies heavily on underdogs, and you’ll find a whole study group full of them on “Community.” (Think Isle of Misfit Toys).

Here is one preview.

What do you think?

We know that our colleges are places of hope and opportunity. I’m hopeful we’ll see some of that experience reflected here.

I’m willing to keep an open mind.


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