Community College in Peace and War*
David J. Smith
article originally appeared in Community College Week
on August 19, 2002. Reprinted with permission.
the next month, it is possible that the U.S. will be at
war with Iraq. Regardless of your views of the correctness
of this action, it has become clear to American educators
that more efforts have to be placed in exposing students
to issues of violence, war, and peace.
a community college educator, my students represent a wide
range of characteristics: from first time underachievers
to returning students matured by age and experience. From
my perspective, all can benefit from considering current
global and local issues of conflict.
It is my contention that community
colleges have a special obligation to examine issues of
conflict and resolution because community colleges, as open
door institutions, are “democracy’s colleges.”
have all heard the expression, “Everything changed
on September 11.” Though ubiquitous, it is sorrowfully
true for those impacted directly and personally by the
horrific events of that day. However, for most people
the effect of those atrocities has been less traumatic,
yet still quite personal.
educators of learners who are often at life’s crossroads,
we are at times permitted a glimpse into the private lives
of our students. I frequently have been a confidant to
my students, knowing about their personal anxieties, misfortunes,
hopes and triumphs in a way that often places me in a
role of a therapist. Immediately after Sept. 11, I spent
time in class and with students one-on-one, reflecting
on the events of that day and trying to help them find
meaning in the tragedies. For some of my students, their
views were not ones that could be shared at home with
family or friends, but they felt safe and supported in
a college classroom or a professor’s office.
community college educators, we have front row seats (often
not shared with our colleagues in 4-year institutions)
to the interplay between public events and personal impact.
Our students are affected more than most by the public
realities of the day: changes in welfare laws, single
parenthood, divorce, mental illness, domestic violence,
military service call-up, HIV/AIDS and unemployment. You
name it, we have seen it, and witnessed our students soar
on or sink under those realities.
all the challenges facing our students, the ones that
are the most arduous yet humanizing are associated with
conflict. Conflict, whether it is a good thing (and transforming)
or a bad thing (and debilitating), takes innumerable forms.
It is often characterized by personal internal struggle
that might manifest itself physically or emotionally.
It is, so to speak, the “stuff of life.”
1998, I have taught a general education course on peace
and conflict studies. Once found only at small liberal-arts
and religious four-year institutions, the field has recently
gained ground at public institutions. In 2000, the Consortium
on Peace Research, Education and Development reported
that there were 590 peace and conflict programs at the
undergraduate and graduate levels in the U.S. and Canada.
This was up from 254 in 1995. While more institutions
are developing programs or freestanding courses, only
a handful of these entities are community colleges. This
is troublesome in light of the fact that, according to
the American Association of Community Colleges, 44 percent
of all American undergraduates — some 10.4 million
students — are enrolled at community colleges.
project of Campus Conflict Resolution
Supported by a FIPSE grant from the US Department of Education
and seed money from the Hewlett Foundation-funded CRInfo
to CMHE Report
(Attn: Bill Warters)
Campus Conflict Resolution Resources Project
Department of Communication
585 Manoogian Hall
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI 48201.
send comments, bug reports, etc. to the Editor.
© 2000-2005 William C. Warters & WSU,
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