I hope Princetonians will do more than just use community colleges to hone skills for careers elsewhere (On the Campus, April issue). Community colleges are “America’s best bridge to the middle class,” as President Bill Clinton declared in a speech at Princeton, but they are more than that. Community colleges promote full situational awareness for human beings, above and beyond every possible routine and framework, for students who will never hear about it unless we tell them.
Teaching philosophy for 36 years in a community college let me share ideas Princeton gave me with more than 14,000 students of all ages, most of them first-generation college students. It allowed me to publish a book and numerous professional papers, and to become a founding officer of the Community College Humanities Association (conceived at a Princeton Leadership Conference 40 years ago) and an officer of two statewide professional organizations. It gave me mentoring opportunities with outstanding young colleagues. Teaching in a community college allowed me to matter more than I ever dreamed possible. Princeton promised I would love it. She was right.