2008 Spring Plenary Session


IN MY TWENTY-PLUS YEARS OF TEACHING in the California community colleges, I have often heard colleagues remark that they prefer to stay out of politics and to simply focus on working with students. However, this perspective, while understandable, is naïve. As faculty leaders, we understand, even if we do not embrace the fact, that politics are an inextricable part of our work as educators. Failure to involve oneself in a local bond campaign can result in depriving one s district of desperately needed funds for classroom renovations. Failure to pay attention to federal politics can result in the imposition of mandated curriculum standards that will strip faculty of their creativity and innovation in the classroom.

2008 is an unquestionably political year. Foremost on our minds is the election of a new president. The new president, whoever he or she may be, will have the ability to change the economic, social, and international directions of the country. Not far from the minds of most of us is the recently failed campaign to pass Proposition 92. The fiscal deficit confronting the State of California and how that deficit will affect the budgets for all of education is another political drama playing itself out.

Within this pervasive political atmosphere, we have chosen for our Spring Plenary Session theme, the Politics of Pedagogy: Forging Alliances for Action. Given the political nature of our work, whether one characterizes collaboration as simply a common-sense strategy or more politics, the fact is that going it alone is very hard and often unproductive. Granted, alliances are not always easy to achieve, but unified fronts are definitely much more effective at effecting change and countering attacks. In the past few years, the Academic Senate has strengthened many alliances, restored ones that were weakened, and forged new ones. The Academic Senate has always been key to the success of any system endeavor, but this increased collaborative spirit now means that other groups are eager to work with the Senate due to its openness to honest discussion and its respect for the opinions of others.

Our three plenary speakers highlight our session theme. Cary Nelson, President of the American Association of University Professors, will be speaking from a national perspective, highlighting on-going federal efforts to standardize higher education and diminish the academic freedom of all faculty. Patrick Ainsworth from the State Department of Education will provide a state perspective on major educational issues that affect the community colleges and high schools, and what is being done to result in greater benefits for our mutual students. Over the past few years, the Academic Senate has forged a much closer relationship with the Community College League of California, which represents the CEOs and local trustees. We are greatly pleased to have Scott Lay, President of the League and a community college success story, join us to talk about politics and the strength of working together.

Most of our breakouts tie in to our session theme as well. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about the latest from Sacramento, including the proposed 2008-2009 budget, legislation, and changes to Title 5 regulation. Collaboration is central to all of the major initiatives underway across the state, and participants can find out more about the Basic Skills Initiative, Statewide Career Pathways, C-ID, LDTP, and assessment. Being effective on a political level also requires foundational knowledge, and our Plenary Session will offer its usual array of breakouts on effective participation in local governance, accreditation, minimum qualifications, and how to get more involved on a statewide level.

And last, but not least, the Senate will be holding its annual elections for the Executive Committee. To highlight the importance of hearing the candidates that you will be electing on Saturday, we have moved the election speeches to the lunchtime session on Friday.

The presidential primaries roll on, as do the discussions of the 2008-2009 state budget. The political alliances and the decisions that will be made in the coming months will have a great effect on all of us, as members of this educational system, of this state, and of this nation. Thank you for your willingness to embrace the politics of pedagogy. 

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