California Community Colleges: Principles and Leadership in the Context of Higher Education

General Concerns

Resolution 13.04, “A Document in Support of an Academic Culture,” adopted at the Fall 2007 plenary session, asked the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (Academic Senate) to “create a document that sets out the basic elements of a higher education institution, particularly within California’s community college system.” Addressing this resolution prompts a wider reflection on the role of educational institutions within their historical and social contexts. Describing the elements of a higher education institution also prompts a discussion of similarities and differences between California’s community colleges and K-12 institutions on the one hand, and California’s public baccalaureate-granting entities on the other. While this paper makes no new recommendations, it makes explicit the assumptions that underlie a range of existing Academic Senate positions, resolutions, and recommendations in a broader context than has sometimes been the case. This broader context is especially relevant given the ongoing need of modern societies for an educated and highly skilled citizenry in spite of boom and bust economic cycles incapable of supporting all levels of education consistently. The issues addressed in this paper are also relevant to ongoing debates about “standards-based” and “outcomes-based” education and the fear that calls for accountability and external oversight of higher education suggest an ultimate goal of standardizing higher education curriculum and its delivery.