July 1, 2011

Community Colleges on the Screen

It's a holiday weekend and you will be seeing ads for the new movie with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts called Larry Crowne. And the only reason for it to appear on this blog is that it concerns a community college.

If you teach, most movies and TV shows about teaching make you cringe. Something in me just won't allow me to go to the movies this weekend to see Bad Teacher, another summer offering.

Community: The Complete Second SeasonI do watch the NBC sitcom Community and though the situations (thankfully) bear little resemblance to PCCC, we are not without our own absurdities.

What that program and Larry Crowne do share is a plot that follows an adult who is forced out of a job and turns to a community college as the way to gain further education as a way to get a better job.

That is a very real situation for many of our students.

Of course, Larry's first teacher is played by Julia Roberts. Ms. Tainot teachers Speech 217: The Art of Informal Remarks. That's a speech course I've never seen in a catalog. Larry connects - with his teacher, and eventually with the course - and he gets to give his speech and even quote the wise words of George Bernard Shaw.

The movie is summer fluff so the very real issue of today’s hard economic realities, which has triggered greater community college enrollments and even increased federal funding, gets no real treatment.

The old movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn once said about an artsy film that he was shown, "If I want to send a message, I'll use Western Union." As reviewers have suggested, this is a film in the Frank Capra/Preston Sturges mold, so don't expect much social commentary. Still, Larry's class is a cross section of the varied community college population found in most urban schools.

Larry also takes an economics course. I hated economics as an undergrad and his overinflated professor, Dr. Matsutani (played by Star Trek's George Takei), is a poke at the teacher who probably thinks he should be at MIT rather than at a two-year college. Does Larry get some practical economic knowledge in the class?

Here's hoping that for those of you in community colleges, you find your connection to the courses, fellow students and teachers.

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