City College of San Francisco
why I love thee
an ode to a Community College

In the state of California
we got three tiers of ‘higher education’ in the public sector
at the tops is the UC, University of California – four year schools
in the middle is the State University – four year schools
at the bottom is the Community College – two year schools

Academically speaking,
UCs are for the 3.8, 3.9 to 5.0 GPAs kids with a bunch of extras
the State Universities are for students in the A’s and B’s range
and the Community Colleges, well, anybody can go there

I went to two UCs for my undergraduate education
the best part of both of them was their proximity to the ocean
one was close to Black’s Beach
the other was close to Steamers Lane
that is where I got my education
during dawn patrol
and afternoon glass off
in the sea
I took classes in ecology evolution and conservation
but there was a huge disconnect between academia and real world

we never did any walkabouts around the neighborhood looking at weeds or flowers
or picked up garbage on the beach for ‘environmental justice’
worked in a park for ‘labor studies’ or went after poachers for ‘conservation’
class was a lot of theories, graphs, statistics, and verbose language
things I did not understand whole bodily, things I still do not grasp
I also took some art classes at the UC
again, I have forgotten the content amidst the crowd of 300, but remember well
a kind black lady with colorful clothes named Faith Ringgold
and images of wild yam cults and elegantly carved ashanti stools

For graduate school, I went to a State University
to be exact – San Francisco State University
the best part of the curriculum were the field trips
excursions to the icy-morning mountains, to the shot-up road sign deserts,
overnights to the wet-tent-at-night woodlands, to the sweat-up-your-neck foothills
voyages with professors named Patterson, Hafernik, Desjardin, Parker, and Blair
so vivid were the blooms, and so colorful the fruits! And the animals!!
this is how I fell in love with the flora and fauna
of a valley, of a grassland, of a washed out gully in the sands
I was happy to wander around with classmates, observe and see things as they are

For work, I have taught at a Community College for the past sixteen years
I teach horticulture, which is gardening, landscaping, tree and nursery work
the ambiance is real different from the other two institutions
the students are of a different sort, and the teaching is much more applied
it is not much of a social and hang out recreational place; it is not the ‘college experience’
theres nobody laying around on manicured lawns
theres no ragers at a frat house
theres limited ra-ra-ra at sports stadiums with everyone wearing matching colors
but, it is a place of learning – a place that prepares you for working in the world
it is more to my liking as a person; it fits
I appreciate the diversity of the students, I like their sincerity of being

Now, you might be thinking or saying
‘community college is for the dummies that couldn’t get into…’ or
‘community college is for a poor kid that can’t afford…’ or
‘community college is just a stepping stone so that you can transfer to a…’
well…maybe you are correct

From my view, the students are a lot smarter, and wiser
at the community college
maybe not always test taking smart or sit still smart
the kinda young person know-everything-whipper-snapper-smart
caume laud this or honor that smart
but the students are hand smart, experience smart, tactile skills smart
smart in the ways of the world smart
sometimes wise in the ways of good and evil wise
this is so, because there are all kinds of different people
who attend our community college

it is a COMMUNITY college
here, you are not gaming for a piece of diploma paper
with a similar cohort of peers
instead, you are actively and closely engaged with people
of varying backgrounds and strengths
in understanding the world and finding your place in it

Who wants to learn about flowers? And trees? Well,
we got high end well educated professionals like my dentist,
the doctor from the free clinic, and the patent law lawyer
there’s an army scout who knows the weight of an abrams tank,
a twenty year Navy pilot, and the electrical engineer on an aircraft carrier
we got machinists and diesel mechanics who have done time with heavy heavy equipment
as well as folks who’ve spent time in jail cells contemplating, reflecting
and, theres a lil’ bit ragged student who’s been dreaming while sleeping on the cold sidewalk
there’s bunches of nurses and medics who want to care for a living thing that doesn’t talk back
as well as a two or three master’s degrees therapist who is tired of the droning quality of human self pity and inaction
into the mix, throw in a retired chemist
add an architect discovering nature’s structures, and
stir in some managers, supervisors of 10, 20, 100, 1000 subordinates

there is that whole generation of students who have been raised on computers, videos and screens, students who have never acknowledged the three dimensional sentient and conscious creatures on our planet, youth who ignore the blur of greenery all over the land
and, theres a whole lot of students with a bachelors degree and a student loan
students who for four years did not know what they were studying or why they were studying it, and now do not know what to do
to be gainfully employed – maybe you can do something with nature? something that brings joy to your heart? something to cultivate beauty in our society?
… try the horticulture and floristry department!

Seems that the rightful place of a Community College is –
at the center of the community, a college for folks young and old
a place that gathers everybody together and improves our day to day world
one seed, one sprout, one or two cotyledons at a time
there not a whole lotta other countries where such a place exists
everywhere else people are enamored with that kind of hierarchy that puts everybody in a slot on a ladder, and you can’t climb up cause you are stuck on your rung
this is America
we want a just and kind society that is a big ol pie
everybody anybody who puts in their best effort can come get a slice of
apple pie, cherry pie, maybe rhubarb pie

The community college is a great idea, a grand experiment,
it is a temple for lifelong learning and a roundhouse of civic in-person interaction
it would be a darn shame
if it were to be snuffed out, gutted, squeezed, and relegated to the chop chop ax by
uncaring people
theres no better place to learn to smilie with all of mother nature’s creation,
there’s no more worthwhile crew of students
than at
City College of San Francisco!!!