Community Review from the View of a Community College Professor

By , December 2, 2009

M. Garrett Bauman, an emeritus professor of English at Monroe Community College in New York, however, doesn’t like the characters from Community.

In an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Bauman argues that the show’s cast of quirky characters (a divorcee, a former football star and a once straight A high school student to name a few) are not representative of students at a real community college. Bauman says the show overlooks people too poor to go to an expensive four-year university, people on welfare, high school slackers etc.

Here are some highlights from his article:

Don’t expect a realistic portrayal of community-college life any more than you expect as much in other comedies about social institutions like M*A*S*H, Scrubs, or The Office. Like them,Community satirizes the institution while making the people empathetic or endearingly eccentric because of the crazy place they inhabit. Community is the usual story about us. The subtext says we are caring survivors despite our institutions’ attempts to debase and destroy us.

While Community conveys community colleges’ diversity in age, gender, and race, it conspicuously avoids students in career programs or those who are truly academically weak or unprepared. Its core seven all have personality, brains, and zest. Despite the jab at air-conditioner repair, our characters take film, astronomy, and traditional liberal arts; most have no stated career goals. I suppose students truly shattered under life’s wheel and those seeking technical jobs don’t make for perky television material…

Community does not capture the real community college—as if there were one. But neither doM*A*S*H, Scrubs, or The Office capture actual institutions. Comedy exaggerates, romanticizes, and deconstructs. Community plays off stereotypes and clichés, reinforcing and puncturing them at the same time. Another college show currently airing, Greek, about sororities and fraternities, is just as absurd, with elegant houses, formal flirting lessons, and “unhappy face” cupcakes sent to decline invitations. It enacts the same myth as Community: People muddle forward despite the institutions that are supposed to nurture them but don’t.

The reality—of strangers working closely together for 15 weeks on commuter campuses, working long hours to pay bills, poring over diagrams of air conditioners or Spanish verb forms, and then going their separate ways—is too cold for comedy. The show may miss the intellectual life of community colleges and ignore the prosaic struggles many students face, but it has created precisely what is often missing in real community colleges—community.

[Source: umdbk.com and Chronicle ]

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