Lifelong learning belongs in our primary mission

By David Horowitz

In October 2012, City College’s mission statement changed significantly to define its focus by including a “primary mission” that prioritized four main goals.

The statement has since been reviewed and updated annually, but retains its primary mission: the achievement of university transfers, associate degrees, certification and career skills, and basic skills including English as a second language and transitional studies.

“Lifelong learning, life skills, and cultural enrichment” was removed from the mission statement in October 2012. “Lifelong learning” was added again two years later into the first sentence of the statement, but remains excluded from the college’s primary mission.

This exclusion of lifelong learning does both the college and the wider community an enormous disservice by misrepresenting this institution’s purpose, prioritizing certification and transfers over learning, and putting off those who want to learn from our outstanding faculty solely to enrich their own lives.

A community college’s purpose is to serve its community by providing for its students. It is funded by its community and students, and its students have repeatedly shown they want the mission statement to prioritize lifelong learning.

In a 2012 Office of Research and Planning survey used to aid mission statement discussions, students ranked “lifelong learning” fourth as being one of City College’s top four priorities. It also received the second most votes by credited students in terms of being City College’s most important mission.

Additionally, 75 percent of the previous mission statement survey’s 84 replies were comments addressing lifelong learning.

Since students want to learn for the sake of learning, it logically follows that City College should make an effort to prioritize it.

City College adopted the phrase, “The Truth Shall Make You Free” as the official college motto in 1948. The inscription is carved into the facade of Science Hall facing Phelan Avenue. (Nov. 12, 2014 Ocean Campus. (Photo by Nathaniel Y. Downes)
Science Hall on Ocean campus from 2014 emblazoned with the school’s motto “The truth shall make you free”. (Stock photo by Nathaniel Y. Downes/The Guardsman)

And even disregarding student wants, the fundamental purpose of school is to help students acquire knowledge—knowledge throughout their lives that ultimately offers them more enrichment and opportunity than a degree, certificate or transferring ever could.

One key way learning does this is by giving people a more rounded set of knowledge to help them decide what to pursue in life, both in and outside their career.

Prioritizing degree achievement, however, does the opposite.

Twenty to 50 percent of college students enter college undecided and approximately 75 percent change majors at least once, assistant dean emeritus and adjunct associate professor at Ohio State University Virginia N. Gordon wrote in 1995.

Lastly, just 27.3 percent of college graduates hold a job related to their major, the Federal Bank of New York found in 2013.

Putting degree achievement over lifelong learning reduces the likelihood students will discover or achieve their dreams, as it is very unlikely a person will choose their dream career without first learning about other career possibilities.

It is therefore especially unwise to hastily decide on what is considered a life-changing, permanent decision when statistics show that most peopleespecially freshmendo not truly know what they want to do.

City College is a community college and lifelong learners are part of our college.

Those taking classes in the arts; those taking non-credit courses; those searching for a new career and those older adults who simply want to learn from our excellent instructors are an important part of our the student body and of our community.

They should feel welcome to the college when they read our mission statement, but are not properly represented.

If City College is to take itself seriously as an educational institution devoted to the community, lifelong learning must be included in our college’s primary mission.

Mission statement data from the last five years can be found at ccsf.edu/indices.