What Teaching at Community College Taught Me About Learning
by Ned Bachus
Publication date: October 2017
“We know about the Ivy League school, the small liberal arts college, and the state university. But we know precious little about the institution that occupies the least sexy niche in higher ed—and what we do know may be entirely wrong.”
– Ned Bachus, Author, Open Admissions: What Teaching at Community College Taught Me About Learning
In 2014, 45% of American undergraduates attended community college, so their slice of the higher education pie is considerable. But most of us don’t know that.
For more than half a century, community colleges have offered an affordable launching pad to academic and career achievement, especially for those most economically in need. Some famous community college alums include Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks, actor Tom Hanks, director George Lucas, and bestselling author Amy Tan, to name but a few. The impact of America’s 1,100 community colleges extends beyond the students they directly serve to the broader community and to the nation.
In Open Admissions, Ned Bachus seeks to elevate the often under-appreciated status of community college in the national conversation about education. Through the observant eyes of an award-winning writer and educator, this unique and hard-hitting memoir details community college students breaking through barriers in ways that parallel the author’s own growth, integrating his insights on a four-decade career spent in education. Bachus offers story after story about teaching and learning practices that transform lives—including his own.
A self-described bad student from a working-class single-parent family, the author of Open Admissions, spent his first two years after high school at Community College of Philadelphia; in time, his mother, wife, and son also studied there. Knowing that before the end of 2011, he must decide if he will take early retirement or remain indefinitely in his dream job, Bachus tracks the fall semester’s stories, his own and his students’, as if it were his final turn in the classroom. Open Admissions interweaves the story of this decision-making semester with the month-long sabbatical residency the following spring when, on a cliff-hugging cottage on the coast of Ireland, he begins to make sense of the previous fall and of a life measured in semesters.
Open Admissions offers an important window into the real lives of community college students and their professors. One of Bachus’s last students, a single-parent, who as a teenager had been on both sides of shooting crimes, told him, “I’m doing this for my little daughter.” But his success benefits all of us. Community college provides a way to autonomy. As Bachus writes, “I taught writing. But really, I taught independence.”
March 25, 2018 Ned Bachus’s memoir explores the challenges faced by first-generation community college students by Dave Canarie, an attorney and adjunct faculty member at the University of Southern Maine. Many non-traditional students have persevered through intense...
Ned Bachus has written several books in one: a personal memoir (Son of Immigrant Single Mom Makes Good), a deep reflection on life at the end of a rewarding teaching career (Farewell to Alarms), a writer's journey with walks on the Irish coast (No Man Is...
Bachus is a clear-eyed and likable protagonist and his hard-earned reflections on the way humans learn from one another are worth a read. A valuable and thoughtful work. Kirkus
"While reading Open Admissions, I felt like I was there with you in the classroom and that I got to know some of the students. It rang true to me." Judith Gay, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Community College of Philadelphia
With humor and compassion, Bachus reveals the transformational work that occurs in community colleges in helping students reach their educational goals. He intertwines his own mishaps in a foreign culture with the challenges that students face as they...
In a time of crumbling infrastructure, education budget cuts, and spiraling college debt, Ned Bachus finds hope and possibility in our country's community colleges. Open Admissions is a love song to the promise and accessibility of affordable higher...
I loved this book. Ned Bachus can really write. This memoir is brilliant, engaging, and instructive. Open Admissions is both moving and personal; it is serious without being sanctimonious. Bachus is never pious and he is always inspiring, whether he's...
Check out Reviews of Open Admissions