Updated: Dec 26, 2018
North Lake College is part of the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD). DCCCD was established in 1965 and is made up of seven individually accredited colleges, including North Lake. I spent one morning there working with students in an English as a Second Language class.
According to its website, "The colleges of DCCCD work to ensure Dallas County is vibrant, growing and economically viable for future generations. In addition, we provide economic benefits to business, taxpayers and the community".
The DCCD enrolls 86,000 students in credit and continuing education courses, at a cost of $59 per credit hour. The colleges employ 6,300 faculty, staff and administrators. A 2010 study found spending on DCCCD generated $201 million in net revenue for the county, an 8.2% return on investment.
As reported by the U.S. Census Bureau/American Community Services estimates, in 2017 the total population of Dallas County was 2.5 million. Approximately 24% of Dallas County residents are foreign-born, as compared to 14% in the U.S.. The global character of Dallas was very evident in the branch library I spent a few hours in. In addition to the most extensive collections of books in other languages that I'd ever seen in a library, it was full (on a Saturday morning) of clusters of ethnically diverse teenagers (many working with tutors) poring over books and math problems. As a slice of Dallas, it was a very studious one.
Globalism in a Dallas County public library
DCCCD has extensive English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL/ESL) offerings, including free classes. The classes are part of WorkReadyU, a program funded by the Texas Workforce Commission.
WorkReadyU's goals clearly connect workers' skills to business profitability and broader economic growth:
increasing job opportunities by providing literacy, language and workforce skills with basic educational development.
aligning education and training with local employment opportunities to maintain economic competitiveness.
promoting community development in Dallas County.
Ruben Dorador, a family friend, teaches "Integrated Skills for Work & Life " at North Lake College's South Campus in Irving. The intensive, eight-week course meets for three hours on both Saturdays and Sundays, from 9am to noon and costs $90.
Students working on their capitalism questionnaires
The students represent a wide variety of countries (including Mexico, Venezuela, Nepal, Somalia and El Salvador), ages, and work experience. Many people have service jobs that don't require fluent English. We conducted class in English, with a few breaks into Spanish. Because it helps with language comprehension I wrote more terms on the board than usual, explaining, "franchise", "entrepreneur", etc..
They were an impressively engaged and thoughtful group, particularly considering that this was the second three-hour class of their weekend and that virtually all of them were also managing at least one job as well as family obligations.
The discussion reflected their wide range of backgrounds and highlighted comparisons - both favorable and unfavorable - between their countries of origin and the U.S.
A number of them were surprised when I told them that in the U.S. we don't talk much about different approaches to the economy: capitalism - or communism or socialism. In their countries of origin these are terms (and ideas) that tend to be more openly and regularly discussed.
We had a very interesting conversation about how, in Nepal, people in a rural community do work for each other without getting paid for it, helping out with harvests, and other tasks.
We discussed the way life in the U.S. involves paying a lot of bills you might not pay elsewhere. for heating, or health insurance, for example.
With reference to the Profit = Revenue - Costs equation we talked about how they experience managerial actions - layoffs, new technology, increased speed of processes, to reduce labor costs. These were all familiar situations to them and there was a general consensus that, as workers, they didn't usually receive increased pay when their labor became more productive.
Statistics about pay differentials for men vs. women, whites vs. non-whites, U.S.-born vs. non-U.S. born, etc. did not surprise them.
Many expressed optimism about the possibilities in the U.S. to advance financially and make a more comfortable life. In answer to the question "What do YOU think works well in capitalism?" they wrote:
"Yes, I think it works well. People start small business and they (make a) profit"
"I think works capitalism works well. Everybody (has) freedom to do work & earn money. Freedom for to buy goods & items they need".
"Access to school, good cities and better live(s)".
"I think small business ownership (works) well in capitalism".
"I think (it) works well because there are a lot of different options of good and services.
"I think the value. Because you can buy or sell anything and make more money".
"I think in the capitalism (works) well. (There are) many opportunity for people, as long as (they) work. And (people) have opportunity for superation" (NB: in Spanish "superacion" means "to advance").
At the same time, in response to the question, "What do YOU think doesn't work well?", they expressed some reservations:
"I think (what) doesn't work well is only big business (gets to) make more money"
"(It) doesn't work well democracy and community etc."
"...need less machines working in stores"
"I think (what) doesn't work well is the equality"
"I think (it) doesn't work well"
To the question "What would you change - and why?" they focused on equality:
"I would change (it to make ) all (people the) same and give equality, make balance".
"I change economic distribution (at) all level(s) because all people need to survive".
"I want to change the equality because all people (are) the same, nobody is better than the other one person".
"I change (to create) more opportunity and igualdad (translation: equality) for the people (of) different race or gender. (Free) medical security for the people. Education more acecibility (sic) for the people".
"To make balances (between) pay and life".
Ruben's students were wonderful to work with: smart, thoughtful and engaged. They are clearly willing to work hard and take on substantial challenges to make better lives for their families and to help their communities. I left the class that day with a sense of hope about what they are contributing to the country.
Muchisimas gracias, Ruben, for making such a good conversation possible!