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The community college mission: History and theory, 1930--2000

Dissertation
Author: Kenneth M. Meier
Abstract:
This study is a multidisciplinary historical analysis of the national junior-community college mission debate in the twentieth century. It utilizes resource dependency, institutional and social movement theories to explain the organizational behaviors of the community college as these relate to the concept of mission. Historians of the colleges note that the first junior colleges were established without clear missions or a plausible theoretical framework to rationalize their educational activities and social purposes. Growth in concern about the mission and identity of the community college parallels movement expansion. A common conception among community college scholars is that the colleges are non-traditional, non-specialized by design, and mandated to provide a comprehensive curriculum to their communities. Practitioners tend to focus on the ideas of openness, access, and responsiveness to community needs. Historically, there has been little consensus among practitioners, advocates, and academic researchers about the educational outcomes and social significance of the colleges. Practitioners and critics often speak past each other because they employ incommensurate units of analysis and possess conflicting or unexamined assumptions. As a result, these multiple lenses of analysis lead to multiple understandings (and misunderstanding) of the community college mission. This study analyzes how and why the junior college was transformed from a minor extension of secondary education to an expansive, ubiquitous national institution embracing a fungible, even amorphous, comprehensive mission. It contextualizes two questions posed by George Vaughan: Why do even the community college's most articulate and intelligent leaders have difficulty explaining its Proteus-like characteristics? Why is it difficult to explain to the public in simple and understandable terms the twin towers of community college philosophy: open access and comprehensiveness? (1991a, p. 2) Two additional questions guide this research and lead to the investigation's findings: (1) How can organization, institutional and social movement theories clarify the mission problem? (2) What is the impact of postindustrial change on the contemporary community college mission? This study employs historical methods, grounded theory, and case study methodology to elaborate and explain organizational behavior and to uncover previously ignored characteristics of the national community movement.

5 TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page

LIST OF FI GURES............................................................................................................8

ABSTRACT........................................................................................................................9

CHAPTER 1: THE COMMUNITY COLLEGE MISSION: HISTORY AND THEORY.................................................................................................................11

The Community College Mission Problem.............................................................11 Research Questions..................................................................................................17 Justification for the Study........................................................................................18 Organization of the Study........................................................................................19 Chapter 1. The Community College Mission: History and Theory................19 Chapter 2. Social and Educational Origins of the Community College Movement: 1930-1945........................................................................20 Chapter 3. The Consensus Social Movement: 1945-1960..............................20 Chapter 4. Institutionalizing the Comprehensive Mission, 1960-1985..........21 Chapter 5. The Postindustrial College at the Millennium...............................22 Chapter 6. The Community College Mission: Theory and History................22 Definitions................................................................................................................22 Mission Versus Outcomes.......................................................................................24 Historical Context of the Mission Debate................................................................27 Theorizing the Community College Mission...........................................................30 Historiographical Background of the Study............................................................37 Historical Data.........................................................................................................50 Conceptual Frameworks..........................................................................................53 Conclusion...............................................................................................................63

CHAPTER 2: SOCIAL AND EDUCATIONAL ORIGINS OF THE COMMUNITY COLLEGE MOVEMENT: 1930-1945...................................................65

Introduction..............................................................................................................65 Social Context of Public Junior College Development...........................................66 Social Origins and Ideological Assumptions of Junior College Founders.............72 Secondary Education or Higher Education?............................................................74 The Quest for an Institutional Framework...............................................................80 Social Origins of the Comprehensive Community College Concept......................87 Theoretical Conflict in the AAJC............................................................................95 Vocational Ironies and the Origins of the Comprehensive Mission.....................100 Institutionalizing the California Comprehensive Mission.....................................104 The Challenge of Institutional Legitimation Within Higher Education...............109

6 TABLE OF CONTENTS—continued

Page

World W ar II and Mission Expansion...................................................................114 The People’s College at War.................................................................................117 Conclusion.............................................................................................................123

CHAPTER 3: THE CONSENSUS SOCIAL MOVEMENT: 1945-1960......................125

Introduction............................................................................................................125 Community College Ideology and Mission Expansion.........................................127 AAJC Leadership Succession................................................................................130 Mission Evangelism...............................................................................................132 Theorizing the Educational Movement..................................................................137 Consensus Movement Mobilization......................................................................147 The Public Policy Context of the Community College Mission............................153 AAJC Policy Initiatives.........................................................................................165 The Community College Manifesto.......................................................................171 The Racialized Mission..........................................................................................180 Conclusion.............................................................................................................194

CHAPTER 4: INSTITUTIONALIZING THE COMMUNITY COLLEGE MISSION: 1960-1985.....................................................................................................196

Introduction............................................................................................................196 Institutionalization Process....................................................................................197 Educational Context of Institutionalization...........................................................199 Practitioners and Scholars......................................................................................202 Institution Building and Theoretical Conflict........................................................204 Professionalizing and Differentiating the Colleges...............................................214 Image Management and Institutional Fissures......................................................222 The Open Door Problem........................................................................................232 Open-Access and the Racialized Mission..............................................................242 The Miami-Dade Breakthrough.............................................................................255 Mission Conflict in the 1980s................................................................................263 Conclusion.............................................................................................................273

CHAPTER 5: THE POSTINDUSTRIAL COLLEGE AT THE MILLENNIUM..........274

Introduction............................................................................................................274 Postindustrial Social Context of the Contemporary Mission.................................276 The Mission Problem and Organization Theory....................................................284 Organizational Culture, Critical Theory, and the Mission.....................................294

7 TABLE OF CONTENTS—continued

Page

The Comm unity College Mission in the Mid-1980s.............................................299 Intellectual Origins of the Postindustrial/Postmodern College..............................303 Social and Educational Origins of the “New Vocationalism”...............................306 The Economic and Political Origins of the Postindustrial Mission.......................309 Political and Economic Origins of the New Managerialism.................................313 New Academic Critics...........................................................................................315 New Learning College?.........................................................................................328 The Student Success Advocates.............................................................................341 Conclusion.............................................................................................................345

CHAPTER 6: THE COMMUNITY COLLEGE MISSION THEORY AND HISTORY.......................................................................................................................348

Introduction............................................................................................................348 Historical Implications of the Study......................................................................349 Institutional Theory and the Mission.....................................................................360 Social Movement Theory and the Mission............................................................367 Organization Theory and the Mission....................................................................369 Community College as Social and Educational Process........................................381

APPENDIX A: RESEARCH METHODS FOR “THE COMMUNITY COLLEGE MISSION: HISTORY AND THEORY”.....................................................384

APPENDIX B: PERMISSIONS.....................................................................................408

REFERENCES...............................................................................................................410

8

LIST OF FIGURES Page

FIGURE 1. Four Categories of Journal Articles.............................................................403

FIGURE 2. Components of Community/Junior College Movement..............................404

FIGURE 3. Components of Curriculum.........................................................................405

FIGURE 4. Components of Governance........................................................................406

FIGURE 5. Components of Access and Students...........................................................407

9 ABSTRACT This study is a multidisciplinary historical analysis of the national junior- community college mission debate in the twentieth century. It utilizes resource dependency, institutional and social movement theories to explain the organizational behaviors of the community college as these relate to the concept of mission. Historians of the colleges note that the first junior colleges were established without clear missions or a plausible theoretical framework to rationalize their educational activities and social purposes. Growth in concern about the mission and identity of the community college parallels movement expansion. A common conception among community college scholars is that the colleges are non-traditional, non-specialized by design, and mandated to provide a comprehensive curriculum to their communities. Practitioners tend to focus on the ideas of openness, access, and responsiveness to community needs. Historically, there has been little consensus among practitioners, advocates, and academic researchers about the educational outcomes and social significance of the colleges. Practitioners and critics often speak past each other because they employ incommensurate units of analysis and possess conflicting or unexamined assumptions. As a result, these multiple lenses of analysis lead to multiple understandings (and misunderstanding) of the community college mission. This study analyzes how and why the junior college was transformed from a minor extension of secondary education to an expansive, ubiquitous national institution

10 em bracing a fungible, even amorphous, comprehensive mission. It contextualizes two questions posed by George Vaughan: Why do even the community college’s most articulate and intelligent leaders have difficulty explaining its Proteus-like characteristics? Why is it difficult to explain to the public in simple and understandable terms the twin towers of community college philosophy: open access and comprehensiveness? (1991a, p. 2)

Two additional questions guide this research and lead to the investigation’s findings: 1) How can organization, institutional and social movement theories clarify the mission problem? 2) What is the impact of postindustrial change on the contemporary community college mission? This study employs historical methods, grounded theory, and case study methodology to elaborate and explain organizational behavior and to uncover previously ignored characteristics of the national community movement.

11

CHAPTER 1

THE COMMUNITY COLLEGE MISSION: HISTORY AND THEORY

When scholars them selves accept what practitioners know from experience, that community colleges are neither textbook cases nor intellectual constructs but dynamic, complicated and messy environments, then scholarship may have more to offer practice. John Stewart Levin, 1994

The two-year college is a creature of the twentieth century and therefore has not developed a great deal of insulation form the swiftly changing cross-currents of the society which gave it life. It is closely related to the social, economic conditions which shape its character. Blocker, Plummer, & Richardson, 1965

The Community College Mission Problem The Carnegie Comm ission on Higher Education notes that the “most striking structural development in higher education has been the phenomenal growth of the community college” (Olgivie & Raines, 1971, p. v). Others describe the community college as “one of the greatest education success stories” of the twentieth century (Breneman & Nelson, 1981, p. 1; C. Kerr, 1985; O’Banion, 1989; Brint & Karabel, 1991; Griffith & Connor, 1994). In spite of the proclaimed success of community colleges, there is a history of ambiguity, even confusion, about the mission and purposes of the colleges (Eells, 1931a; Richardson & Leslie, 1980; Breneman & Nelson, 1981; McCarten, 1983; Cross, 1985; Vaughan, 1988, 1991a; Bogart, 1994; Bailey & Averianova, 1998; Grubb, 1999; Nora, 2000; J. Levin, 2000; Bailey & Morest, 2004). Frye remarks that the first junior colleges were “accompanied by no clear mission, set of criteria, nor theoretical framework” (1992, p. 1). Employing content analysis of the

12 publications of fifty-six colleges for the year 1920-21, the m ost prominent early junior college scholar identified at least twenty-one distinct educational and social purposes for the colleges (Koos, 1925). Later scholars worried that the colleges lacked a “plausible categorical imperative” (Cohen, 1977, p. 74). Why has the mission debate raged every decade over the past century? The “academic revolution” of the twentieth century defined a mission for the research university focused on the troika of research, teaching, and public service (Jencks & Riesman, 1968). There has never been a similar degree of consensus among practitioners, policymakers, or university scholars in respect to the community college mission (Blocker et al., 1965; Richardson & Leslie, 1980; Breneman & Nelson, 1981; Cross, 1985). One barrier to theoretical consensus is that some scholars evaluate these local, community-based organizations by the standards of selective universities such as Berkeley and Princeton (Breneman & Nelson, 1981; Frye, 1994). Another challenge to theorizing the mission is the wide diversity of institutions, communities, and state-level governance systems associated with the community college sector of American higher education. Disagreements about curriculum, the professional standing of community college faculty, and the relative position of the community college within the status hierarchy of American public education further complicate analysis. Lack of consensus among practitioners and scholars about social purposes and expected institutional outcomes challenges generalization regarding the colleges. Finally, the volatility of the American social and economic context dictates that community colleges tack and wend in

13 response to the frequent and som etimes conflicting gales directed at them from the state and local communities. The Carnegie Commission observes that a variety of confounding variables challenge attempts to codify the mission: “The roles of the community college are so diverse as to be bewildering” (Olgivie & Raines, 1971, p. v). Others contend that flux, change, and “multi-variance” are defining characteristics of the colleges (Blocker et al.). Mutability is a frequently observed characteristic of the mission: “[Community colleges] change frequently, seeking new programs and clients” (Cohen & Brawer, 1996, p. 37). But change and innovation may become ends in themselves rather than the means of achieving some coherent social, educational, or institutional purpose, since “community colleges do not even follow their own traditions” (Cohen & Brawer, 1996, p. 37; J. Levin, 1998a). As the colleges are buffeted by social and economic change, they seek to buffer themselves by engaging in ritualized planning focused on serving communities and new clienteles without providing much evidence of strategic direction (Cohen, 1977; Cohen & Brawer, 2003). Under examined assumptions about the mission and social role of the colleges are common among practitioners. These include broadening the American democratic ethos, the influence of the colleges on American social and economic well-being, and the value- added to the life chances of their students (Reynolds, 1957; Gleazer, 1968; Parnell, 1985; Griffith & Connor, 1994). Mission discussions reflect a pervasive economic and technological optimism that have been part of the ideological fabric of the colleges since their inception (Goodwin, 1973; Frye, 1994). Institutional discourses dominated by the

14 “rhetoric of innovation” and “m anagement babble” obscure the social and historical forces that shape core educational processes and outcomes (Cohen, 1969a; R. Williams, 2002). Consequently, community college constituents and stakeholders often lack adequate information about institutional processes and outcomes. As one long-time observer notes, too often “[E]quivocation is the prime doctrine in community colleges [which] suffer self-serving pap from their purported spokesmen” (Cohen, 1977, p. 75). To the extent that lack of clarity about institutional purposes and outcomes are normative within community college culture, conceits about the efficacy of visionary leadership do not bear rigorous scrutiny and may even contribute to the erosion of faculty professional identity and educational effectiveness (Cohen & Brawer, 1972, 1987). Organizational change and outcomes may have more to do with external forces and the kinetics of cultural reproduction than any measurable effect of “visionary leadership” (J. Levin, 1998b). Conventional discussions of the public community college mission emphasize open-access, educational opportunity, and “comprehensiveness” (Bogart, 1994; Ratcliff, 1994). The idea of comprehensiveness tied to open-access gained wide currency by the1960s and continues to dominate mission discussions among community college educators. Most definitions of the comprehensive mission emphasize those educational functions that comprise “five traditional community college programs” (Cross 1985, p. 36; Bogart, 1994). These include: 1) collegiate and transfer education, 2) vocational education, 3) developmental or compensatory education, 4) general education, and 5) community education and service (Cohen & Brawer, 1996). Some practitioners include

15 guidance and student developm ent in the list of critical functions (Collins & Collins, 1971; Frye, 1991). General education defined variously possesses a contested legacy as a central college mission (Bird, 1947; Johnson, 1952; Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1977; Cross, 1985; Cohen & Brawer, 1989). Cohen and Brawer conclude pessimistically that the general education ideal has been weakened to the point of incoherence: “It is a centripetal idea that is constantly subverted by the centrifugal forces of staff members and students with their own agenda and by the universities that have rarely provided it for their own students” (Cohen & Brawer, 2003, p. 426). By the 1990s, a “new function” was added to the mix: community economic and workforce development (Parnell, 1990; Dougherty & Bakia, 1999; J. Levin, 2001a). Some scholars identify multiculturalism as an emerging emphasis within the mission of urban community colleges especially (Rhoads & Valadez, 1996; J. Levin, 2001a; Woodlief, Thomas, & Orozco, 2003). An alternative approach to conceptualizing the community college mission is to view it as a historically contingent social and educational process rooted in the needs of local community (Hayden, 1939; Ratcliff, 1987, 1994; Bogart, 1994; Gleazer, 1994a). This perspective focuses on what the college contributes to its clients and society as a whole. It addresses the general social benefits and sometimes liabilities that result from the distinct social process of providing education and services to widely varying neighborhoods and constituencies (Breneman & Nelson, 1981). A common conception among scholars is that the colleges are “non-specialized by design, their mandate is to offer a comprehensive curriculum and to serve a wide range of

16 community needs” (Owen, 1995, p. 145). The rub is what this m eans in either theory or practice. Openness, access, and responsiveness amount to a stance, perspective, or attitude rather than constituting either a theory or a purposeful program that differentiates a college from, say, a shopping mall or a theme park. The perennial focus on “inputs” by practitioners begs the question of what community colleges do with these inputs or what their measurable impact is on students, communities, and the nation (Breneman & Nelson, 1981; Cohen & Brawer, 2003). Community college practitioners, unless pressured externally by policy makers, accrediting agencies, or critics, are accustomed to rationalizing their practice by pointing to the degree of access they provide to higher education and their good intentions (Bogue, 1950a; Gleazer, 1968; Griffith & Connor, 1994; Kovar, 1996). Some community college critics discern subordination of democratic impulses among students and faculty to the imperatives of capitalist economic development and cultural reproduction (Aronowitz & DiFazio, 1994; Rhoads & Valadez, 1996). Others cite the professional self-interests of national college leaders as a significant determinant of the mission (Goodwin, 1973; Frye, 1991; Dougherty, 1994). When pressed with evidence of marginal institutional outcomes, the practitioner’s culture often responds with “Horatio Alger stories of student success” while sidestepping the problem of contested institutional outcomes (Brint & Karabel, 1989, p. 179; see also Reynolds, 1957; Cohen, 1969b; Breneman & Nelson, 1981; McGrath & Spear, 1991; Griffith & Connor, 1994; Kovar, 1996; Grubb, 1999). Amidst the cacophony of competing voices, Cohen and Brawer assert that it may be best to characterize the colleges as both untraditional and the primary example of

17 Am erican educational innovation in the twentieth century (Cohen & Brawer, 1996, pp. 36-37). As bastions of non-traditional postsecondary education serving mostly non- traditional students, some scholars argue that it is inappropriate to judge college activities and outcomes by the standards of elite universities. They argue that the colleges promise equality of access rather than equality of outcomes and students may utilize college services in creative and sometimes idiosyncratic ways that confound the understandings of either theorists or policymakers (Cohen, 1990; Adelman, 1994; Frye 1994; Woodlief et al., 2003). While universal access, diversity, and untraditional practices may be truly American, confusion over the purposes and role of community colleges is also a consequence of their uncertain pedigree and purpose in higher education (Clark, 1960; Jencks & Riesman, 1968), their unwritten history (Frye, 1991, 1992), the “edginess” of their communitarian ethic (Vaughan, 1991a), and their “eagerness to expand into new markets” (Grubb, 1999, p. 7).

Research Questions

Multiple identities and multiple lenses of analysis lead to “numerous understandings of the community college” (J. Levin, 1998a, p. 2). George Vaughan, a prominent community college historian, scholar, and former president, has admitted candidly that a clear definition of the institution still eludes him: Why do even the community college’s most articulate and intelligent leaders have difficulty explaining its Proteus-like characteristics? Why is it difficult to explain to the public in simple and understandable terms the twin towers of the community college philosophy: open access and comprehensiveness? (Vaughan, 1991a, p. 2)

18 The purpose of the present study is to address V aughan’s questions through an historical and sociological analysis of both the community college national mission debate and the movement’s organizational development since 1930. This project seeks to make an original contribution to the community college literature by documenting and explaining how the junior college was transformed from a relatively minor extension of secondary education to an expansive and ubiquitous national institution embracing a remarkably fungible, even amorphous, comprehensive mission. Two additional questions guide the research and writing of the study: 1) What contributions can organizational and social movement theory make to clarifying the mission problem? 2) What is the impact of the postindustrial environment and attendant social and economic change on contemporary community college mission and identity?

Justification for the Study

There is a significant omission in the literature concerning the historical origins of the community college and the social and educational forces that have shaped the mission. Rigorous historical studies are relatively rare in the literature of higher education. The field is far less developed compared to the historical literature of public schools. For community colleges, analytical historical studies are even less common (Ratcliff, 1987; Frye, 1991, 1992). The history of the junior-community college demonstrates that it is buffeted by and continuously adapting to social, economic, and technological change: “In acting upon a plethora of intended goals and in responding to the cultural, educational, political, and social needs of its community or communities, the community college is highly

19 susceptible to econom ic, political, and social forces (J. Levin, 2001a, p. xii; Blocker et al.). The current study examines the programs, political behaviors, and theoretical rationales of community college leaders as rationalizations for adapting the colleges to environmental challenges over which they have limited control. The writer is respectful of the academic critics of the community college. The study responds to the critics by relying on a complex theoretical framework and developing a deeper historical context than is usual in the practitioner’s literature. By triangulating the contributions of the critics with fresh historical research and organizational analysis, the study attempts to explain and assess the past and current trajectories of the colleges.

Organization of the Study Chapter 1. The Community College Mission: History and Theory This chapter summarizes the issues and problems associated with studying the community college as simultaneously an institution within the general framework of American higher education and a community-based organization for which the conventional, university-based higher education paradigm has limited utility in explaining the mission behavior of the colleges. The chapter addresses the current state of community college historiography and theory in regard to the mission and identity problems. It proposes a complex theoretical framework employing historical analysis, open-systems theory/resource dependency theory, institutional theory, and consensus social movement theory to reframe and contextualize the community college mission problem.

20 Chapter 2. Social and Educational Origins of the Community College Movement: 1930-1945 This chapter analyzes the social and educational forces that shaped the community college concept and the outlines of the comprehensive mission. By 1930, the movement possessed a national organization, a committed and knowledgeable leadership, and a professional journal. But within the national movement and at the local level there was significant disagreement about the identity and social purposes of the colleges. A majority of the university professors who dominated the early national junior college movement insisted that the colleges were the upper tier of secondary education and that their primary social purpose was to socialize youth by providing mostly terminal vocational and general education. Experiments in adult education and community-based programming during the Depression and World War II opened the mission debate to the influence of students, adult learners, and faculty who desired stronger identification of the junior college with higher education. The experience wartime democratic crusade reinforced social reform perspectives within the movement. The comprehensive mission was already well developed among many California junior community colleges by the late 1930s. Chapter 3. The Consensus Social Movement: 1945-1960 Unprecedented econom ic growth driven by technological and demographic change accelerated national and local demands for expanded higher education services. The 1944 “G.I. Bill of Rights” helped to establish the basis for postwar prosperity and increased access to higher education and postsecondary job training. The 1947

21 President’s Comm ission on Higher Education report, Higher Education for American Democracy (or Truman Commission Report), was both a reflection of this demand and a federally supported manifesto for the community college. During this period, the junior- community college movement entered the takeoff stage as a significant education and training force in American society as well as a successful consensus social movement. Finding themselves caught among contending forces within higher education and increasing demands for community service in the context of a rapidly changing economy, national and local leaders resorted to pubic relations and marketing as a strategy for addressing identity problems and sidestepping critical questions about organizational practices and outcomes. This is especially the case for a subterranean “racialized mission” that permeated much of the movement. Chapter 4. Institutionalizing the Comprehensive Mission, 1960-1985 Community colleges becom e important institutions in their own right. They command the attention of policy makers, foundations, corporate and business groups, and numerous stakeholders. Because of these expectations and the public perception of collegiate education as the primary avenue to middle-class status, a new college is founded each week on average during the first half of the 1960s. Conflicts emerged over the community college institutionalization project and the roles of faculty, students, and communities in defining the mission. As community colleges became the most likely point of entry into higher education for minorities, women, and working-class students, there were increasing disagreements among scholars, practitioners and policymakers over the social mission and significance of the colleges.

22 Chapter 5. The Postindustrial College at the Millennium. This chapter employs concepts associated with postindustrial theory, organizational and especially open-systems theory, and critical theory to interrogate variant discourses within the national mission debate. These discourses address, “new managerialism,” “new learning paradigms,” the impact of information technology, and a shift in national leadership rhetoric to a “new community economic development” model influenced by neo-liberal ideology. Other narratives focusing on diversity, difference and multiculturalism intersect, question and sometimes subvert conventional mission discussions; such critical narratives reflect an educational and social condition in which community colleges are now the entry point of more than 60% of all minority students into higher education and nearly 50% of all new students entering higher education. Chapter 6. The Community College Mission: Theory and History

This summative chapter draws out the historical and theoretical insights developed across the entire study. It discusses some of the current contradictions and challenges of the community college mission. It concludes with suggestions for new avenues of research focusing on the community college as a social and educational process.

Definitions Leaders and observers of community colleges employ words such as “vision,” “m ission,” and “purposes” to not only explain but influence organizational behavior and outcomes. The terms are seldom well defined. Let us agree with Schumpeter that the concept of vision implies a “preanalytic cognitive act that supplies the raw material” for

23 defining and analyzing organizational aim s and practices. The concept of vision is neither precise nor rooted necessarily in objective organizational behavior. The concept is “ideological almost by definition” (Schumpeter, 1954, pp. 41-42). Modern, secular ideologies may be defined as “rational belief systems.” Modern belief systems are differentiated from religious or traditional value systems that privilege deference and diffidence, the priest and sometimes even the inquisitor, over critical enquiry. Traditional belief systems seek to control everyday life. Secular ideologies are more concerned with “achieving especially mobilized projects [seeking] to gather, assemble, husband, defer, and control the discharge of political energies” (Gouldner, 1976, p. 26, emphasis in the original). Countering tradition, modern ideologies require at least a modicum of critical thinking because the existence of a mobilized political or social project implies some tension vis-à-vis the status quo and prescriptions for altering it. Vision flows from hopes, dreams, values, aspirations, and social interests. Creating a vision is an imaginative act that requires some degree of faith, hope, or optimism; a vision is not constrained necessarily by either temporal limitations or analytical categories. For the purposes of this study, the publicly articulated mission of a college, or any organization for that matter, provides some degree of boundary maintenance for organizational activity. The publicly expressed mission attempts to encode the vision by clarifying the presumed purposes and activities of an organization. The articulated mission constitutes the ideological rationale for the organizational project and implies a program or a set of goals for achieving it. The concept of mission connects the vision, however tenuously, to the “product” or “outcomes” of organizational activity.

24 Im plied or stated in the mission is a mobilization strategy, program, or a set of procedures or organizational repertoires for pursuing and validating institutional goals and outcomes. Formal mission statements in higher education “tend to focus aspirations: on what institutional leaders want the college or university to become, as opposed to what it is now” (Davies 1986, p. 95). Such statements are inherently ideological, more closely associated with the concept of vision, and, thus, difficult to confirm or disconfirm logically or empirically. Community colleges mission statements are closely connected to the expectations of external constituencies: “[M]issions exist at the interface between an institution and its environment” (Richardson & Doucette, 1984). The publicly stated ideological mission of an organization is one thing, but the enacted or empirical mission may be quite another as the organization is shaped by and responds to its social and economic environment.

Mission Versus Outcomes Organizational behavior and outcomes m ay appear to contradict the espoused purposes of an organization. There is a potential gap between the publicly expressed institutional mission and daily activities and outcomes. Organizational ideologies and “rational organizational myths” (Meyer & Rowan, 1977) are necessary mechanisms for bridging the ideal and the real—vision v. results. This condition may explain why organizations, especially in the public sector, are more likely to emphasize inputs than outputs. Stakeholder expectations are easier to manage when public institutions can emphasize access to services, rather than engaging critical evaluation of the quality of the services or the social utility of the organizational product. Educational institutions often

25 confound leadership theory and sometim es the expectations of accreditation agencies through mission statements that are so general as to be interpreted in a variety of ways (Richardson & Doucette, 1984; Davies, 1986). Historically, the community college practitioner’s literature tends to employ the concepts of mission and functions interchangeably, while eschewing systematic analysis of organizational outcomes (Cohen, 1969b; Cohen & Brawer, 2003). One junior college historian suggests: “[The] definition of the two year college is not much clearer today than it was before 1940” (Frye, 1991, p. 12). Elusiveness has its attractions. Generic or vague statements of purpose afford managers tactical flexibility and political cover. Ambiguous connections between organizational means and ends provide leaders with greater discretion while limiting their accountability (Cohen, 1977; Davies, 1986). If policy makers and stakeholders are relatively satisfied with organizational performance, the utilitarian calculus of organizational and professional self-interest persuades faculty and administrators to avoid the constraints and expectations associated with unambiguous goals and measurable outcomes. Flexibility and image management are compromised by benchmarking, for there are internal and external pressures to address and document what an organization claims to measure. The concepts of vision and mission constitute a kind of cognitive map for both understanding and explaining the organization and for navigating it through the complex geography of broader organizational fields. Mission is an inherently unstable social construct that seeks to either integrate or obscure the relationship between the “is” and the “ought” in organizational behavior.

Full document contains 462 pages
Abstract: This study is a multidisciplinary historical analysis of the national junior-community college mission debate in the twentieth century. It utilizes resource dependency, institutional and social movement theories to explain the organizational behaviors of the community college as these relate to the concept of mission. Historians of the colleges note that the first junior colleges were established without clear missions or a plausible theoretical framework to rationalize their educational activities and social purposes. Growth in concern about the mission and identity of the community college parallels movement expansion. A common conception among community college scholars is that the colleges are non-traditional, non-specialized by design, and mandated to provide a comprehensive curriculum to their communities. Practitioners tend to focus on the ideas of openness, access, and responsiveness to community needs. Historically, there has been little consensus among practitioners, advocates, and academic researchers about the educational outcomes and social significance of the colleges. Practitioners and critics often speak past each other because they employ incommensurate units of analysis and possess conflicting or unexamined assumptions. As a result, these multiple lenses of analysis lead to multiple understandings (and misunderstanding) of the community college mission. This study analyzes how and why the junior college was transformed from a minor extension of secondary education to an expansive, ubiquitous national institution embracing a fungible, even amorphous, comprehensive mission. It contextualizes two questions posed by George Vaughan: Why do even the community college's most articulate and intelligent leaders have difficulty explaining its Proteus-like characteristics? Why is it difficult to explain to the public in simple and understandable terms the twin towers of community college philosophy: open access and comprehensiveness? (1991a, p. 2) Two additional questions guide this research and lead to the investigation's findings: (1) How can organization, institutional and social movement theories clarify the mission problem? (2) What is the impact of postindustrial change on the contemporary community college mission? This study employs historical methods, grounded theory, and case study methodology to elaborate and explain organizational behavior and to uncover previously ignored characteristics of the national community movement.