by Bill Harmon, LLCC Professor of Agronomy and 2014 Pearson Master Teacher
Who cares? This casual phrase is spoken by many of the students I teach here at LLCC. I have also heard this statement from friends and neighbors here in central Illinois. I have been guilty of saying it myself. It speaks to the frustration we feel in school, at work or at home when faced with a situation that seems beyond our control. It is most troubling to me when I notice apathy from students, parents or community members when discussing educational issues we currently face as a nation.
I use “who cares” in my teaching at LLCC on a regular basis. It is not a cry of surrender, but a tool I use to catch the interest of my students during lecture or lab activities. “Who cares” becomes a bridge between an abstract concept, like plant photosynthesis, and how we can use the knowledge of that reaction to raise more crops. As we prepare our agriculture students for careers in agribusiness, it is critical to show how knowledge can be applied in the real world, to benefit our students on their jobs.
In my experience, every good teacher is able to ask good questions of their students. Developing the ability in students to solve problems on their own, by motivating them to seek answers, is by far the most important lesson we can impart to our students. It will serve them for the rest of their life and never become outdated, regardless of technological changes to come. The “latest research” may be disproven in a few years, but problem-solving never loses its value. This is as true today as it was when I began my teaching career 25 years ago.
LLCC proves that it cares in many ways, and provides a valuable return on the investment made here by taxpayers, employers, parents and students. Student success should be measured by what each student needs from us, not by an arbitrary standard created elsewhere. Transfer students need a strong foundation in general education courses, to prepare them for the coursework that awaits them at their respective university. Occupational students need the skills and knowledge that will make them desirable to local employers, and valuable members of the workforce. Returning students may only want one or two classes, in order to better their job skills or for personal improvement. LLCC has the flexibility to respond to these varying student needs, in a short time period.
Central Illinois faces the same social issues that the rest of our nation does. We have poverty, hunger, unemployment and crime, just like our neighbors in Chicago or New York. Spending taxpayer dollars alone won’t solve these issues. As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” We need as a community to embrace the idea that every child needs a quality education, and that it should continue at least through the post-secondary stage. A high school diploma is essential, but to improve the quality of life of all members of society, more education after 12th grade is vital. Not every person needs to earn a bachelor’s degree in order to get a rewarding job, as many area employers will attest to. A certificate or associate degree from LLCC can be the ticket to a better life for generations to come.
To conclude, I want to ask each reader if they care. If you want to improve your community, encourage potential students to check out LLCC. Visit campus yourself, and see the opportunities available. Show that “who cares” is really “I care.”