The last day of my Photography class was yesterday. (For the scant few of you who aren’t avid readers of this blog, I’ve been taking Beginning Photography at City College of San Francisco.) All I can say about the experience is that I got my $85 worth. Seriously. This course set me back only $85. Plus Muni fare once a week. If you are one of those who have snobbishly looked at community colleges as “hobby schools” (and *hangs head in shame* I was one of them), let me disabuse you of that notion. Let me not only disabuse you, let me beat it into your thick skull. Community college — at least San Francisco’s — is the deal of the century.

Forthwith, my impressions of my community college experience. And if this blog post doesn’t make you sign up for classes immediately, I’ll stop posting. Actually, no, I won’t. But you need to up your reading comprehension.

Before I get into the merits of this class, let me say this course may have saved me from early-onset geezerhood. After traveling on a cross-country roadtrip with my 24 year old niece, I was appalled that someone who graduated Magna Cum Laude (okay, from University of Maine Farmington, but still) had only the most tenuous grasp of history, US geography, and anything not associated with American Idol. Perhaps the most shocking thing was, from my perspective, her inability to become a traveler. Those of us of a certain age — and we know who we are — have fond and not so fond memories of car trips on family vacation. Sure we played our share of car bingo, but eventually we resorted to looking out the window and wondering about the things we were passing. Sometimes our parents took us to roadside attractions. We bumped into new foods. We felt like we were having an adventure. We slowly morphed into travelers. After watching my niece text inane messages (“How R U”) non-stop across three thousand miles, I began to wonder if she’d actually SEEN anything. Does she have any recollection of the Grand Canyon? Or does she just remember the fifteen people she texted about it?

But I digress. My point was, this experience brought me to that dangerous point where I was muttering “These kids today. . .” under my breath at inopportune moments. The words, “You kids keep off the grass” were almost leaving my lips. Then I remembered I live in San Francisco and have no lawn.

The first day of class, I looked around and identified one student who was possibly older than me and three who might have been in their thirties. The rest, well, let’s just say they would have been very, very, very young when I graduated from college.

That was the first day of class. By the second or third day of class, I realized I was not, by virtue of my advanced years, going to be the smartest person in class. Not by a long shot. These kids were smart. And creative. And ambitious. There were more than a few with English as a second language. Lots who were working their own way through college. And an embarassing number who I realized I would have to rely on to explain the homework assignments.

Now to the course, sure there were frustrations. Like many institutions, CCSF has its politics. For the entire semester, the expensive printers and output devices were off the network in the computer lab. Seems the administration was still arguing about how effectively to charge us for their use. It was all I could do not to storm the Provost’s office screaming, “Hey, bud. I’ve got news for you. I’ve paid property tax for 23 years in this city and business taxes for 15. I’ve ALREADY paid for those printers. But here’s a tenner and a pack of printer paper. Now get the damn things hooked up.”

But that glitch was offset by the quality of the teaching. Really good teaching. Inspirational and uncompromising. Our professor never acted as if we were “just Community College students.” (Not that there weren’t times I wished she would.) She approached us as if we had the capability to be the next Lee Friedlander or Ansel Adams — and we’d better meet that bar of expectation.

The last day of class, and the presentation of our final projects, confirmed that some of us (probably not me) had met that challenge. The projects were uniformly good. Many moved us to tears. All showed real vision. How do you teach vision? Did these kids have it and, miraculously, all gravitate to this one class? Or did Professor Perry bring it out in us? Did CCSF somehow foster an environment where vision thrived and grew? Whew. In any case, it was a pretty big payoff for $85.

When class ended, I accepted a ride from John, the other oldster and my sometime lab partner. As we got in his truck, we looked at each other and spontaneously, with our best head-bangin’ Alice Cooper attitude, started singing:

“School’s out for the summer.

School’s out FOR EVVVVVVEER.”

Forgive me for a Senior Moment, but there are some things “kids today” still can’t possibly understand.

By the way, if you want to look at a PDF of my final project (cover shown above), you can download it here: