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rowing up in East Los Angeles, Carlos Brocatto was often
called "professor" by his high school friends. He had no idea
he would actually become a college professor.
"I loved to read," said Brocatto, Associate Professor of Philosophy.
"At parties, I was the guy over in the corner reading or writing
in a notebook."
He was also the guy who dropped out of high school.
"I was living on my own at 16 and bored out of my mind with high
school," he said. Young Brocatto skipped class regularly at two
different LA high schools and blew off homework assignments,
yet still passed all his exams. Finally, just a few credits short of
graduation, he quit school altogether.
Even as a teenager, he had begun to ponder weighty ethical
issues, such as why the world's richest society harbored hunger
and homelessness. "My perspective on education was odd," he
admitted. "When I'd ask a question, my teachers didn't know what
I was talking about."
After dropping out, he supported himself by cooking in restaurants.
But something was missing. "When I turned 18, I found out I could
go to community college. Community college was my life line it
literally saved my life."
Brocatto took classes at three different community colleges,
studying whatever interested him most. "I would take all the
anthropology courses, then all the psychology courses. Then I'd
take a break and go back to cooking full time, but would get bored.
Then I'd take all the English classes. I did that for 10 years."
Eventually, he quit his well-paying job running a chain of
seven restaurant kitchens, and decided to take his education
seriously. "I'm curious and I wanted an education, but I wanted
to be more informed. A house, a car and a career were never that
important to me."
After taking the few courses he needed to fill out his community
college transcript, he transferred to the University of California
Riverside, where, in 18 months, he earned a BA in philosophy.
He earned his master's degree in philosophy at Cal State University
Los Angeles.
Brocatto joined the Middlesex faculty three years ago, after
teaching at community colleges and a small private college in and
around LA. Now chairman of the Philosophy Department, he teaches
introductory philosophy and humanities courses, as well as ethics
and honors classes. He's also the president of the MCC Professional
Association (MCCPA), the local chapter of the statewide faculty/
staff union, the Massachusetts Community College Council (MCCC).
Not unlike his own experience, Brocatto finds Middlesex students
aren't always deeply invested in their education. "I often encounter
students whose first questions is, `How can I get a "C?" ' They just
want to pass the class and keep moving forward.
"My classes are meant to disrupt that. My classes are meant to
push students in the direction of, `What do you want to do with
your limited time on earth?'"
Brocatto intentionally seeks to disarm his students, especially
in "Introduction of Philosophy." "At first, they don't feel free to
express their thoughts and ideas. They think we're just talking
about these ancient guys in togas."
Philosophy Professor Provokes
Students into Thoughtful
Assistant Professor of Philosophy Carlos Brocatto teaches introductory philosophy
and humanities courses, plus ethics and honors classes.
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