Under a Green Sky: Nothing Amusing about the Game, Get that Teacher

Impact Theory: Cut School Funding, Lift a Millionaire into the Next Bracket

Rage Against the Machine

Raging and ragging. At the very idea that there is a death in the family. Rot at the core. This spasm of last-gasp lucidity. How on earth have we gotten here, the bombardment of countless blogs and internet infusions? Countless movies, sacks of lies, spoiled featurettes? Silicon transfusions!  Daily musings on diet, dress, dinner parties, libidos, vivacious Hollywood creeps, and how to write the next great American TV play, novel, screenplay. A life collected in the digital divide brought to us by Amazon dot com.

No more matinees. No more fandangos. Endless sky of the green wart. Why do I bring up the green sky, or that there might be some dynamite around that meteor impact dinosaur killing theory, well, who else is going to press the theories and challenge the dogma and the status quo, as Keith Kroll points out by citing Edward Said? Note that the impact theory was a media buzz creation. Really. And, it’s in our scientific and cultural DNA. Agnotology 101. Read on about green, hazy choking sunsets.

For instance, in my college composition classes, many times I’ve had to get science majors to take a walk on the wild side – questioning exactly why the dinosaurs went bye-bye. Or on any number of other “theories.”  I occasionally turn them onto Peter Ward, U of Washington professor:

“If you look at the fossil record, it is just littered with dead bodies (from past catastrophes),” Peter Ward says.  He says in his book, Under a Green Sky, that there were probably two events that caused one of the many extinction histories in Earth’s past. You think it’s just an asteroid impact – the event 65 million years ago that ended the age of the dinosaurs? Think also global warming. “The Earth was ‘Al Gored’,” jokes Ward.1

Peter Ward: Step one is, there’s an enormous release of flood basalts coming out of cracks in the earth, and huge amounts of magma from the deep Earth comes out. These things go on for millions of years, and the volume of lava is extraordinary. It may have covered an area the size of the continental U.S.

Now, the lava doesn’t kill much, except the poor, stupid animals that were crazy enough to be around there. But as the lava comes out, carbon dioxide bubbles out with it and a lot of carbon dioxide goes into the atmosphere to the point that we estimate the carbon dioxide levels hit 3,000 parts per million. [Current carbon dioxide levels are about 380 parts per million.]

This causes the oceans and the planet to warm, and once you do that you stop ocean currents. Once you stop currents, you lose oxygen in the ocean, because it’s circulation that keeps the ocean oxygenated. This allows a type of bacteria to take over that creates   hydrogen sulfide (H₂S). Animal life cannot live in water that has a lot of hydrogen sulfide in it. When you have concentrations of greater than 80 ppm of hydrogen sulfide, or you get up to 200 ppm, which is easily done, you’ll kill every animal [in the ocean]. Eventually so much hydrogen sulfide leaks into the atmosphere that it kills animals and plants.

Wired:We place the blame for our current global warming situation on rising CO2 levels created by man. But the previous episodes of global warming and mass extinctions were entirely the cause of nature. It seems as if we could do everything in our power to reduce man-made global warming and still face global warming and mass extinction from nature if we have flood basalts at the level that occurred during the Permian period.

Ward: Not really — those past episodes were from very rare flood basalts. There may not be another of these, as the Earth is cooling as it ages.

But we’ve had these mass extinctions [from hydrogen sulfide] when carbon dioxide has   hit 1,000 ppm. We have not hit that [level] for 100 million years. But we are currently at 380 ppm — and climbing rapidly at 2 ppm a year and accelerating — and this is the highest CO2 I think in the last 40 million years. The only time [these extinctions] ever happened in the past is when these big flood basalts happened. But now we’re making it happen far faster than the flood basalts ever did. This is a unique event in the history of the planet.

Wired: What would life look like as the Earth’s oxygen is slowly choked off by hydrogen sulfide and how long would it take?

Ward: This really is a long way off. This is something that’s going to take thousands of years. The oceans take a long time to change from oxygenated to a place where there is no oxygen on the bottom. But once it starts, you can’t stop it.

I think sea-level rise is a more imminent danger. The thing that we have to do is, we have to save the ice caps, because if the ice caps go, (the hydrogen sulfide scenario) is the inevitable next step. One thousand ppm (of CO2) is all it would take to get rid of all the ice caps on the planet. We’ll be at 1,000 in 200 years or less. Which means good-bye ice caps on planet Earth, which means 240 feet of sea level, which means good-bye San Francisco, Seattle, New York and on and on.

But if losing the ice caps makes us uncomfortable [because of rising water], the   hydrogen sulfide is going to make us extinct. In 500 years, I can see a world where    everyone will be wearing gas masks. Those that [have] them will live; those that don’t will die. We humans are here for the long haul, and if we do not stop heating our atmosphere, we will suffer a very nasty fate.2

Jobs Skills – If We Could Only Weave a Basket

Well, then in the scheme of things … Should I be lamenting community college given the green sky scenario? Some of my tender hearted environmentalist friends and wolf lovers and bird watchers, heck, they have never even heard of Peter Ward or the Green Sky Theory. What a loss of depth.

So, yes, we are doomed if education will quickly dissipate into a pre-canned, pre-packaged What-Do-The-Employers-Need-This-Year-In-Recently-Graduated (now in debt)-Compliant-Unquestioning-Techno-trons?

Is education on the way out? Is the college life false? Is democracy school a la community college dead? As I’ve proposed in part one, two, and three (all here at DV), Keith Kroll’s piece, “The End of the Community College English Profession” strikes me on many visceral and intellectual levels.

It ain’t a job center or skills center delivery system! Kroll –

Consequently it has been rather easy for politicians, corporate America, and community college leaders to diminish or ignore the community college’s academic function while    steadily turning them into job (re)training centers whose primary mission is to train workers to assume their subservient place in corporate America. That is, the Obama administration’s narrative of the community college as a job training center has not only gone all but unchallenged; instead it has been vigorously supported by politicians, the media, community college organizations, and community college administrators (Kroll and Alford).

It’s both wrong and right and tepid and prescient to flail at those sunken windmills.

What I’ve been rifting with are the ideas behind the sentences of this cognitive dissonance about what education really means to a consumer-constipated society where every new thing is marketed even in our sleep, in REM splendor. Something deeper in my own connection to education and teaching and writing and community activism — as at least part of the very foundation I have been building since 1983 as a community college and university teacher – is flowing up like liquid basalt.

Good Cop, Bad Cops – Comments Boomeranged in an age of digital commons

What’s been the result of the DV series (parts one, two, three, here) has been a fresh breath of air, emancipation, and some decent positive comments coming in from around the globe and a few anti-Haeder screeds. No big deal, and, yes, a shout out to those who like some of what I say or how I craft it.

Calling me Unabomber of Words, well, that one is interesting, for sure, coming in at me from left field — out of the blue-green sky cloud net. I doubt Ted was right in any of his cabin-in-the-woods hoarding self, but, calling me Ted Kaczynski, that is weird. Is  TECHNOLOGY evil? Never was my question.

“Technology transformed humanity into something different than it was before, into a new creation – flesh and technè,” he said.

“We are mutants now. What will come out of it nobody knows. It’s something unprecedented – and scary”…

It’s the problem of scholars, even artists: Our words have no power. We think we are changing the world – particularly on the left.  You accept your symbolic castration – that your writing will take time to have a modest influence on your contemporaries.” In other words, he accepts the compromises necessary to live a normal life, with an income, collegial support, home and family.

Yet Kaczynski’s writings and life have intrigued French Professor Jean-Marie Apostolidès by emphasizing “the relationship between writing and killing, ink and blood.”

“From a cynical perspective, I write books without killing anyone – my writing will have no impact. The only way I can be listened to is to associate my writing to something.” That is, “either your own blood or someone else’s.”3

Bashing the Arts, Education, Schools, Students, the 70 Percent — US

Like I said in Part three, there is no bed of roses following my messed up/mixed up metaphoric malapropisms. But one thing is for sure, many have read this stuff and laughed their asses off. I’m not thinking Twain, but really, what I’ve been jamming with are the ideas of death, DOA for public college and maybe the entire public education framework.

With these charlatans in the business of breaking apart – Charter Schoolers and the folk who want to gut public education curriculum to meet the parts and service economy of the Fortune 500-ers – it’s no wonder my grand sweeping comments on the failure of education might strike some as me slashing out against the vanguard, front line defenders, first responders – TEACHERS.

Wrong. I subscribe to the new perspective that is the new light seen by Diane Ravitch.4

Or Dave Lindorff here at Counterpunch on the snakes in the grass around Arne Duncan, Obama, and all educational privatizers. Read Ravtich’s book too. It’s the Get the Teachers game of the day – on FOX, in the daily partially-digested mainstream news, everywhere in all those state chambers, anywhere, especially on the blogs of Inside Higher Education and Chronicle of Higher Education.

Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of Washington, DC’s public schools, who left under a cloud after the mayor who appointed her, Adrian Fenty, was defeated in a re-election bid in which Rhee’s contentious tenure was the main issue, is at it again.

Rhee, a shameless self-promoter who already stands accused of lying on her resume about her alleged success as a teacher of elementary students, and who continues to be the subject of a US Department of Education investigation into a test cheating scandal at D.C. schools during her tenure as chancellor, is now trying to lure progressives to support her campaign against unionized teachers by pretending to have the support of the popular petition-circulating organization Change.org.

In an email blast sent out to progressives on Tuesday, Rhee’s organization StudentsFirst.org, says:

Thank you for joining StudentsFirst by signing a petition on Change.org. I’d like to tell you a bit more about what we’re fighting for.

Every morning in America, as we send eager fourth graders off to school, ready to learn with their backpacks and lunch boxes, we are entrusting them to an education system that accepts the fact that only one in three of them can read at grade level.

But studies have shown that in just one year, students with an effective teacher are able to improve by one and a half grade levels. These effects are so significant that the “achievement gap” between low-income or minority students and their wealthier or white peers can effectively be erased by only three consecutive years of highly effective teachers.

It’s time we recognize the value of great teachers. At StudentsFirst, it’s our goal to make sure every child in America has a great teacher in every classroom. From improving teacher evaluations, to ending seniority-based teacher layoffs, to paying effective teachers higher salaries and bonuses, there are many ways we can elevate the teaching profession in this country to a level that reflects its importance and attracts talented individuals to join its ranks.

Recipients of this letter may not have ever signed a StudentsFirst.org-sponsored petition on the petition site Change.org. Nor will they likely know that Rhee’s organization was actually tossed off of Change.org following protests by teachers unions and education activists who pointed out to Change.org that Rhee and StudentsFirst had supported the anti-teachers union campaign of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, that Rhee had been on the transition team of equally anti-teachers union Gov. Rick Scott, and that she and her organization had contributed $70,000 to help another anti-teacher’s union politician, Rep. Paul Scott (R-MI), fight off a recall campaign.

As DC schools chancellor, Rhee fired hundreds of teachers and principals with no due process, promoted friends and lackeys to positions of responsibility and high pay, ignored parent opinions, fostered racist policies that favored white and Asian over black  students at some wealthier schools, and, allegedly, oversaw what may have been an epic program of cheating on school assessment tests. The Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General told me that its investigation into that testing scandal is still ongoing.

Early Education Warming System

I have never believed that the teachers have been wrong to march onward in the struggle;  for the most part, to keep plugging away under all the constraints and hobbling our grand society and GOP and jack-asses and Demolishing-crats have successfully jiggered to begin a certain destruction of education, K12 or higher education. It’s noble, righteous work, teaching kids.

Educators plug away daily with these wonderful beings – children from broken homes, from the circling-drain parents who should have never conceived, from the communities of wrecked souls brought to us by Ronald McDonald and Sam Walton. From good, bad, ugly families. Kids are resilient, and their teachers are their maestros.

They go begging for school levies to pass when the no-brainer is to make the rich and corporations pay. No-brainer is also that we must girdle all those money trees they have thanks to the infinite tax loopholes. Education is the seat of civilization, and the teachers and instructors, even the superstar pompous ones, and the contingents, and all those early education workers, all of them, hands down, are a few leagues above anything coming out of the boardrooms, out of lunches with Bill and Melinda Gates.

A whole atmosphere above any Arne Duncan or Michelle Rhee. So, I take a few Australian crawls backward to clarify that I do not mean that that quote in Part One – “that life lessons and nitty-gritty of a failed K12 system like an IED every single day in their faces” – hints at anything close to an attack on teachers, or any allusion that besmirches the class of people called teachers.

What I mean is that every day, teachers, parents, students and some administrators, sure, face the hailstorm and maelstrom of bombs dropping from heaven and going off daily – bombs not set by them but by the gatekeepers and politicians and bean counters. Those people who in fact make teacher’s lives more difficult, make their teaching less about the critical reading-writing-doing skills than about the standardized test of the month activity. Those are the IEDs students and teachers face.

Teachers by the hundreds of thousands everyday fight that amnesia and misanthropic of a body public that would throw wads of tax dollars at hovering gyrocopters and self-flying drones, a body public that would give those mountains of tax relief welfare subsidies to NASCAR or Goldman Sachs, and, yet, force schools to have bake sales to raise money for a band trip?

Education costs nothing compared to the nanosecond rip-off of the DoD, Fortune 500 insider trading, lobbyists, the financial felons, the Energy mafia.

Special Education? They All Are Special!

I see my significant other – fiancé — changes lives every single day; you know, she’s a resource room wonder:  a special education professional working with reading and writing skills for kids with all sorts of special challenges – on the Autism spectrum, homeless, refugees in their own families, physical needs that would floor you, and some intellectual development challenges.

Every-single-day the clan of the former cave women (some men, but that deficit in K12 and now community college teaching is also hitting a crisis point – all over the internet, but check this Canadian study on that crisis) works magic as para-educators, counselors, psychologists, social workers, teachers and special ed practitioners.

Mea culpa if I insulted the teaching class, since my writing is a dervish and an IED against empire all rolled up in a messed up metaphoric meteoric word flailing exercise in screaming in the woods.

MY GRIPE is with the admin class, institutional leadership “things,” the politicians and so-called think tank whizzes, all those corporations and foundations gutting basic education principles – you gotta teach face-to-face, in classrooms that aren’t prison experiments, and with tools and funding that do not evaporate depending on zip code and the market value of the 4000 square foot home or 600 square foot mobile home. Equity in education.

Fund it now, and early. This isn’t about Montessori Madness. Basic strong schools with community input and buy in, parents invest but not taking over, and school boards that do not go after teachers who teach kids to question and think.

Fund it early: He’s a U of Chicago economist talking nitty-gritty about the value – economic – of early education funding and really, daycare as classroom funding.5

For that, John Heckman had to reject nearly half a century of conventional wisdom about education. He had to get over IQ.

“The so-called science of education in the 1960s was all based on cognitive psychology. And the measure of what schools created was IQ,” Heckman says. “And so you say, ‘Okay, IQ is very important.’ And it is important. But what it also missed was there are all these other traits that somehow got lost.”

These were the traits that were emphasized at the Perry Preschool project. Heckman says the Perry preschoolers planned out their activity for the day, they did the activity and then they reviewed the activity. It was an exercise of keeping kids on task, teaching them persistence and self-control.

“So it was teaching these social skills, some people say teaching character,” Heckman says. “And that’s the hidden dimension of this program, which is totally ignored in the current public policy.”

And that’s what Heckman is trying to change. He now leads a team of about 40 researchers and staff. He has a D.C. based public relations firm, paid for with private grant money.

All of it to investigate and spread – or even preach – the idea that preschool matters – not just to the children, but to our economy.

“Because there are huge economic returns,” Heckman says. “And intellectually, it creates huge, very interesting problems for economists to solve. I mean, these are economic problems: skills. We’re talking about producing skills. Skills are the core of the modern economy.”

Heckman says the earlier you start building those skills, the more return there is for society.

More is Better … and Neoliberalism is Entropy

So, hands down, my credo is MORE education money. More teachers. More technology. More men teaching, and more para-educators, and more team teaching, and more parent-teacher conferences, and more whip snapping at the employers who fail to give single people and parents time off to be the community that is the school.

A million teachers, even those stragglers, the rotten ones, or untrained ones, or even those that need some revamping, no matter the number of sensationalist skewed stories in the US media about bad teacher X or warped coach Y or out-of-touch principal Z, hands down, I’d take a semi-broken educational system – K12, community college, land grant schools, private non-profits, tech schools all humming together, linked arm in arm – over a well-oiled fully and grossly overfunded military machine, or a laggard-filled congress, or any number of business groups tied to Tea Party, Brookings Institute or Hoover think tank illogic.

Teachers are a breed unto themselves, and, if you can’t teach, do something less worthy. Sell that bound-to-break consumer product or that PT Barnum hedge fund security or some other load of crap. If you can’t teach, get out of the way and let us TEACH.

Here he is talking to business leaders – Heckman at his best:

Okay, back to Keith Kroll and the death of the community college English Department (et al):

As both an economic policy and political strategy, neoliberalism refuses to sustain the social wage, destroys those institutions that maintain social provisions, privatizes all institutions associated with the public good, and narrows the role of the state to both a gatekeeper for capital and a policing force for maintaining social order and racial control. [...] [A]s an economic policy, neoliberalism allows a handful of private interests to control all aspects of society, and defines society exclusively through the privileging of market relations, deregulations, privatization, and consumerism. As a political philosophy, neoliberalism construes a rationale for a handful of private interests to    control as much of social life as possible to maximize their financial investments. [...] Central to neoliberal philosophy is the claim that the development of all aspects of society should be left to the wisdom of the market. (Giroux and Giroux 72)

Made over in the image of corporate culture, schools are now valued not as a public good but as a private interest; hence, the appeal of such schools is less their capacity to educate students according to the demands of critical citizenship than their capacity to enable students to master the requirements of a market-driven economy. This is not education but training. (Giroux 102)

While some might argue that Giroux’s critique of neoliberalism represents a radical or leftist interpretation, he is by no means alone. Education scholars across the ideological spectrum have criticized neoliberalism’s influence on education. In Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, Martha C. Nussbaum, the well-known scholar of the humanities, criticizes the business model that promotes economic growth, profits, and job training as the purpose of higher education to the exclusion of the liberal arts. She writes at the end of Not for Profit: Distracted by the pursuit of wealth, we increasingly ask our schools to turn out useful profit-makers rather than thoughtful citizens. Under pressure to cut costs, we prune away just those parts of the educational endeavor that are crucial to preserving a healthy society.  What will we have, if these trends continue? Nations of technically trained people who do not know how to criticize authority, useful profit-makers with obtuse imaginations. (141-42)

Education historian Diane Ravitch, a former assistant secretary of education in the George H. W. Bush administration, one of the original proponents of charter schools, and author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing          and Choice Are Undermining Education, argues that the economic model that promotes free-market ideology is misguided and inappropriate for education. She writes, “The new corporate reformers betray their weak comprehension of education by drawing   false analogies between education and business” (11). In Community College Faculty: At Work in The New Economy, John S. Levin, Susan Kater, and Richard L. Wagoner write, “The neo-liberal project applied to higher education has resulted in a stretching of    institutional purposes to fashion colleges and universities as businesses serving private and individual interests” (5). These authors, all well-respected education scholars, reach similar conclusions: the greatest threat to higher education, including the community college, is the neoliberal economic and political ideology and policies that inform corporate America and government at all levels and that envision higher education, except perhaps its most elite institutions, as a business whose central mission is job training.

Death of Resisters

Maybe the death of English Departments is the death of liberalism at its core, decades ago.  Here as an example of a symbol of that death when the university systems fell over like a jimson-weed-chomping goat in the 1950s, as we can see from a blacklisted faculty member, Chandler Davis. As one of Chris Hedges articles points out, Davis, “after serving six months in the Danbury federal penitentiary for refusing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), warned the universities that ousted him and thousands of other professors that the purges would decimate the country’s intellectual life.”

Davis in his 1959 essay, “From an Exile” –

You must welcome dissent; you must welcome serious, systematic, proselytizing dissent—not only the playful, the fitful, or the eclectic; you must value it enough, not merely to refrain from expelling it yourselves, but to refuse to have it torn from you by outsiders. You must welcome dissent not in a whisper when alone, but publicly so potential dissenters can hear you. What   potential dissenters see now is that you accept an academic world from which we are excluded for our thoughts. This is a manifest signpost over all your arches, telling them: Think at your peril. You must not let it stand. You must (defying outside power; gritting your teeth as we grit ours) take us back.

This failure now to develop a plan to stop privatizers’ and the corporate storm-troopers’ reach — Bill Gates-Pearson Publishing-Murdoch-MOOC — will reach us like a nuclear swat, which is scooping out the brain cells of faculty and students alike.

Jane Jacobs on a new ugly dark zombie-filled Age

The failure to grow the very concept of universal education, and a repository of not just knowledge and provocative and ungraspable ideas, but a place of understanding the soul, whether a shop class aficionado or quantum physics guru, is tied to the very devaluing of community of place, the soul of the city Jane Jacobs wrote about more than 50 years ago.

And her Dark Age Ahead eight years ago?

Jacobs puts down five pillars of modern society which are in peril. The chapter titles explicate:

I.     The Hazard — A historical overview of what happens to societies whose “internal jolts” have led to a dark age.
II.     Families Rigged to Fail — Communities and families are inextricably intertwined, and families have come under great economic and social strain in the 20th century because of the Great Depression and World War II.
III.     Credentialing versus Educating — Universities have turned to a mass-production model that has substituted credentialing for education.
IV.     Science Abandoned — Science becomes irrelevant when it is done by drones who do not understand the scientific method, and technology is adversely affected.
V.     Dumbed-Down Taxes — Government succeeds with “subsidiarity,” that is, working responsibly, responsively and closely with the people it represents. It also depends on fiscal accountability; that is, transparency in its transactions. Anything less leads to economic and social distortions and, ultimately, failure.
VI.     Self-Policing Subverted — Professions that fail to police their members’ ethics — including not only accountancy but notably police forces, which are notoriously self-protective — lapse into endless corruption and scandal.
VII.     Unwinding Vicious Spirals — Cultural and political mistakes are interlocking cause and effect, but they can be corrected.
VIII.     Dark Age Patterns — Paradigms of civilization have succeeded one another. Hunter-gathering was replaced by agriculture, which is being replaced in turn by an age of “ingenuity” that includes the Industrial and post-Industrial eras.

Note “Credentialing versus Educating” in this 2004 Jane Jacobs thesis. And these words from Dark Age Ahead:

Cultural xenophobia is a frequent sequel to a society’s decline from cultural vigor. Someone has aptly called self-imposed isolation a fortress mentality. [The theologian Karen] Armstrong describes it as a shift from faith in logos, reason, with its future-oriented spirit, “always … seeking to know more and to extend … areas of competence and control of the environment,” to mythos, meaning conservatism that looks backward to fundamentalist beliefs for guidance and a worldview. (p. 17) Let things grow. Don’t let currently powerful government or commercial enterprises strangle new departures, or alternatively gobble them as soon as they show indications of being economic successes. Stop trying to cram too many eggs into too few baskets under the keeping of too few supermen (who don’t actually exist except in our mythos) (p. 170).

Social Species, Social Being-ness, Social Enterprise

An intricate social system – that’s what community is, that’s what bricks and mortar are, that’s what K12 and onward to higher education are. Lifetime education, whether you are in it for Shop Class as Soul Craft or some other more lofty reason.

So, yes, fundamental education – pre-school, early education, special education, experiential, and of course the math, science, writing and reading that must take place in a modern public elementary, middle and high school – that’s our cultural and civic and community and climate salvation:

High-school shop-class programs were widely dismantled in the 1990s as educators prepared students to become “knowledge workers.” The imperative of the last 20 years to round up every warm body and send it to college, then to the cubicle, was tied to a vision of the future in which we somehow take leave of material reality and glide about in a pure information economy. This has not come to pass. To begin with, such work often feels more enervating than gliding. More fundamentally, now as ever, somebody   has to actually do things: fix our cars, unclog our toilets, build our houses.

When we praise people who do work that is straightforwardly useful, the praise often     betrays an assumption that they had no other options. We idealize them as the salt of  the earth and emphasize the sacrifice for others their work may entail. Such sacrifice     does indeed occur — the hazards faced by a lineman restoring power during a storm come to mind. But what if such work answers as well to a basic human need of the one        who does it? I take this to be the suggestion of Marge Piercy’s poem “To Be of Use,”  which concludes with the lines “the pitcher longs for water to carry/and a person for     work that is real.” Beneath our gratitude for the lineman may rest envy.6

This death and dying of community campus life, well, it can’t happen so easily, so quickly, so profoundly disconnected to any community outpouring and rebuff and revolution.

Maybe what I do with motorcycle mechanics and chemical dependency majors and musicians who want to be pediatricians and future biologists and planners and all those wanting arts and fame and business and fame, even the few that raise their hands when I ask – “Who in here is going into education, teaching?” – maybe all of that is the reason why I put so much of my faith in my K12 life, and so much of my time teaching high school students in my college classes in these maybe questionable programs called, Running Start.

There should be MORE days for school, more hands-on, more shadowing professionals, more show and tell, more school gardens and community service programs tied to the K12 schools. More men teaching, more males sticking it out in higher education, more people really just saying, Fuck the consumer hamster wheel. Fuck the debt. Fuck that dream.

Writing Out of Oblivion

As a writer, I do that all the time – fuck this, fuck that. But the lessons I bring to myself are tied to that narrative link that I believe all great boys and girls, middle passage men and women, gray panthers of all sexual orientations, all class of people, all points in the pluralistic playground, all of them should have their voices raised above the din of reality fame, 15 minutes between commercial fame, way past that soap opera world that is posing in their heads as reality, or even as a check out.

So, again, writing as the seat of all education which is the seat of all transformation in our world. It’s there, and here are some oddly weird but real lessons. From Verlyn Klinkenborg, The Rural Life and Timothy, or Notes of an Abject Reptile. Simple precepts:

• “Writing is thinking. It is hard. You must learn to think yourself. Go think.  The more you do, you can remember what you thought about. Writers fail as writers because they fail to think. The literature that’s great is a product of thought and choices.”

• “Notice what interests you. Most people have no idea. Care about what you care about. Being a writer is a perpetual act of self-authorization. Authority is ultimately something the reader holds. But vital.”

• “The sentence is the basis of your art. Think, make sentences, and revise. Rhythm is everything, first and last. Talking is natural, writing is not. It takes years of work. ‘Flow’ is not real and leads to loss of confidence. It is hard work and does not flow. Write short sentences. Let each sentence carry a small quantity of information. See Orwell: Write so clearly you can see what you have not said.”

• “You need a technical knowledge of grammar and syntax. Your writing is your responsibility. You are your first and only editor. You are responsible for etymology. You will need to look up nearly every word for a while. Proofread a piece with a paper under each line. Have someone read your piece to you.”

• “Chronology is a trap. It’s not natural; our own interior world is not chronological. Always resist chronology. Narrative is very hard. Very rare, even in novels. Be the narrator. Endings are not hard. Readers—all people—are used to endings.”

• “Writing is to offer your testimony on the nature of existence. It’s a moral act. Cleverness is its own punishment. Your job is to testify.”

Kroll, again, with sound advice:

We need to act in our communities by protesting unfair labor practices and social inequality.   None of this will be easy. It’s highly doubtful it’s why most of us entered the profession. It’s far  removed from the job description of a community college English teacher. But not to act, not to resist, means the end of any chance that the community college can achieve its ideal as “democracy’s college.” In that case, the “grand experiment” will have failed.

We as adjuncts will have been failed.7

Finally, a call to action, this year, in Boston, minutes ago, passed 115 to 1, at the Modern Language Association Convention – sort of a radical caucus of adjuncts.

MLA caved here.

Check out the NFM – faculty majority.

A Motion to Fight the De-professionalization of Education

The point of my first three parts and what I plan to end this series looking deep and long at – motions to address the perma-temp-ization of humanity!

MOTION to ADDRESS the de-professionalization of U.S. higher education.

1. Whereas a significant expression of the de-professionalization of US higher education is the growing reliance on part-time (50.7%) and contingent (75.5%) faculty members;

2. Whereas no data on part-time faculty pay and working conditions is required of institutions, as part of the mandated federal data collection system, which makes historical and institutional comparisons of part-time faculty pay and benefits difficult;

3. Whereas the MLA has been an important contributor to the 2012 Coalition on the Academic Workforce (CAW) survey, and has undertaken other internal efforts, which together have begun long overdue data collection and the formulation of guidelines on contingent and part-time faculty working conditions and pay;

4. Whereas the 2012 Coalition on the Academic Workforce (CAW) reports that the average pay for part-time faculty is less than $3000/course, or $24,000 for an average full-time< equivalent (FTE) workload;

5. Whereas The Adjunct Project has assembled data from part-time faculty at over 2200 institutions that indicate a significant number of institutions in the United States pay less than $2000 per course, or $16,000 per year for an average FTE workload;

6. Whereas students, parents, high school guidance counselors, and even trustees in some districts are largely unaware of the pay and working conditions of part-time and contingent faculty;

7. Whereas many faculty members hired by the course are denied unemployment compensation between terms despite not having reasonable assurance of further employment;

BE IT MOVED that the MLA ACTIVELY PROMOTE the establishment of more comprehensive, mandated, national part-time faculty and contingent working condition and pay data;

ENCOURAGE members’ institutions to collect and publicize more data about part-time/full-time faculty ratios, as well as part-time faculty pay, and working conditions, to trustees, parents, students, and high school guidance counselors;

CREATE and PUBLICIZE a database of institutions whose part-time faculty pay and working conditions reach the MLA Recommendation on Minimum Per-Course Compensation for Part-Time Faculty Members;

ACTIVELY SUPPORT the NEA/New Faculty Majority request that the Department of Labor clarify that part-time faculty do not have a reasonable assurance of continued employment and thus are eligible for unemployment benefits between terms; and

SUPPORT part-time, contingent probationary non-tenured and allied tenured faculty in their efforts to improve the professional conditions of labor in higher education.

Submitted by Margaret Hanzimanolis, De Anza College (Cupertino, CA), Cañada College (Redwood City, CA), City College of San Francisco (San Francisco, California) (ude.adhfnull@msilonamiznah) on behalf of the Radical Caucus of the MLA

Maria Maisto, New Faculty Majority & New Faculty Majority Foundation (Akron, OH) Cuyahoga Community College (Cleveland, Ohio) (ofni.ytirojamytlucafwennull@otsiam.airam)

Karen Lentz Madison, University of Arkansas (Fayetteville, Arkansas) (ude.kraunull@nosidamk)

  1. Jeff Hecht, “Two separate extinctions brought end to dinosaur era,” New Scientist. []
  2. Kim Zetter, “Hydrogen Sulfide May Kill Us, Bring Us Back to Life,” Wired, 3 March 2008. []
  3. Cynthia Haven, “Unabomber’s writings raise uneasy ethical questions for Stanford scholar,” Stanford News, 1 February 2010. []
  4. Unmasking Michelle Rhee’s Right-Wing Agenda,” Diane Ravitch’s blog, 19 November 2012. []
  5. How a Nobel Prize-winning economist became an advocate for preschool,” State of Opportunity, 28 November 2012. []
  6. See Matthew B. Crawford, “The Case for Working With Your Hands,” NYT, 24 May 2009. []
  7. Jeff Nall, “The Abysmal State of Adjunct Pay and Actions to Create Change,” Z Communications, December 2012. Louise Birdsell Bauer, “
    Permanently Precarious? Contingent Academic Faculty Members, Professional Identity and Institutional Change in Quebec Universities
    ,” Academia.edu. []

Paul Kirk has been a journalist since 1977. He's covered police, environment, planning and zoning, county and city politics, as well as working in true small town/community journalism situations in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico and beyond. He's been a part-time faculty since 1983, and as such has worked in prisons, gang-influenced programs, universities, colleges, alternative high schools, language schools, as a private contractor-writing instructor for US military in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Washington. Read other articles by Paul.