Part five, end of a series on education and its death knell
Okay, okay – We all have axes to grind. Mine? Well, take a look at the themes, topics, subthemes, harangues in the DV articles others write, and what I’ve written, and then you have a partial list: the entire card catalogue of things I’m interested in, passionate about, and willing to take a few hits for.
Yeah, I don’t dig green washing or blue washing or eco-pornography. So I write about it. Here is my piece in Planning Magazine I just found surfing the WWW in a class in urban planning taught at UC-Davis.
Yep, I know what deep ecology is and how it should be practiced. Give me restorative justice and restorative conservation any day of the week. Y2Y – Yelllowstone to Yukon? Right on – remember that biodiversity project? The buffalo commons — repopulating North Dakota with buffalo so those grasslands can come back – along with hundreds of other species? Sort of a giant carbon sink, restorative conserving? Not now with the gasification projects there in Lakota land. How about the rights of first nations peoples? What about the 5 e-s to sustainability? Yep, I know it’s a population problem thing, but I can’t sign off with environmentalists who oppose immigration (Zero Population anyone?) and then fail to attack the lifestylisms of the American, Western, Northern Hemisphere upper income pukes. Here’s a piece I did on my trip to Vietnam a while back – Bat Caves, page 88 in the edition.
Free speech, real press, fantastic support for the arts, end of military midget mentality. Call a spade a spade, and, yes, not voting for something is voting for something. Lesser of what two evils? It’s what goes on in my classroom … or at least over the years I’ve taught college: 1983-2011. Now, I am on the chopping block, er, the job market. Proud, 55, younger-than-the-average-white-male-who-is-old-at-25-in-America, full of experience, classes taught, students inspired.
But still, way too left of Marx to hit the mark in today’s job market.
I get what DV and Counterpunch and Mother Jones, Bitch Magazine, Dissent, Z-Net, all of them, what they are trying to do, and yet … just putting down a few hundred or thousand words … in Amerika … well, this wonderful cloud forest of binary bionics can get a man or gal in trouble. You put my name in a Metacrawler search, and, well, what you get are the many hats of the ADJUNCT faculty trying to make livings in Amerika.
You think Corporation X or non-profit Y or government agency Z is NOT going to do a quick internet hunt for subversive, anti-status quo, bombastic, brightly lit diatribes of an incendiary kind to end some sop’s exercise in futility called “getting a good job” hunting?
Security State Apparatus Deployed 24/7 – Total Awareness Program Syndrome (TAPS) but Little Empathy
Right. We’ve empowered the entire security state to scrub what it wants to and seek what it fabricates into all those blatant “you-can’t-work-here-because-of-what-you-write” rejections. If we even get an answer back on our numerous job application queries-slash-submissions.
It’s probably worse than the mooning photos on Spring Break or the Jell-shots of Vodka around the bonfire put on Facebook. All of it is monitoring. RFID children at Disneyland. Track, track, track. Right now, in Amerika, any amount of push or heave or kicking-of-the-can against the A-Team’s Pogrom is justification for a warrantless wiretap and uninitiated job rejection.
If you even get that in today’s world of demanding resume, cover letter, focused responses to selected essay questions, CV, EEOC statement, and writing-teaching-etc. samples. I have applied to some of the more prominent places in the Pacific Northwest, even many self-identifying as “progressive” or “liberal.” You think they even send back an email thanking you for applying? You think you get any word back that your application ended up on the dartboard or in the bathroom? You think these oh-so justice-oriented, equal-rights-loving, animal-saving, human-caring organizations really care about us – Prospective Candidates for Jobs?
That is the emptiness of the job market, whether it’s the 18-year-old or 60-year-old jumping through hoops. And, to be honest, a whole other article on DV from yours truly could be quickly penned on the plight of the aged unemployed in an ageist and elitist society. Maybe soon … check back here.
But back to square one –Part Five of the look at the death of my family. Community College education. Keith Kroll’s piece: “The End of the Community College English Profession1 … we’ll get to it. Imagine, though, that DV could just have a category, Daily EDUCATION Log, and pronounce daily the musings, reports, opinion pieces and investigations around E-D-U-C-A-T-I-O-N. They come in daily. Really (see the end of this piece).
Don’t mistake my lamentations about the death of democratic schooling and my frontal assaults on the bean counters, MBAs, the institutional leadership CEO types who have taken over education as a way to pad retirements and dismantle what counts – smart, trained, critically thinking, knowledgeable folk. They are not attacking teachers. Really. School is about the living building challenge and the very ideas YET TO BE hatched, or about how to really do preventative physical health-mental health care outside any current model or paradigm. School is where the ideas of the unknowable sprout; where the forces of conflict have confabs; where the energy of generations not yet born is folded into a planetary design that imagines a world without guns, war, poverty?
Yeah, laugh. That’s what you are suppose to do. There, in the classroom, alive and trying to coax your own plane of thought into another plane of existence. Community of ideas, purpose and physicality.
So, let me tell you that, a, something smells in Denmark around this floundering education system, and, b, there are all sorts of bright little gobs of phosphorescence hope floating off in the Sargasso Sea giving rise to knowledge. Teachers, innovators, visionaries, students – what we should be setting up for success: Solutionaries . Right?
Humane education? Come on now, open that mind!
The Institute for Humane Education:
Has been training humane educators and promoting comprehensive humane education since 1996.
Created the first humane education training certificate program in the U.S., as well as the first Master of Education in Humane Education in the U.S. and offers several graduate programs in humane education.
Has trained thousands of humane educators reaching thousands of students.
Has reached hundreds of thousands of people and communities worldwide through our graduate and online programs, workshops, presentations, publications and website.
Inoculation Program – Keeping Ignorance to a Bare Minimum
From around the world, I know of dozens of powerful immunization programs attempting to eradicate ignorance, hate, toxicity, violence, prejudice, xenophobia, empire, despotism, environmental rapine. Wouldn’t it be great if DV or others too would have these daily briefings and stories emanating from around the world on how powerful the forces of teaching and working with students are – any number of schools, traditional or not, working to actually SAVE kids.
I’ve taught at some alternative schools – Contract Based Education in Spokane comes to mind. College English composition teacher working with homeless kids, kids on couches, kids with old men in jail and old women moms at age 29 working on 12-year meth addictions. You talk about learning curves and challenges. You think we need less of these alternative schools? Think again in the Republican-Democratic world of All-Corporations-Dominate-the-Entire-Shooting-Match game.
And they get walloped – defunded by both the big unqualified and untested politicians and those members of the corporate posse — muggers of humanity, masochists against communities, militarists fighting against the family. Defunded community colleges, wrecked programs like Seattle Central Community College’s film program, and completely shat upon schools shuttered up and depopulated by so-called business leaders wanting compliant and fearful workers to sell more broken dreams on the worldwide web, next day shipping additional costs.
But, there are glimmers of hope:
Portland Youth Builders is one in 250 Youth Builder programs – giving 16-24 year olds schooling for GED certificates, movement and support into colleges and of course construction experience.
Again, defunding every step of the way toward a healthy community – an educated one. You can read the stories here – see how many programs have seen federal grants get cut. Why?
There Are No Final Words …Life as a Tenderfoot in a Shifting Baselines Hell
So, this final installment of the critique of the Keith Kroll piece on the death of community college is not the final word on higher education. It comes out daily – check out the University of Phoenix story in Alternet.com. Additionally, always check the comments section – a good gauge of black v. white bifurcated thinking, a real litmus test on what true revolutionaries have to face.2
Of course, the articles sometime miss the ENTIRE point, or the under girder of a larger sickness. That is what I have been harping on from day one – shifting baselines kill brain cells and discourse. I always go back to nature and the environment, but a shifting baseline isn’t just technical in its origins –
“Perceiving Change and Knowing Nature: Shifting Baselines and Nature’s Resiliency” … But it certainly helps me explain to friends, foes and students alike that what they know or see or perceive now is NOT HOW things were, should be, must be and will be.
However, since I believe in the 5 e’s of true sustainability – economy, energy, education, equity, environment – I have to say this list is predicated on the last e – environment. Without that, well, screw energy, screw equity, screw economy, and, well, maybe education or de-education is what’s left when the sky is green and the oceans acid!
It’s even called a syndrome SBS, shifting baselines syndrome. And it’s too easy to leave it in the arena of science, or ecological sciences. Just put in the blank _______ a constructed field or theme in modern civilization and then follow up with, SBS. For instance – The Press and SBS. Or, Politics and SBS. Education and SBS. You get the picture. And the conundrum really – we have way too much junk and pabulum and consumer-marketed idiocy; way too much shitty writing, shitty shows, shitty radio, shitty thinkers, shitty things to recreate around. Alas, we then end up facing these metacognitive Herculean problems – What is the Value of Work? What is the Value of Participatory Democracy? What is the Value in Teaching Communitarian Principles? What is Culture? What is Art? What is Our Role in the West in Stopping Empire? What is Humanity? What are the Rights of man-woman-child? Is there an inherent Value in The Rights of Nature?
All these cool topics, all these things already researched and written about, all these super-thinkers and organizers and workers have figured out a lot of stuff. But, when the SBS hits, we have people that are running around like ants with no collective DNA; like chimps in diapers with iPads; like devolved media-eating species with oil in our veins. Check this trailer out by one of my friends who ended up just going to the British Petroleum felony fields on the Gulf Coast on his own and made a movie about that experience.
Ya see, as an adjunct faculty member in Spokane, I worked my ass off to connect with people like Mar Gauthier, with projects like his that have some larger purpose. I ended up working on a column and helping Marc Gauthier with this project to leave Spokane with video camera in hand and sea kayak strapped onto rent-a-car and then document what he might be able to do about offering clean-up help, since he has a degree in wildlife biology and experience. You want the flick? Contact me, but watch the trailer. And read my column (called “Dispatches from a Disaster“) because there is no telling when the Spokesman Review will bring down the cool web site, Down to Earth NW. And then, poof, it all vanishes. The newspaper says it couldn’t sell enough ads, and they could not get old print guys and gals to see that maybe a sustainability-climate change blog might be important in this day and age of burning Australia and drowning Pakistan?
Again, another concept close to the SBS (shifting baseline syndrome) is agnotology – erasing facts from history or just putting wrong facts into our collective consciousness until we don’t know up from down, blue from red, solar flares from ozone hole.
Precarious, Poor, Homeless and We Are the Power
Again, this column in DV is about the death of community college, but more importantly, it’s about not enough of us who are precarious workers standing up to power. We slither away toward the credit card god and the get-a-house-mortgage mania. But, unfortunately, many of us are near homeless – hence, the Homeless Adjunct Project.
So, now what? All these stories about education on the ropes. All these nightmares called charter schools for the rich. All these lies by Gates and Bezos and Walton and Bloomberg about privatizing schools as the next new-best-golden thing. For investors, maybe. But for students?
Watered down, dumb downed, hijacked, forced thinking, the end of humanities-soft sciences and objective science and engineering as we know them. Hello business school double think. Get those girls in scrubs and boys in overalls as quickly as possible. Who the hell was Howard Zinn? Rachel Carson? Maya Angelou? Walt Whitman? Professional athletes? Business owners? CEOs?
The Three r’s: Revolt, Reclaim, Reorganize
Before we get to the standardized group think, all those articulation programs to make all schools fit together seamlessly, all those common core standards presented by the Department of Education, you know — the reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmatic – does anyone want to take a stab at the endemic issue that is really the undertow of this society’s great society failings?
Poverty. Here is a new piece from Teaching Tolerance: “Struggling in Suburbia.”
The explosion in suburban poverty is part of a larger, more disturbing trend. Childhood poverty nationwide is at its highest point since 1993, with 16.5 million, or 22 percent of children ages 18 and under living in poor families, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Race is still a factor. For African-American children, the poverty rate was 38 percent; for Latino children, it was 32 percent.
Being classified as “poor” means that a family of four earns no more than $22,314. However, the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University estimates that families typically need twice that income to cover their basic needs. That looser definition puts 44 percent of American children in low-income families.
The growth in suburban poverty has had a major impact on suburban schools, like those near Denver. Without the safety net of social services that city governments provide for the urban poor, suburban schools have had to scramble to set up programs that address basic needs, such as adequate food and clothing, for their students from low-income families.
The Jeffco district has established school-based food banks and an emergency fund for health needs, such as eyeglasses or medication. It also has held clothing drives at schools with large homeless populations. Schools feed students free or low-cost meals during the week, but not on the weekends. So 13 Jeffco schools have partnered with community sponsors and local food banks to provide food for the weekends.
At Parr, school officials have even altered the curriculum to accommodate homeless students. But some teachers have not adjusted to the new reality. “If a student has neither the place nor the tools with which to complete tasks sent home, they are often reprimanded or punished by missing recess,” Lechner says. “This makes our homeless population feel even more singled out and ostracized.”
Teachers can help by simply “being there,” or just inherently having a bricks and mortar school in the first place; being part of a larger web; and knowing their students better. You know, confronting biased statements about rednecks or white trash or hobos being poor. The houseless community needs teachers, needs schools, and needs empathy.
But as David McKay Wilson states, it’s up to the ADMIN class of folk, the ones who have been asleep at the wheel, passed out at the helm, unconscious at the joy stick:
But much of the most important work needs to take place at the administrative level. Here are some tips for school administrators who might be seeing widespread poverty at school for the first time:
Watch for changes of address. Families facing sudden poverty may move a lot. In many cases, the parents are understandably afraid their children will be forced out of a desirable school or district. This puts great stress on the students—stress the school or district can ease in part by helping the parents understand their rights.
Work around the car culture. Gasoline and car maintenance can be huge expenses. Don’t assume that parents can always shuttle their kids to and from school activities.
Become familiar with the McKinney-Vento Act. This federal law guarantees the rights of children and youth experiencing homelessness to a free and appropriate public education. It requires a local homeless education liaison in every school district. It also ensures enrollment, access to services, school stability and academic support.
Help with fees. Students who are suddenly impoverished usually avoid field trips and extracurricular activities that require fees. In some cases, they’ll even misbehave right before a big event to be prohibited from going. Make sure teachers are on the lookout for this behavior, and make sure the school has a response. For example, see if the PTA can create a fund to keep these students from being marginalized.
Find out what’s needed. Ask parents what’s needed to help their children stay in school. Perhaps they need the library open late a few nights a week to have a place to go after school. Perhaps students need more computer access to complete assignments. Perhaps they need help with meals or transportation.
Provide services. After the problems have been identified, advocate for ways to address them.
Car culture ripping apart expenses and communities; houselessness and the inability to be counted as real, worthy, employable; federal mandate to educate and support homeless students; pay for activities and jungle gyms and field trips; libraries that stay open; meals and transportation; and, services.
Get the picture yet? Why public community colleges may be soon over? Community colleges used to be the hub of services and activities and connecting the dots for all sorts of community partnerships. Really. Now, day care is being cut, night class offerings axed, mandates to get out in three years; all sorts of fees and tuition hikes; cutting teachers and increasing class sizes; cutting innovative programs like photography and the arts; just plain dumb-ass moves to gut those community colleges.
Did we get it yet? Community colleges should be where public employees have meetings. Mayors and councils should be forced to hold meetings there. Businesses should do business at the college campuses. Homeless advocates. All sorts of community groups should be encouraged to use the campuses. And, yes, temporary shelter vis-à-vis Habitat for Humanity and other programs.
Yet, the business community, like the little God Fathers that they are, just fight and fight almost anything a community college does. It’s pathetic.
“Poor Teacher Will Teach for Food” on a sign at the MLA conference in Seattle
Here’s a person on the adjunct listserve that I receive daily. Discussing issues around empowering adjunct faculty in the US – some 1.5 million of us. It’s in response to some debate about what is more important – getting more pay for PhDs and master master’s degree holders (in composition, after all the work, all the prep, all the grading, all the outside work – oh, $7 to $10 an hour) OR having more job security (eleventh hour appointments, hired the week classes begin, fired a week after a class doesn’t “make”)?
I would just like to stress the point about job security not being a sole focus and take issue with the notion that job security is the main reason colleagues are “frozen and inactive.” It’s not like tenured faculty are so outspoken or active resisting privatization, corporatization, cuts to funding, or elimination of programs. There are complex reasons why so many people are fearful of taking steps to make change. One enormous problem for “contingent” faculty is their unwillingness to identify themselves and their own plight. If pretending to be a professor is more important that bringing the details of the problem to light, then it is difficult to address the problem. My experience tells me that people come forward most easily when they are involved with large numbers of people and in alliance with diverse populations. I constantly try (as I know many of you do too) to set an example of how an “insecure contingent” part-time lecturer can come forward, speaking publically and honestly, advocating for faculty and students, and still be teaching 34 years. Being courageous encourages others to have courage: after all, there are no complete protections. The only way to eliminate contingency is to eliminate the economic advantages to it and that means pro-rata pay, benefits, etc. The tenured faculty should have recognized this a long time ago (some have) and done something to prevent the erosion of the profession but, alas, they have been “frozen and inactive” even with their tenure.
The law of the unionizing jungle is to ALWAYS work for the weakest, least powerful in your bargaining unit. That’s the part-timers, the adjunct faculty. They are stripped of any power, and, as the writer above alludes, they are also caught in sort of a Stockholm syndrome, as in identifying with their oppressors – mostly deans and budget admin types, but also faculty with tenure.
Luckily, even if one person is moved to respond or stand up or coalesce with others in the oppressed groups, coming out of one of my pieces at DV, well, so be it. Here is someone corresponding with me recently referencing my DV parts one, two, three, and four “education and community college suicide pieces”:
As a 51-year old “adjunct” at two community colleges, I really appreciated your analysis in Dissident Voice. I actually work at a worst case scenario community college, Burlington County College in New Jersey: 91% adjuncts and the county has cut its funding by 95% over the last five years (from $12 million/yr to 1/2 million/yr. The school is extremely anti-union and has cut its staff to the bone. Some of the full-time staff are also adjuncts. I’m not sure how many actually have advanced degrees in the area they teach.
Perhaps you could use this school in one of your articles.
New Jersey of all places, huh? That pathetic governor grand standing with his corpulence to get another term in office. Around Hurricane Sandy? So much for his Republican party working that American Patriotic Magic During a National-Natural Crisis (read, “Climate Change, baby”). Then, of course, this adjunct who wrote me wrote a follow up email after I agreed that we need more publicity here of the worst case scenarios leading to the ultimate death of community colleges.
I agree with you that we have to get “the worst case scenario” of higher education into the public consciousness, but it’s not easy. I don’t sense much interest from my adjunct local (AFT Local 2222) at Camden County College.
As for Burlington County College, the media in Burlington County are conservative, so the information does not get into the public. There is one newspaper, the Burlington County News, and they get advertising revenue from the community college. Here’s a document, however, showing the dismal 3-year graduation rate (20%), the adjunct percentage rate (91%, teaching 75% of the classes), and the 95% cut in county funding, something that few people would read. It also shows how much support comes from federal funds (about $15 million), an enormous amount in relation to county ($ .5 million) and state (about $2.7 million). I’m not sure that this even shows the huge amount of funding that is coming through GI benefits.
It really is more of a federal college.
I suppose a similar scenario occurs where there are Democratic machines (like in Camden, NJ) who don’t want to change things either.
Unionize, but Only Go So Far
So, what I was doing for Service Employees International Union in Seattle was trying to initiate a push to organize adjunct-part-time-contingent faculty in the state of Washington with one giant caveat – only go after the 10 independent colleges, i.e. private non-profits. Seattle University, Pacific Lutheran U in Tacoma, Whitman College in Walla Walla and others like Gonzaga and Whitworth universities in Spokane.
We’re talking about colleges that charge $38,000 to $50,000 for tuition and board and room a year. We’re talking liberal arts colleges, and a student population that’s around 56 – 60 percent female. We’re talking about a lot of music and nursing and education majors, racking up debts from state, federal and private shyster loans for jobs that might get $40 K a year.
Part-time and contingent faculty teaching 50 percent or more of the classes. Some of these folk get $2500 a class over the course of a semester, and some get $4000 in Seattle. The department that adjunct comes from determines the amount of pay per class. You know, business departments pay more than English departments. You know, Jesuit colleges and other religious affiliated schools with all sorts of social justice mission statements, paying what “the market determines.”
For more on the colleges around the country, go to – the Adjunct Project spreadsheet, and put in a college close to you. Here is the old place I worked at in 2001, Gonzaga U. I was getting $2100 a class back then. Now?
It’s gone up to $2600 a class. A school that has been on a building frenzy, which has put up a new basketball arena for their Bulldogs. A place in the middle of the U-District in Spokane. Dorm after dorm, and tuition that tops $33,000 for a year, minus the room and board, which is another $10,000. Right. Can’t pay professional teachers a living wage? Right!
Here’s how the student paper at Gonzaga covers this, which is rare and good in light of the crap coming out of journalism departments:
Student writer Kara Flageollet covers it well –
In America, professors are paid different amounts. Naturally, there are gaps in overall pay between professors based on institution. But what may be less obvious is the wide pay gap based on discipline.
At the majority of universities in America, historians are getting paid less than chemists, who are getting paid less than engineers, who are getting paid less than professors of finance, and so on.
Alas, the student paper also noticed a deafening silence – from professors, faculty:
Over the past semester, the Bulletin has run articles on a wide variety of controversial issues of local, national and global importance. We’ve covered physician-assisted suicide, marriage equality and abortion. We’ve addressed gun control and sexual assault on campus. We’ve talked about American foreign policy and extensively covered the national elections. Not to mention Title IX policies, faith on campus and the nature of a Jesuit education.
Each week, a handful of students write in to respond to these topics. We’ve even had national policy lobbyists and Spokane community members submit letters to contribute to the discussion.
One group of respondents has been noticeably absent: Gonzaga professors. Until a week ago, no topic covered by the Bulletin this year had merited even a single response from a GU professor. That all changed when Kara Flageollet wrote an article concerning an issue that, apparently, is more important to GU professors than any other: their paycheck.
It’s fascinating that at an institution that encourages “restless curiosity, a desire for truth, a mature concern for others, and a thirst for justice,” the single topic that has aroused any notable interest from professors is the subject of their personal salaries. The issue of pay differentials is an important subject that should be discussed. But it certainly should not be the only one. Such heated debate regarding professor salaries comes across as a small and self-centered quarrel.
Great the two writers, John Culver and Lindsay Fague, went on a harangue against Gonzaga faculty writ large about their lack of connection to the school newspaper’s insightful articles over the semesters, and, then, only when pay comes up do they comment. The funny thing is that part of my work with SEIU was to organize that campus’ adjuncts, and I kept up with news. My moniker was/is, Adjunct Adocate. Look at the comments section. I too tried to get adjuncts to make comments in the rag.
Look, though, at those students’ who fail to make the connection to $2600 a semester, lump sum, to teach those students composition and no time or energy or even guts to carry through with comments at an institution that has as its mission – restless curiosity, a desire for truth, a mature concern for others, and a thirst for justice.
We’ve failed these students over time. They learn nothing about labor struggles in this country. They learn nothing about how struggle and pain and violent protests brought about 40-hour work weeks and labor standards or that union activity is at its lowest.
Do they really think that loyalty at the workplace – say, GE, Starbucks, Walmart, Kinkos, wherever – is not predicated on how people are treated and how they are financially compensated? We have failed as educators if that is the result, and, we have failed as a group, the faculty majority, to not take the bull by the horns and shake and rattle the cages of those provosts, presidents, all the yammering folk that blather how justice and equity for all is the goal – at one of the highest endowments in the area: $150 million.
Paying arts teacher $2400 a class that routinely gets $72,000 for a class of 30 students. Tuition. What a deal. And the presidents of those Washington State private non-profit colleges? Pay scale?
Again, it’s what the market demands, what the market will extract as a pound of flesh for being a human being in this system of higher education that is supposed to impress upon all who are part of it some values above the market drive of a hedge fund grease bucket.
Back to the caveat put down by SEIU, the largest Union in the states with a lot of problems that it is now trying to keep at bay – here, in California.
Today, the California Nurses Association (CNA) and the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) announced a formal affiliation, solidifying an already potent alliance. Two of the biggest strikes against concessions in the last 16 months were conducted by members of the CNA and NUHW. Their target each time was Kaiser Permanente, the giant California health care chain that made $6 billion in profits since 2009 but still wants union job cuts and contract givebacks.
Last August, CNA and NUHW formed an “Alliance of Kaiser Unions” dedicated to “raising standards for Kaiser caregivers and protecting Kaiser patients.” In its founding statement, the Alliance blasted the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the SEIU- dominated Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions (CKPU) for choosing “to partner with Kaiser to increase the corporation’s profitability at the expense of their own members and patients.” The CKPU includes both AFL-CIO and Change To Win affiliates.
What I was told to do was to NOT rile up the adjuncts in Washington State who work for state colleges, universities and two-year community college. We are freeway flyers who teach at state community colleges and those private colleges, cobbling together a living. We are huge in numbers, but we are also in joint bargaining units with FullTime brethren, part of the American Federation of Teachers, AFT, or WEA/NEA.
Man, have we been screwed by that arrangement – having Full-Time Tenure Track faculty in a union with their PT colleagues. Look, FT-TT have the power of hiring us, evaluating us, and not giving us classes (firing). That is a supervisorial role they have, and yet, we are the majority. Many in WA have advocated for separate FT-TT and NTT/PT faculty unions. Some of that comes from the fact that FT tenured and tenure-track faculty actually take classes away from poor, struggling part-timers – it’s called moonlighting, but it should be STOPPPED. In a day and age when solidarity should be primo, overloads or moonlighting take food off people’s tables – literally.
- SEIU wanted me to not mess with Texas, so to speak. Or push back against a “sister” union. Right. Now I am looking for work.3
Keith Hoeller, co-founder, Washington Part-Time Faculty Association:
ADJUNCT PROFESSORS of all stripes lag far behind their tenured colleagues in salaries and benefits. Not only have the unions failed to bargain any real job security for their adjuncts, they have often prevented their “part -timers” from working full time and therefore qualifying for tenure. Bill Haywood, the former leader of the Industrial Workers of the World (or Wobblies), would have called the faculty unions “job trusts.”
The labor movement has spent decades trying to abolish employer-dominated unions and getting supervisors out of the bargaining units, yet academic unions have done just the opposite. While labor unions may dispute the Supreme Court’s Yeshiva decision, which held that full-time tenured faculty at private colleges were “managers,” there is no dispute that the tenured faculty serve as managers of the contingent professors. Putting adjunct faculty with no job security into the same bargaining units as the tenured faculty has been great for the tenured faculty and abysmal for the adjuncts. If tenured faculty were serious about being real unionists, they would divest themselves of all managerial powers. That they have not done so is telling.
Nothing proves the unlikelihood of reforming the faculty unions more than their refusal to address the contingent faculty crisis. Indeed, all three major unions that represent professors (American Federation of Teachers, American Association of University Professors, and National Education Association) are united in protecting and increasing the number of tenured faculty, while leaving the adjuncts in the academic ghetto. Exhibit No. 1 is the AFT’s Faculty and College Excellence plan (FACE), which argues that since the adjuncts are treated so badly, the only way to have “excellence” is to hire more tenured faculty.
Union solidarity within a two-track system is a pure Catch-22. The “tenure or nothing” philosophy has literally meant nothing for one million contingent faculty members. If the unions do not restructure to allow the adjuncts to represent themselves, “fair representation” will have to be sought through government agencies, legislation, and the courts. It may take a new contingent-union movement committed to abolishing the two-track system and replacing it with something more egalitarian, like that at the Vancouver Community College system in British Columbia.
The mission of a union for adjuncts should be the abolition of the two-track system and equality for all college professors. This new union should not shrink from competition with other unions. It should be willing to explore new forms of job security in addition to tenure. Adjuncts deserve the fundamental labor rights to choose their own unions and their own destiny.4
It Was Always a Smarter, Better, More Important Generation … and then your skanky one had to appear and prove us right – “Ours Is Better, Smarter, Happier, More Prosperous Than Yours!”
Forget these toadies – really, the dumbest generation ever? I heard the author of that book when he was in Seattle, two years ago at the MLA conference there. You know, Modern Languages Association. I met a friend who is an adjunct in Morocco who came all the way to Seattle to try his hand at a full-time position at a state school – a university in the Midwest. He flew all the way to the Gates-Boeing-Bezos ‘burb to line up his corduroy tie and slick down his hair to do a 10-minute interview with some self-important department head and maybe an college-paid-for recruiter while being told, ”Well, fine adjunct with the PhD, all but dissertation (ABDS) … you will end up in a pool of 160 others competing for this one tenure track job in Indiana …. You aren’t sitting pretty, but, young master of the transcendentalists, we are, and so, you get the “Suckah!” award of the semester for traveling the farthest for this insipid lottery. What’s that say about your character?”
So, this Emory University Mark Bauerlein spoke at the conference, and his continence and attitude just stuck in the craw of yours truly, who also knows how to teach English, Proust to Palahniuk. What a load of tenure track crock he connived to feed his audience.
And I won’t even rebut that misanthropic idea that Gen Y is the dumbest according to Emory U Bauerlein with some righteous socialist essay, or Rising Up Twenty-something blog … but they are there if you look hard past the Amazon.dot.com lies about the book. I’ll go to mainline/mainstream Daily Beast/Newsweek:
He is a little late to this party, of course. The old have been wringing their hands about the young’s cultural wastelands and ignorance of history at least since admirers of Sophocles and Aeschylus bemoaned the popularity of Aristophanes (“The Frogs,” for Zeussakes?!) as leading to the end of (Greek) civilization as they knew it. The Civil War generation was aghast at the lurid dime novels of the late 1800s. Victorian scholars considered Dickens, that plot-loving, sentimental (“A Christmas Carol”) favorite, a lightweight compared with other authors of the time. Civilization, and culture high and low, survived it all. Can it survive a generation’s ignorance of history? For those born from 1980 to 1997, Bauerlein lamented to us, “there is no memory of the past, just like when the Khmer Rouge said ‘this is day zero.’ Historical memory is essential to a free people. If you don’t know which rights are protected in the First Amendment, how can you think critically about rights in the U.S.?” Fair enough, but we suspect that if young people don’t know the Bill of Rights or the import of old COLORED ENTRANCE signs—and they absolutely should—it reflects not stupidity but a failure of the school system and of society (which is run by grown-ups) to require them to know it. Drawing on our own historical memory also compels us to note that philosopher George Santayana, too, despaired of a generation’s historical ignorance, warning that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” That was in 1905.
A more fundamental problem is what Bauerlein has in mind by “dumbest.” If it means “holding the least knowledge,” then he has a case. Gen Y cares less about knowing information than knowing where to find information. (If you are reading this online, a few keystrokes would easily bring you, for the questions so far, vice president, former chief justice of the Supreme Court, North and South Korea, Lake Superior.) And it is a travesty that employers are spending $1.3 billion a year to teach basic writing skills, as a 2003 survey of managers found. But if dumb means lacking such fundamental cognitive capacities as the ability to think critically and logically, to analyze an argument, to learn and remember, to see analogies, to distinguish fact from opinion … well, here Bauerlein is on shakier ground.
And that is the inherent problem here, uh? Dumb? Let’s see, Mr. Obama picks yet another racist and anti-LGBTQ prophet of Georgia Peach God Knowers – Louie Giglo, who is a master at gay-lesbian realignment therapy — to do his second term swearing in-slash-benediction prayer for Amerika? Hmm, that’s what, smart? The Obama that went out on his little limb and supported gays’ right to marry and then he pulls this — a second time he’s called on a racist pastor to do the country’s “under god” song? Let the military fully lock and load with all serving soldiers, no matter the individual’s creed, disability, color, language, country of origin, gender identification, married-divorced co-habitating status, same sex, no sex, poly sex? He then pulls this one out of his ass? He’s part of the smartest generation? Dumbest?
Now that is seemingly the other generation, the smart one, the one Obama and his Ivy-League buddies (no, not the best education in the USA, believe me, is not Georgetown or Yale) belong to? Doing one dumb thing after sly dumb thing. Dumb, huh? Smart? Colin Powell and his generation and their yellow cake uranium war story for the imperial war of Iraq? CIA-inspired invasions? All the old members of congress going for the hail Mary in Iraq and Afghanistan? They are from the smart generation?
Sure, dumb as Bush I or II or III? Ronald Ray-gun? Right, The Dumbest/Greatest Generation Ever Tom Brokaw. Pick one … or eight.
Unfortunately, as a community college teacher I’ve seen that same crass asinine attitude coming not just from administrators or management types, but from faculty. Mostly older white males. On the tenure track, teaching as little new and relevant stuff as possible, while berating the very students that have something to do with their primary existence? Dumb? Smart? Smart-ass?
Okay, It Is Our Own Doing – Digital Age, Digression and Regression – No More Primal Scream
Bruce Friedman, who blogs regularly about the use of computers in medicine, also has described how the Internet has altered his mental habits. “I now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print,” he wrote earlier this year. A pathologist who has long been on the faculty of the University of Michigan Medical School, Friedman elaborated on his comment in a telephone conversation with me. His thinking, he said, has taken on a “staccato” quality, reflecting the way he quickly scans short passages of text from many sources online. “I can’t read War and Peace anymore,” he admitted. “I’ve lost the ability to do that. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it.”5
So, yes, there is that “staccato effect,” and the baselines are just too mercurial, too tied to a 24-hour news cycle. How can we really learn? That’s from Nicholas Carr whose most recent book, The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google, was published in 2012.
Ahh, but are we really reading more today than in the 1970s? Here’s Carr again:
Thanks to the ubiquity of text on the Internet, not to mention the popularity of text-messaging on cell phones, we may well be reading more today than we did in the 1970s or 1980s, when television was our medium of choice. But it’s a different kind of reading, and behind it lies a different kind of thinking—perhaps even a new sense of the self. “We are not only what we read,” says Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. “We are how we read.” Wolf worries that the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts “efficiency” and “immediacy” above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace. When we read online, she says, we tend to become “mere decoders of information.” Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.
Efficient, immediate versus deep reading, or knowing the stuff. We are disengaged thinkers and engaged consumers. But this is not just Gen Y or Millennial MO. Notice your forty-something’s poking away at the iPhone while changing lanes at 60 mph in the mini-van with the kids strapped into their HFCS bliss.
IS it a cruel new world of work, work, work? Buy, buy, buy? Why, why, why do we need education? A sort of enslavement? Read Paul Thomas’ blog passage below about the gotta-gotta mentality that is American at its DNA core. He’s Associate Professor of Education, taught high school English in rural South Carolina before moving to teacher education. Recent books include Parental Choice?: A Critical Reconsideration of Choice and the Debate about Choice (Information Age Publishing, 2010).
“Such a World Will Come to Pass”
During my nearly two decades of teaching high school English I encountered a recurring situation.
A bright young person who had tended to be a diligent student would gradually do less and less work in my classes. When I would approach the student about my concern, the student would invariably offer an interesting explanation and our conversation would go something like this:
Me: Why are you missing so many assignments?
Student: I’m sorry. I gotta work til 2 or 3 in the morning and I just can’t keep up.
Me: Do you have to work?
Student: Yea, I gotta make my car payments.
Me: Why do you have to make car payments?
Student: I gotta have a car to get to work.
This cycle of “gotta” (gotta work, gotta have a car, gotta make money) was powerfully engrained in my students; in fact, the need to work, earn money, and own things were all clearly essential for them to feel adult, and ultimately as essential for them to feel fully human—ironically pushing them into the dehumanizing work cycle identified above.
So, then, we take it to the next level – adjunct teacher, a Professor “Beth,” in her piece, “The Yes Adjunct.”
It’s that foot-in-the-door disease, whereby as an adjunct, you feel like a real person, a real professor, a colleague, just without the money – 40 percent or less of FT pay; no office; no key to the photocopy room; no insurance; no free parking. You think if you do, do, do, and expend extra, extra, extra work on extra projects for no, no, no extra money, that, a, you will be noticed, and, b, that you’d have more than a snowball’s chance in hell of getting a full-time tenure track job. Or a raise. Or bonus. Or … ? As I said before, two or three years as an adjunct at the same school is the beginning of the end game — employment leprosy. You are treated as one of “them,” like “the other” — good enough to be in the same academic department, in the same classrooms and in the same hallway, but a teacher for hire, treated like you are in it as a hobby or for the mad money. The school gets you at a 60 percent discount (actually, teaching adjunct, one fine colleague estimated, for 25 years, is about a $500,000 loss to one’s retirement and total income and total benefits) and FT faculty have all these part-timers as shields. If budget cuts come down like calving glaciers, if belts need tightening, well, guess what — the adjunct, like pawns, get cut FIRST.
Writing from her experiences as an adjunct instructor in a college, Professor Beth personifies the cycle of “gotta” within which she found herself as a part-time worker coaxed into compliance by the allure of a full-time status:
Quickly the demands of the classroom and of the school grew. I was asked to sit on textbook selection committees, to organize guest lecturers to come to campus, and to test out new books. I was told that doing these things would build my CV and provide me with an edge when applying for a full time teaching position. Every demand was couched under the advice that this would position me better for a full time position. I was teaching three courses – sometimes four – and said, ‘yes’ to every demand….
I applied for a permanent full-time position four separate times and never once was even invited to interview.
Ahh, but her story is now universal, now part of the new normal, and the ones paying for this are the families, the children, the people in those adjuncts’ lives. The moral imperative to pay for equal work vanished. The poverty of an adjunct passing that poverty onto children and grandchildren while tenured faculty just get that extra bump ahead. Again, from Professor Beth:
Well, perma-temp it is. Read this: Clones, Assembly-line Capitalism, and Wage-Slaves.
After six years of working at the college I have witnessed treatment that at a minimum is unprofessional and at its worst is abusive. I have seen adjunct professors pay for their own substitutes, have class schedules pulled at the last minute or doubled at the last minute. During this time, I can count on one hand how many times the Dean has even spoken to me. When we pass in the hall or even when I’m standing in her office she never makes eye contact and I am ignored. The message clearly sent that adjuncts are “invisible.”
But this isn’t the tragic part of the story. The sad part to this story is the students. The students are losing the best adjunct faculty to better jobs and to other schools. The students have teachers who are spending less time on their classes and in student meetings because they aren’t being treated fairly. The students who feel the poison of bitterness and disrespect leak into their classrooms.
And like I stated above, daily are the musings and analyses of the school of last gasp: “A Model T Education: Public Schooling on the Assembly Line.”
You even get the AWIS – Association of Women in Science – writing about adjunctification:
The Scarlet Letter: “A” is for Adjunct (AWIS)
While the tuition rate for students in the United States increased by 50% between 2000 and 2005 and has been skyrocketing ever since, the percentage of adjunct professors in institutions of higher education has been rising steadily, saving colleges and universities the cost of paying more tenured and tenure-track faculty. Now 89% of all faculty in the United States are adjuncts, with little to no benefits or job security. While some adjunct professors are working part-time or by choice, many are piecing together full-time work loads (often teaching eight courses a semester) at different institutions which may be geographically dispersed, at less than half the pay of a full-time tenured professor teaching just one course at a university.
In many ways, the equality that adjuncts seek is not so different from the demands of the women’s movement. They want equal pay for equal work, inclusion and fair treatment in the workplace, and equal opportunities for advancement in their academic careers. Indeed, there is even some overlap of women scientists and engineers and adjuncts. In 2001, AWIS reported over 50% of women with doctorates in science and engineering were in non-tenure track positions. Among men with science and engineering, however, the numbers are just as bad; 55% of men with doctorates in science and engineering were non-tenure track. These numbers have likely gone up in subsequent years.
That was more than 11 years ago, the study about PhDs teaching as NTTs.
Where are we now? See “How To Leave Academia.”
And take a deep breath. If you think you’re the first, or last, post-academic to seek government assistance, you’re wrong. There’s absolutely no shame in putting food on your table. There’s absolutely no shame in admitting you need help. But it can feel humiliating to consider the disparity between the fantasies that drove us to pursue academia and the reality of our post-academic existence. I certainly didn’t dream of living in a small apartment with a filthy carpet filling out paperwork for dependent care assistance when I sipped wine and talked theory in the wood-paneled dining room of a professor’s bungalow at the first departmental party I attended as a graduate student.
Why in crime’s name would anyone be ashamed of going on the dole – using unemployment benefits? Why would I be ashamed of collecting unemployment insurance when I put in years teaching military, their dependents, air defense soldiers, civil servants, illiterate enlisted kids, prisoners locked up in federal penitentiaries? Why would I even balk at applying for unemployment when I have put in double-time-and-a-half serving my community as a community college writing-reading-life skills coach? When I talked with parents about how a child might get out of poverty, or out of a life of crime? Why oh why is this even part of the conversation in today’s trillion dollar corporate and military contractor welfare system? I was paid $1500 at the University of Texas when coaches were paid a cool million a year? I am supposed to entertain an ounce of shame for being on state-federal supported unemployment when I put in at least 8 job applications a week for real employment? Am I now relegated to going for that day labor job? Pulling shots at Starbucks with three college degrees? Is that what this perma-temp Donald Trump-Alan Greenspan-Bernanke world of work is after?6
Do we get it yet? Death of college is near. Forget the community college focus. A blog and help-healing service on the web – How to Leave Academia? Whew. Some of us put in time on boards, committees, regional and state wide organization, lending our expertise on many, many matters, as adjuncts – for free. Teaching in barrios. Teaching summer programs for gifted and talented. Night school for remdial students. Taught in the craziest and most ugly of buildings. On military compounds. Air Force bases. In basements. In portable classrooms. Mobile homes.
I am not saying it was Amerika’s dirtiest job. Nor lowest on the economic caste system. Or dangerous. But really, what dream are those Limbaughs and Ron Pauls and Al Gores in?
Daily, Daily, Daily Medicine – Truth
Read it and weep. This is one long-ass exit from a five-part series. Thanks to those who stuck it out. I’ll be back at DV with shorter stuff — a look at Dave Eggers, A Hologram for the King and another look at a new book – critiquing my former thesis advisor’s (in planning at Easter Washington University ) no growth imperative new book. Until then, maybe the Alternet.org education tab – today, posted Jan. 10, 2013.
American education isn’t up to the challenge.
The evidence is inescapable. Millions of kids walk away from school long before they’re scheduled to graduate. Millions more stay but disengage. Half of those entering the teaching profession soon abandon it. Administrators play musical chairs. Barbed wire surrounds many schools, and police patrol hallways. School bond levies usually fail. Superficial fads—old ideas resurrected with new names—come and go with depressing regularity. Think tanks crank out millions of words of ignored advice, and foundations spend billions to promote seemingly sound ideas that make little or no difference. About a half-trillion dollars a year is invested in education, but most adults remember little and make practical use of even less of what they once learned in thousands of hours of instruction.
Congress and state legislatures bring market forces to bear, certain that the rewards and penalties of competition will work the wonders in education they sometimes work in business, and nothing of consequence happens. Charter schools are formed to promote innovations, but if the merit of those innovations is judged by scores on corporately produced standardized tests, the innovations are inconsequential. Municipal governments take over failing schools or hand them off to corporations, producing results so poor that statistical games must usually be played to justify contract renewals. Stringent standards are put in place, and tests keyed to them are so high-stakes that failure may shut down whole schools, end teaching careers, and permanently affect the life chances of the young. But performance stays flat.
Cut through the hype and the ideology-driven political rhetoric and it’s clear that, decade after decade, institutional performance nationwide changes little. Even schools considered models and pointed to with pride—upscale, beautiful, well-staffed, shipping high percentages of their graduates off to the Ivy League—send most students on their ways with talents and abilities unidentified or undeveloped. Few graduate with their natural love of learning enhanced or even intact.
Perhaps most damning of all is the fact that the human need to understand, to know, to make sense of the world, is one of the most powerful of all human drives, but the institutions we’ve created to meet that deep human need would close their doors if it weren’t for mandatory attendance laws, social expectations, and institutional inertia.
Any takers? Anyone ready to comment on Marion Brady’s work. See you in the trenches, err, classroom.
- TETYC, Dec 2012. [↩]
- “Phoenix Takes a Nosedive: Major For-Profit College Accreditation in Jeopardy,” Alternet. [↩]
- See “Some Union Members Are More Equal Than Others,” Chronicle of Higher Education and “We Need an Adjunct Union,” Inside Higher Ed. [↩]
- “Forum: The Future of Faculty Unions,” The Chronicle of Higher Education. [↩]
- “Is Google Making Us Stupid?,” The Atlantic. [↩]
- “Heckuva Job, Bernanke!.” [↩]