Precaution. Stop shifting the baseline. Stop mucking around because you have no common sense but plenty of computer engineering ADD-ADHD or what have you, on that autism spectrum. What have you, stop enlisting these money changers and game changers to define community.
The 1998 Wingspread Declaration is typical of precaution in the sciences:
“When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof. The process of applying the precautionary principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action.”
The European Commission in 2000 expressed it less succinctly, but it contains the key phrase at the beginning:
“The Precautionary Principle applies where preliminary objective scientific evaluation indicates that there are reasonable grounds for concern …”
I’ll give readers, again, some insight into a national-international list serve for adjunct faculty I’ve thrown into for many years, a place where adjuncts and others in our camp can pine in and pontificate on and disseminate information around the failure of education, the failure of the elites, the failure of unions, the failure of legislatures, the failure of the business tycoons and the failure of humanity to recognize that there is more to life than a smart-dumb ass phone, endless bar tabs, a pretty hardwood floor and that dog over there eating the hind ass of the other dogs over here.
Well, not many are that robust, and most are okay folk, teachers, not higher functioning revolutionaries, and some are union guys and gals, but still, loving capitalism and loving proscribed roles in a failed society.
Sure (now this is going to be a LONG sentence coming up, so bear with me), there are plenty of rants, tons of news about us, and, plenty of daily blues belted out in sorrowful ways. It’s an interesting clearing house, of sorts, and unfortunately, the same usual suspects weigh in most of the time, and, alas, even those who want (1), radical change for adjuncts to gain equal pay for equal work, and, (2), gain a bargaining unit that is not five tiered with our hiring and firing faculty on board as grievance folk in the union, and, (3), in the case of the stream of comments below, a new or commonsense way of framing a world where – the reality for the moment before implosion, is that we are all potential at-will sentient beings the One Percent’s consider as their perpetual freelancers or part-time hires-on – we at least want the FT liberal class to “farm out” some of the work, the load, and to have these Full-Timers NOW NOT hoard the crumbs thrown at us all in the Eighty Percent Class by the pigs of commerce.
I’ve talked about it before – overloads, or moonlighting, or carrying larger loads as full-time and tenured full-timers. These bourgeois middlings would rather have the extra cash in their middle-class ethics strapped lives, and at the expense of the part-timers, the majority, who in many cases are thrown out like bums, out on the streets. Us, fellow teachers with more — in many cases — much more real experience and better ways of teaching than these sycophants of enforced luxury labor. Many times the extra cash they make for summer classes than do we, and even classes during regular semesters and quarters full-timers feel entitled scarfing up, classes that are funded through the very money put into the pathetic kitty for adjuncts by legislative fiat. Take from Paulette Part-timer to pay Just Fine and Full-time Janet! What new little gnat enemies we have to exterminate now, even among our own species, subspecies that many of the full-timers have become indeed!
How do we have full-time faculty be human and join the human struggle, i.e. fighting for us, not fighting for some faux yesteryear of roly-poly teaching, on the stage, with flaunted and foolish ideas? Teach the children NOW to begin the takeover, to not just throw the bums out, but rather to never work for the bums, and to stop the stupidity of big tech-high finance/high tech 24/7 culture (sic). End the drone of daily work the masters of nothingness push down their throats. Today, part-time faculty will be part-time faculty forever (come on, replace “faculty” with any number of occupations or professions — nurse, secretary, engineer, what have you — and you see the precarious, freelancer, at-will world of work of the now, or soon-near future) because the market determines life and death, because it’s cheaper to keep us down, to keep us part-time, keep us apart, as abridged humans, to keep us out of the loop or out of the power circles or even to keep us out of the conversations.
In my case, I want more critiques of middling education provisos, more Marxist and eco-equitable ways to frame the value of work, the value of learning. I have more passion and training with people and understanding entire systems, from the bottom up, than any $100 K a year dead at the door prez; and, yet, which stupid set of fools would rather have more yes menopausal men and yes post-menopausal women in their ranks to do the same thing over and over, except this time ’round, the same rotten retrograde mind curling of youth and young adults with software and swirling pixels over and over and over, until the big lie is the big truth?
We can only attack the attackers of education; we can only mount a unified front against administrators who are software addicts; and we can only re-center full education for the advancement of humankind and our planet by coming together and pushing out/punishing/pulverizing these Zionist and non-Zionist money changers. We have to push away the flippant, foolish rot-gut and mind-molding stuff coming from the MEDIA, all sectors of that thing; and we have to even push the wax-protruding worst case sad sack whining ones in journalism, on TV central, NPR, on the pages of the great papers of misdeeds, err, record. There is a pathetic nature to the largess in academia — one I am finding because, a, I have had to declare my Gentile self, and, b, I have had to listen to many above me discuss their Judaic self, from one of many retreating and retracing angles. As if everyone has to have some moment in a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah memory to be understood in today’s mass culture of rape, war, cowboys and bad guy cops and mindless comedy (sic) shows and the ever-burping up fantasies, foolish lovey-dovey things coming from these white PEOPLE. Gentile or Jew, the pushers of the junk coming out of Madison Avenue, the entire culture klatch, it is BAD and BORING and the stuff of mind gelling . . . and that’s their intent: to put us into complete awakeness with none of our dreams.
So, no amount of excuses can lift the argument up that once full-time, once in the little tribe of tenured, well, “WE HAVE the key and the knowledge, so shut the fuck up.” But that’s what they think, even some outright say that. Hmm.
Stripping us of our means to work, i.e., Full-time faculty eating their cake and their ice cream, by opting to pile on more and more extra classes outside what their tenured positions insist on or indeed what they are contracted and paid to teach vis-a-vis collective bargaining agreements — JOBS part-timers need in order to pay the bills and to keep us in the loop, in the game, sort of speak. Well, Hannah Arendt wrote about it, saw it and spoke of it as the banality of evil, the “little eichmann” syndrome flaccid on the couch holding the last breath of that little cocaine queen, Freud, and what it means to be safe and looking down on us, the unsafe.
So, these heartless souls, these “I’ve got mine and tough shit you are out of the running, out of the epoch of those golden years, tough shit and tough it out but don’t expect me to not moonlight and get more, get those extras teaching stuff you were only hoping to teach, but alas, since I am tenured and you are not, well, guess who’s coming to my house for dinner?” teachers, well, they are part of the problem, no? Infecting the very nature of what education should and has to be – way outside the center piece of society, especially today’s that is bar-coded and loaded with the software to fleece mind, bank and soul.
In the end, this bullshit battlefield will just be another rotting field of ideas as the Coders and the Computer Engineers and Artificial Intelligence Wonks and Robotics and Tele-Commuting Zealots gain the upper hand, and push down the gagging throats of Americans and people worldwide that false idea that technology is the only way to go, and all bets are off for anything else in this clunky thing called culture, or civilization.
These are heartless pukes, who think that their day in the sun will last a Fourth Reich’s worth of one thousand years of buzzing drones delivering medications to our doors and Google cars driving all over the place while we sit back and nap or get our skin slathered in the egg yolks of whooping cranes that were soaked in virgin boys’ urine. Whatever these little snide and smarmy folk want, they believe “the want” and “the will” are enough to move mankind into their Mad Max world of Coders and their bosses ruling all other classes of humanity.
They deliver messages to teachers, these Stanford fucks, who say the best way to get more and more training in (remember, we must work-work harder, and, yet, education is still on a summer off for the harvest schedule . . . wonder why) is through MOOCs, massively open on-line classes. You know, har-har, hmm, if these MOOCs do so well, yikes, does that mean our jobs are going to be extinct? Har-har. Just heard that from my spouse from her three days at a conference in Seattle for K12 public educators.
These people do not care about work worthy of people. They are not after a world where economic and human population growth curves should never look like the hockey stick graph of Co2 and global warming that another Ivy League puke, Al Gore, tried to yammer on and on and on about (can you believe, the vaunted Oscar for his stupid flick ?).
We are tethered to the great lie that can be the new-new Internet, the great coding of ideas, anything for the price of silence, price of fleeing truth, anything to get them in front of screen and out of the streets. That’s America, North, that is, now – out of the streets, out of the city and county boardrooms, away from the doors of the titans of terror owning our Constitution and our own personal constitutions. Get people wired in and screened up!
We are in this giant SELFIE family portrait, and the poses and posturing are nothing resembling human.
Part Two — Yikes, I had to Sleep Halfway Through
Amazing just heading out from a 20 hour shift, back to this blog, listening to the Young and Old Jewish Public Broadcasting System. I don’t know how else to couch this – the news a la National Petroleum-Privatizing-Pesticide-Propaganda Radio is mostly delivered by Jewish folk who talk about their Judaism, and most of the people interviewed today as I slip-stream through the morass are also Jewish, in name or force of collective consciousness, I don’t know. I am not reaching here, as you can imagine this time of Merry Xmas-Hanukkah, many of the standard-bearers of NPR are talking about this or that holiday recipe, tradition, what have you — entire shows on the Yiddish or yarmulke a la chef’s hat and how to prepare great-great granny’s fare. It is a very interesting time of year, when one that gets more and more to the heart of debate and American rhetoric, professional or cultural — that is, the very nature of media, massive messiah-complex media, with more and more self-described Jews of the secular kind, a la David Sedaris, har-har, running the show and delivering the content and setting the context. Not that I am not multi-contextual or multicultural, but in reality, there just is TOO much of a very narrow perspective, sensibility, emotion, psyche, and outlook, and it’s a combination that I am having more and more trouble relating to . . . really! Why? Inundation? Over-saturation? A failure of ideas? A very-very small-small minority’s take and spin on things?
Gosh, it’s something I have noticed especially profoundly the past 15 years or so. Does anyone not tire of the Jewish or Christian or WASP perspective at some point?
Again, Gilad Atzmon looks at this Jewish Power thing, and, well, since his homeland is Israel and his cultural and secular roots are Jewish, now being ex-Jewish, he might be better at looking at this entire issue of Goldstein and controlled opposition, and certainly, I do not want to tread into David Horowitz and Alan M. Dershowitz land where in one-broad stroke, anyone questioning white power, white privilege, white dominance gets splattered with Anti-Semite derisions. But, I am finding the lack of something big-time in the narratives these journalists and radio broadcasters and many of the academics bring to the table. There is something in their debate angles, their perspectives, and their ways of framing that is tinny. I am going to research this, accordingly. Obviously, I am a Gentile, in the minds of the Jews, and, obviously, I am in fields that are really ensconced with powerful stakeholders, many of them, the EDs and board members and middle mangers, Jewish. These are my prospective employers, the powerful stakeholders in environment, in social services, in education, in the arts, in journalism, in writing and editing.
To get back to the NPR, well, it’s so tinny to hear the Takeaway with John Hockenberry interview Robert Greenwald and then interview a Miami Herald reporter, Carol Rosenberg, and think how poorly prepped Hockenberry is, and his open and broadcast tug of war with his own cultural roots and self-identity is, well, embarrassing, and he still can’t understand why many of us, like Greenwalkd (yes, Jewish) do want MORE transparency and do want the Artificial Intelligence and technology tools of the corporations and the NSA stopped. Hockenberry (Jewish) is thinking we can’t go back. He is crippled, spiritually and journalistically. That’s a narrative I keep hearing in my union meetings, in journalism, in education. How we can’t go back. Interestingly, Rosenberg (Jewish) is interviewed for her work on Guantanamo’s prisoners and the pre-trial stipulations going on in the case of several Gitmo prisoners. Wow, no person from the middle east, someone of Muslim background, no one out there to be interviewed on this? Hell, even writing THIS I am listening to another rotten person, again, Jewish, Penny Pritzker, USS (sic) Secretary of Commerce, yammering on and on in her eastern college way, her mealy mouthed but sounding smart way, how what will be the most disastrous trade agreement, TPP, is going to be, in her words, the best thing since mom and apple pie. “Everyone’s economy grows,” she says while clipped on Democracy Now (yes, Amy Goodman, no Young Goodman Brown, but Jewish).
How do guys like me make an inroad, then – 56, world traveled, street creed, journalist, Marxist, revolutionary, no-holds barred, and, shit, three college degrees and a boat load of continuing education, both formal or not. Where do I fit into this warped employment landscape? How do neocons, neoliberals, tax hating professional liberals, many of whom are Jewish, see me, then, really, as they have their little roll-up canvas brush collection willing to broad brush me willy-nilly?
If the Jewish ‘homecoming’ and the demand for a Jewish national homeland cannot be historically substantiated, why has it been supported by both Jews and the West for so long? How does the Jewish state manage for so long to celebrate its racist expansionist ideology and at the expense of the Palestinian and Arab peoples?
Jewish power is obviously one answer, but, what is Jewish power? Can we ask this question without being accused of being Anti Semitic? Can we ever discuss its meaning and scrutinize its politics? Is Jewish Power a dark force, managed and maneuvered by some conspiratorial power? Is it something of which Jews themselves are shy? Quite the opposite — Jewish power, in most cases, is celebrated right in front of our eyes. As we know, AIPAC is far from being quiet about its agenda, its practices or its achievements. AIPAC, CFI in the UK and CRIF in France are operating in the most open manner and often openly brag about their success.
Furthermore, we are by now accustomed to watch our democratically elected leaders shamelessly queuing to kneel before their pay-masters. Neocons certainly didn’t seem to feel the need to hide their close Zionist affiliations. Abe Foxman’s Anti Defamation League (ADL) works openly towards the Judification of the Western discourse, chasing and harassing anyone who dares voice any kind of criticism of Israel or even of Jewish choseness. And of course, the same applies to the media, banking and Hollywood. We know about the many powerful Jews who are not in the slightest bit shy about their bond with Israel and their commitment to Israeli security, the Zionist ideology, the primacy of Jewish suffering, Israeli expansionism and even outright Jewish exceptionalism.
But, as ubiquitous as they are, AIPAC, CFI, ADL, Bernie Madoff, ‘liberator’ Bernard Henri Levy, war-advocate David Aaronovitch, free market prophet Milton Friedman, Steven Spielberg, Haim Saban, Lord Levy and many other Zionist enthusiasts and Hasbara advocates are not necessarily the core or the driving force behind Jewish Power, but are merely symptoms. Jewish power is actually far more sophisticated than simply a list of Jewish lobbies or individuals performing highly developed manipulative skills. Jewish power is the unique capacity to stop us from discussing or even contemplating Jewish power. It is the capacity to determine the boundaries of the political discourse and criticism in particular.
While we hear the Jewish Broadcasting Radio TV Network fuss around with softball thinking and softball questions around 1.3 million to lose on extended unemployment insurance. How lovely, uh? Then, more softball mushy stuff – well, these people who have been out of work forever, or as they call them, the long-term unemployed, count that, out of work for at least six months are now being counseled to access those Christian philanthropies and a few Jewish run ones — for food, clothes, and, what, skills retraining? What a lovely world of NPR and mainstream media. Tidbit after tidbit. NPR, both Jew and Gentile, never question the systems that are broken, feeding this inequality.
It all comes back to us as educators. What do you tell a 28-year-old college graduate and the others in her youth category who are unemployed. Make that 70, 80 and in some places 90 percent unemployment for 17-30 year olds. Screw these controlled opposition freaks. What is it now, a dog-and-dog-eat-other-dogs world? Seems to be, seems to be.
Back to basics – Legislative forum last month:
The video made of the November 14 2013 Olympic College Legislative forum is available at
from Jack Longmate – but first, an op-ed he co-penned:
Some Union Members Are More Equal Than Others
By Keith Hoeller and Jack Longmate
Do tenure-track and adjunct faculty belong in the same union? A 1980 U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled that tenure-track faculty are “managerial employees” and not entitled to unions in the private sector. But in public-sector unions, tenured professors are often combined with contingent faculty, who are certainly not “managerial.” Tenure-stream faculty supervise the adjuncts, determining workload, interviewing, hiring, evaluating, and deciding whether to rehire them. Gregory Saltzman observed in the National Education Association’s “2000 Almanac of Higher Education” that combined units may not be ideal because of the “conflicts of interests between these two groups.”
In fact, the unequal treatment of professors by their unions has come to resemble the plot of George Orwell’s dystopian novel Animal Farm.
In Unionization in the Academy, Judith Wagner DeCew summarizes the conclusions of a study conducted by Gary Rhoades in his 1998 book, Managed Professionals: Unionized Faculty and Restructuring Academic Labor, this way: “Rhoades concluded from his analysis of 183 faculty union contracts that these documents do not often protect, but actually further marginalize, part-time faculty. … Consequently, the national unions may claim to be advocating for part-time faculty, but the contracts do not show that they have made much progress.”
That is no small problem, considering that the “contingent” faculty, which includes graduate students and adjuncts, now totals 75 percent of all faculty members and numbers one million. With such impressive numbers, why haven’t adjuncts risen up and simply taken over their unions? A chief reason is the culture of submission that results from the lack of job security and a well-founded fear of retaliation by the full-time faculty whose decisions control their employment—the precise reasons that federal law long ago outlawed “employer dominated” unions in the private sector.
Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Washington state, where part-time faculty members at community colleges have been forced into the same unions with full-time faculty members in state affiliates of the National Education Association or the American Federation of Teachers. At all 34 community and technical colleges, these unions have bargained completely separate but unequal wages, job security, and working conditions for their 3,800 full-timers and 9,700 part-timers.
This two-tiered system has been in place for several generations, and many, including union leaders and adjuncts themselves, have become socialized into the dominance of tenured faculty. Whenever you treat one class better than another, there is a false assumption that the upper class is somehow more deserving than the lower class.
But this justification for subordination is shattered when one considers higher-education-union settings where equity is the norm, such as Vancouver Community College and other institutions represented by the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of British Columbia. At Vancouver Community College, all faculty, whether full- or part-time, whether probationary or permanent, are paid according to the same 11-step salary schedule. Seniority, not full- or part-time status, is the primary determinant in workload assignment, and all faculty accrue seniority.
Also in place at Vancouver is “regularization,” whereby after teaching for a defined period at 50 percent of full time with satisfactory assessment, a probationary faculty member is promoted to regular, permanent status. In short, there are equal pay and equal work and a genuine community of interests within the faculty unions.
This is far from the case of the Washington affiliates of the NEA and AFT, which have gotten tenure written into state law after three years of full-time teaching, but regularly negotiate contracts that limit adjuncts’ workloads to less than full time (preventing adjuncts from qualifying for tenure). These same contracts allow full-time faculty to voluntarily teach overtime (known as “overloading”), thereby taking courses and income away from the adjuncts and abusing tenured faculty members’managerial status. According to Washington statistics, the incidence of overloads has increased by 30 percent over the last five years.
Late last December, one of us, Jack Longmate, an adjunct at Olympic College, wrote an op-ed in a local newspaper that asked the Legislature to restrict this discriminatory practice. Several of the full-timers insisted he resign as elected secretary of the union, and then passed a resolution publicly censuring him for testifying as an individual (not as a union officer) against a union-supported bill he believed discriminated against adjuncts. In April, Longmate filed a complaint with Dennis Van Roekel, president of the NEA, alleging denial of fair representation and a host of other abuses. Van Roekel replied with a letter dismissing the complaint.
Public-sector unions that ignore the concerns of their members—or condone the practice of allowing one class of union members to displace the jobs of another—violate the duty of fair representation. Much like Animal Farm, the unions begin by promising that all members are equal, yet end by declaring that some (tenure-track) members are more equal than other (nontenure-track) members.
With public unions now under scrutiny, it is time for faculty unions to accept the moral and ethical imperative to reckon with the needs and the voice of contingent faculty. No longer should faculty unions simply absorb adjuncts into their ranks without explicitly addressing the conflicts of interest that exist between the tenure-track and nontenure-track professors. The unions must restructure to ensure that the separate needs of the adjunct faculty are no longer suppressed by those on the tenure track. After all, how are the adjunct faculty ever to gain equality on their campuses when they are denied it by their own unions?
If faculty unions in the United States will not provide equal treatment for the 75 percent of professors who are non-tenure-track, they may find themselves competing among themselves for the other 25 percent, and facing a one-million-member-strong contingent union. If the contingent faculty cannot find equal treatment within the faculty unions, they will certainly look to other organizations to provide the equality they need and deserve.
Note: Keith Hoeller is a co-founder of the Washington Part-Time Faculty Association. Jack Longmate has been an adjunct instructor at Olympic College since 1992
Quoting Jack on our list serve:
My presentation is from about the 5:00 to the 11:00 minute mark.
I explain that in 2010, for teaching 7 five-credit courses, my annual income, as an adjunct, was about $22,000. I point out that, thanks to full-time faculty overtime (overloads), 67 of Olympic College’s 124 full-time faculty had incomes that exceeded the topmost point on the full-time faculty salary schedule, which is about $65,000 assuming a Ph.D. and 25 years of experience. I cite several examples of tenured faculty whose earnings exceeded $100,000, those tenured faculty earning over $40,000 from overloads.
Since full-time faculty displace part-time faculty whenever they teach course overloads, there is an undeniable conflict of interest between full- and part-time faculty over workload. Whereas the teamsters and longshoremen might face a dispute over workload, in this case, the dispute is between members of the same union.
I conclude by asking legislators present to support SB 5844 , which would change state law to allow adjuncts to form their own union. I cite section 1 of the bill:
Sec. 1. The legislature recognizes the principle that a collective bargaining unit is and ought to be composed of workers who share a community of interests and common working conditions relative to job security, compensation, workload, opportunities for advancement, and that workers should not be part of a collective bargaining unit with other workers who do not share these common working conditions.
The legislature also recognizes that in a two-tier workforce structure, where the upper tier may exercise, real or perceived, managerial or supervisory functions over the lower tier, such a dynamic may negatively influence both the individuals and the bargaining process and may induce a desire among individuals of the lower tier to align with the interests of the upper tier even when the alignment is counter to the interests of the lower tier. This dysfunction is exacerbated when, instead of a community of interests between the upper and lower tier, an actual conflict of interests exists.
…a response to Jack’s piece:
I want to view your presentation when I get a chance and our views on the efficacy of overloads and the need to stop them are all identical, I think. However, the dispute over overloads (called usually overtime, and who gets the work, in other contexts) is an old one inside unions and not at all unique to college teachers, but is one both Teamsters and Longshore have also faced internally. The issue becomes even more heated when there are people on layoff and/or there is a two or multi-tier system of employment status (for the same work) in effect at the time. Virtually no one in the labor movement, historically, in my knowledge has ever used this as a reason why people should be in separate unions or that this means that there is a basic conflict of interest. In fact, the fact both groups do much the same work is an obvious reason for being in the same bargaining unit and union. The apportionment of available work is always a controversy in any employment situation that any union has to deal with in some way.
This is not to say that other aspects of your argument for separate unions don’t have some very real historical precedent, but these arguments (hiring and firing, evaluations, supervision, promotion, etc.) have been dealt with in different ways by different union in various times and places. Looking a some of these [precedents might be useful in this discussion, including how they have been dealt with by Teamsters, Longshore and others. The government’s (and bosses) main position over the years has been to try to shave the bargaining units as much as possible and have them as small and as numerous as possible, if they have to deal with a union at all. We might take some serious counsel from that precedent as well. The recent fight at U of IL is just the latest example in our sector.
I would love to continue this discussion with you (and Keith if he is willing).
In sol, J
Jack’s response back:
It’s important to continue this discussion, especially if we’re going to move toward rebuilding US unions into viable entities that they’re supposed to be. It is very, very difficult to eliminate overloads once tenured faculty have become used to them and think of them as their privilege, but if there’s any chance of faculty solidarity, they have to be controlled and reduced and eventually eliminated.
A few other thoughts:
1. Certainly a conflict of interests between workers within the same bargaining unit, where there is an economic incentive for the upper tier of workers to prevent the lower tier from getting job security, is justification for separate bargaining units.
2. Considering overtime in the abstract, I suppose that in industries where the additional work results in getting a project done in a faster or better manner, there’s not too much that would be objectionable, but where it results in one class of worker displaces the jobs of another, it is.
3. As far as the ideal for a bargaining unit to be organized in the abstract, I would say the strongest would be a single unit comprised of all faculty, as it is in Vancouver, where all faculty can speak with a single voice. But in the case of Vancouver Community College Faculty Association, faculty exist in a single tier, with all have equal working conditions, with the VCCFA having bargained pro-rated pay and pro-rated work, job security, etc., for all faculty, so all faculty have an investment in across-the-board initiatives, VCC has avoided the kind of conflicts of interest over workload that we have hear by prohibiting overloads by full-time faculty in order to protect the job security of part-time faculty.
Best wishes, Jack
Another adjunct coming back at the end of the year – note his frustration and delineation:
My student who was working with international education programs has changed job duties and is now liaising with the Ministry of Education, Sports, and What Have You here, so my focus in discussions with her has shifted to funding higher education. This means, of course, that a bit more of my reading has shifted to funding of higher education,too. I’m getting a very strong impression that the most important argument is almost wholly missing from the field, and that perhaps it has been missing for so long that the public has completely forgotten half of the argument about higher education funding.
Some fellow in Argentina wants to use ads to make college free, like Google does with searching, just not a his own college. Everyone likes the idea of MOOCs, where one person’sold videos can service thousands as long s feedback and assessment are considered irrelevant or can be provided by untrained speakers of English from the Philippines and Bangladesh for pennies per hour. If we’d just reduce everything to the least common denominator,and devote higher education to simple skills training, competency-based education could solve all our problems (“It’s a no-brainer!”). Assorted plans for moving funding from here to there are noteworthy.At some level, pretty much all of these arguments share the idea that the provision of higher education must be made cheaper (sometimes to increase profits, sometimes just to decrease the amount of public funding necessary to support it–two arguments that should look peculiar placed side by side.)
What’s almost missing is the idea that the crisis in higher education is not so much a crisis in funding as it is a crisis in planning, a failure of intellect, a crisis in clear-sighted valuation of the future, etc. Paul Krugman’s “The Biggest Losers,” on the recent budget agreement, points out that budget discussions for too long have focused on cutting those things most essential to assuring a healthy future, and since he includes education among these things, that makes him our champion–by default.For me, it brings back shuddery nightmares of Matt Goldstein talking about how there just couldn’t be any more money, so there was no need to even talk about it, during the longest expansion in US history.That’s how long the consensus that education isn’t worth paying for has had the field largely to itself.
We’re missing 30 years or more of repeated analogies to eating one’s seed corn, hard-headed explanations of how education is messy, but worth it, how there is no specific design for a well-oiled machine that makes optimal learning happen, but that we know if we keep trying and put some money and resources into it, education gets better and people with will, ability, and resources get more out of students than people whose wills and abilities are constantly challenged by economic starvation. Etc.
The argument should not be about how to get more for less. It needs to be that there’s no question we need more and that anyone with an inkling or recognition of the idea of investment has to know that we need to be pouring more–a lot more–into higher education (and the stages before it) rather than cheaping out on the future to the detriment of everyone.
In a couple of weeks, we’ll be past the holidays and a little bit of breathing time will be available. We’ll argue about FT and PT faculty being in the same unions and many of the same old things we always argue about in January and July. It would be good if we could also get more stuff out to the rest of the media to make up this deficit, to try to resurrect the essential point that education is worth it and always trying to spend less on it is a recipe for doom.
That’s the conundrum, now, is it not? We do not have enough radical, outside-the-box, in-your-face, questioning, against-the status quo people at the TABLE. At that table, you know, the ones not as smart but paid for that dumbness, that bright laughing gleam that sees all great things in changing forward into unchartered land, rather than fighting for what is being lost, or was lost.
Finally, quoting Nikki Giovanni on Democracy Now this morning:
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think needs to be done in this country around gun violence?
NIKKI GIOVANNI: I think we need leadership. I thought that was a pitiful statement the president made. Washington certainly does make changes, and usually they’re negative changes. Washington says take off your shoes before you can get on an airplane. Or Washington says we’re only going to have, you know, so much fluoride. Washington makes changes. So why is it, when it comes to gun control, all of a sudden it’s “We need the American people”? No, we need leadership. We need the president, and we need our senators, we need the people who care, to be as strong in their views as the NRA is strong about wanting every American on Earth to have a gun.
Obviously guns are a bad idea. They’re an idea of the 18th and 19th century. They’re just not a 20, 21st century thing. You know, they’re just not necessary. It’s just not the way we do that. And we need leadership. And I’m tired of watching the people that say they care bow down to the people that we know don’t. You know, I was just enchanted by the fact that the pope pushed back on Rush Limbaugh, that he said, “I’m not taking it. Rush Limbaugh is a fat, drug-addicted idiot who sends his brown maid out to buy his drugs. I’m not going to have him saying it.” I love the pope. I’m not Catholic—I’m Baptist—but good for the pope, you know. You get tired of the good guys always trying to find that, somehow or another, the crazy guys make sense.
Oh,yes, back to the PRECAUTIONARY principle:
There are a lot of criticisms of the precautionary principle around; let us deal with them at the outset.
•Ill-defined – Critics sometimes complain that there are so many definitions of the precautionary principle that it cannot be taken seriously. In fact, those that are not covered by the description above come from opponents, each setting up his or her own straw man to knock down. Then, to add insult to injury, they say that anything with so many different definitions is obviously too vague to be useful.
•Vacuous – Some complain that the precautionary principle does not lead to definite decisions. But that isn’t what it’s meant to do. Like the burden of proof, it is something we take into account when we are making decisions.
•Incoherent – Others, evidently believing that the precautionary principle does lead to definite decisions, complain that because there can be risks on both sides of an action, it can “ban what it simultaneously requires” . As above, the answer is that the role of the precautionary principle is to influence decision makers, not do their job for them.
•Too weak – The ‘burden of proof’ in a trial does matter: people are acquitted who would be found guilty if criminal trials were like civil proceedings. See below for examples of where the principle could have a real effect. And while some people say it is too weak, naturally there are others who claim it is …
•Too strong – Even with the burden of proof on the prosecution, many people do get convicted. In the same way, even if we adopt the precautionary principle, progress will continue. Almost all innovations will proceed without being challenged, just as they do now.
•Anti-scientific – On the contrary, the precautionary principle is all about science. For it to apply at all, there must be scientific grounds for concern, and it then requires that more science must be done to allay (or not) those concerns. Sweeping but unsupported assurances that everything will be all right will not do.
•An excuse for protectionism – Anything that can lead to a restriction can be used as an excuse for protectionism. But at least here the innovator has an opportunity to counter the objection, by providing real evidence that the concerns are unwarranted, or at least outweighed by the advantages.
•These matters should be dealt with in the courts – This is really just another version of the misunderstanding that the precautionary principle is an algorithm for taking decisions, which it is not.
Thanks, Prof Peter Saunders in this ISIS Report 16/12/13