Fifteen Dollars and Teaching for Scraps

When the most highly degreed receive food stamps and eat Top Ramen on Fridays

The fight for the $15 an hour wage is alive and strong in Washington State, for faculty, AKA, professors at the college level. Think hard how the majority of faculty teaching young and old in Washington state, known for Bezos of Amazon, Gates of Microsoft, and Big Planes Brought to you by Intelligence Monitoring Boeing, are precarious, working semester-to-semester and quarter-to-quarter and subject to the whine or whim of disgruntled, uninformed and poorly formed students. One bad evaluation, or one helicopter parent against the teacher’s politics, and, bam, bye-bye $3100 a class. Bye-bye job. Bye-bye campus. Bye, sucker, and please do not be late on that school debt payment, sucker!

Multiply $3100 three times (if one is lucky to get that at one school) and three times a year (you have to be even luckier to get 3-3-3 in a school year; it’s usually 2-2-1/none) and you have $12,000 to $15,000 a year, or $18,000. Trying living on that in the wonderful city of Seattle, or Spokane. Really, try to. So, you look for more teaching gigs. More miles on the road. More bizarre and disconnected schedules. And then wake up everyday with that fading PhD, that MA certificate, and you wonder what the hell your grandparents were thinking emigrating to Turtle Island.

I “did” 8 classes a 16-week quarter, teaching at a university, two community colleges and on the US Army Post, Ft. Bliss. I picked up a one-on-one language class over in Juarez, and I did freelance writing for the El Paso Times/El Paso Post. Halcyon days? Well, I also taught writing in a federal corrections (sic) institution (sic) and did side gigs as a media advisory for Planned Parenthood. On top of that, I was running my own writing career — novels, short story collections, etc. Even had a NY agent! Again, Halcyon Days?

No,  but full of hallucinations and interesting ways to stay up at night grading literally a few hundred 12-page research projects, draft-by-ugly-draft (in some cases, the writing was, in the old days, wonderful . . . now? It’s all har-har Jon Leibowitz Stewart trite.).

We make less than half the pay of full-time workers, and if you add in the benefits we do not receive, we are way behind the economic curve. Some of us might be able to work into our 70s and 80s, unlike many of the people we teach who come back to school in their 40s, sometimes thirties, already back-broken from decades of dry-walling or construction work or painting or serving folks grub. But the reality is that all that mental labor, all those deceitful administrators, all the back-stabbing department heads, all of it, well, it takes its toll too … on the soul, so adjuncting is like cement working on the intellect.

The problem is we are vulnerable in a toxic world of administrators and VPs and executive folk in the college system who scoff at us, use us, need us, and have no compunction of recognizing us or giving us any form of stability or longevity.

These fools running the ship of fools education system would sell their mothers to the devil. They listen to Bezos and Gates and believe in their Kool-aid and Brave New World narrative, where it’s about having community colleges as a conduit directly to their shekel making injustice-making factories of mindless junk creation. Churn out compliant programmers, churn out more coders and medical workers. Churn them out quickly, efficiently and without belaboring them with the humanities so indeed their DNA and souls stay colonized by corporate think.

These presidents and boards of education do not have vision or educational knowledge. They want the product – education – to cost a lot – and they want it to not get bogged down in distractions, like music and history and poli-sci and sociology and literature and the other meaningless stuff that Gates and Bezos and the other 500 billionaires and multi-millionaires deem antithetical to the consumer-punishment-imperial-dumbdowning state.

Call us the worker bees, the fools pollinating some sense of agency in our students. Each year, though, these students have been turned into handmaidens of media mush and consumer chaos.

We have more and more little handheld battles, between teaching that deep thinking and deep study and massive reading and massive critical rhetorical practice is the only way to deep knowledge and the skills and licks to tackle the US of Israel-Walmart-Koch-Goldman Sachs vs. the iPhone and Tablet and Digital Dungeon of Junk.

Instead, the Instagram, Twitter, Facebook world is one of dithering headlines, empty caloric junk food, fake news, fake science, fake attention getting stuff. So, we talk about systems thinking, how all things tie into ecosystems collapse and human collapse and injustice and Big Brother Control, and our students now have a new DNA, entwined in the digital drone, and they do not want deep practice, deep reading, deep uncomfortable thinking.

How do I get that job at Hilton or work for ESPN or for Microsoft or for the Prisons R Us coming to a community near me.

We have attempted for decades to get students to understand the value of education and the greater value of teachers teaching face-to-face, and the value of part-timers around the globe, to the under girder of humankind. We had a walkout, of sorts.

National Adjunct Faculty Walk Out was like a cream pie in the face of some bloated city councilman. Microsecond mainstream news coverage, and a billion blogs talking to the same people who already are the victims, the precarious, who have no organizing power or gumption to change anything.

So, now, all of Washington state’s senators and the Democratic leadership of the House have budgets that have zero money conduit to adjuncts specifically. We’ve not received a raise in six years and that will be eight years because the budget will not be changed.

Both budgets address some cost of living increases for both part-time and full-time faculty, but the problem is FT and PT are treated equally. This means the group receiving the big pay will get double the COLA. Whew, how complicated is the math? There is huge disparity between two groups – giving the weaker and most vulnerable and the majority, ADJUNCTS, double the percentage, well, guess what? We’d have a shot at getting equal dollars staving off greater disparity in COLA compensation.

Schools need more money for the teachers. In WA state, revenues are $3 million higher than expenses. We have several billion dollars each year tied up in tax loopholes – Corporate felonies, giving private jet and yacht builders, Boeing, cosmetic/plastic surgeons and a whole slew of businesses tax breaks.

This is the green state, the so-called Obama-Hillary state, ripping off hard working educated workers and ripping off parents and students (part-timers working three or four jobs makes for a really muddled and not very consistent and concentrated educational formula . . . do we have time to meet with students outside of class, to participate in committees, to rally students after hours to protest? Nope!). One colleague, Keith Hoeller, is proposing “$10 million in the budget, with a mandate for the colleges to match it with another $10 million, earmarked solely for adjunct faculty (not full-timers who moonlight as adjuncts).”

Imagine, full-time, tenured, 401-k eating and full-dental/medical health having faculty taking away money from the part-time faculty looking to cobble together a living. They moonlight, and teach at an overload rate, and that cuts into the money pool set up for part-time faculty. Talk about a parasitic system. We need work, and we need equal pay for equal work, and we do not need double and triple dippers eating at our own economic souls.

More fear, more precarity, more hopelessness create a broken system. You think faculty like myself —  way outside the box, inside the battle zone and critical of the vanguard, and railing against the capitalistic usury system in the classroom —  you think we stand a chance in an echo chamber of fear and self-congratulatory tenure track mealy-mouthing?

A system run by glad-handers and steered by people who have PC-ed youth into compliant, stick-to-the-mainstream thinkers, you think it’s going to promote anarchist ideals, or support faculty who research the hard stuff and challenge in the classroom where the next and the next generation might end up if they eat all this shit fed to them by the punishment-consumer-big data state?

As our precarity moves us even closer to the poor house, and as we continue to rub elbows with crass and mean-spirited full-time faculty, the reality is students will be fed even more milquetoast empire-propping Zionist crap.

Outside the box no more, and the faculty will fade away, until a master controlling in some thirty story educational (sic) center will be running artificial intelligence (sic) computers that will churn out more and more at-home-remote delivered on-line crap – training modules to help Bezos and the other terrorists with the Goldman Sachs smiles to continue their human neutering and spaying systems of supply and demand forced obsolescence Monopoly gaming the system. We’ll be getting Avatars and digital mush and all the bells and whistles to make the next and then the next generation happy campers just to have that virtual world of meaningless and customized training and complacency-inducing stuff so the One Percent and its 19 Percent Handlers can capitalize on yet more junk. Hell, the Big Lebowski will be the next on-line trainer, and on and on.

National Adjunct Walkout Day? Really? Where we talking to? Oh, back to the classroom, teaching the same standardized stuff handed to us, until the virtual classroom is finally set up and run by Corporations X,Y,Z.

Paul Haeder's new bio is about suspending all those credentials, all those titles, all those in-the-trench experiences he's acquired and worked hard on in his 64 years (2021): Novelist, essayist, journalist, social worker, college and K12 educator, environmental warrior. Terms and avocations more meaningless as cancel culture rises and rises from left and right insanity. Paul's book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years (now going on 16 years) of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his musings at LA Progressive. Read his short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam now out, published by Cirque Journal. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.