Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What Wise Man Noam Chomsky Said about Adjunct Labor & Higher Education

I'm late* to this since it was published online in February at AlterNet, but "better late than never" is my motto!! *(but not as late as publishing a 2009 article as "new/news" here this year, that was embarrassing and I'm thankful for the commenter that pointed it out. No link for obvious reasons!)

and thanks to my dear friend Diber for the link!

WARNING: this is a "Soap-Box" kind of post. My apologies in advance for the inflammatory language!

"Chomsky: How America's Great University System Is Being Destroyed" (subitle: Faculty are increasingly hired on the Walmart model as temps.) is a great article not only explaining how/why the university system is "adjunctified" nowadays, but also exploring in great historical detail how universities have fully adopted a "corporative model"or the model of private enterprise. 

I suppose people on the right would probably argue that his arguments are flawed, blah, blah, blah... but seriously, he is perfectly right in saying that it is only possible to have a really profitable corporate world by exploiting lots of people and, at the same time, relying on them as consumers. 

I'm sorry if you disagree with me, but I cannot, in any way, shape or form, understand how people cannot see the truths he's pointing out in this speech/essay. I cannot help but be a "leftist," and I cannot really understand anyone who thinks that exploiting other people and not granting everyone (including women, children, people of color, people of other countries, people of every sexual orientation, etc) equal rights and protections is the way the world (and this country in particular!) should operate. I just cannot understand. 

You don't need to be "communist," "socialist" or any other "ist" to believe that people are inherently greedy and that there is no way any system (particularly a supposedly "communist" one) can work without exploitation and, most importantly OPPRESSION of weaker classes of people (and suppression too -- that's why I secretly, and not so secretly admire whistle blowers such as Edward Snowden and the WikiLeaks people). 

Chomsky outlines a series of ways in which Higher Education is being destroyed in this country: 

1) relying on very vulnerable (i.e. graduate students and adjuncts) teaching body, while hiring less and less tenure track faculty, is conducive to CONTROL. In addition, reducing the time and the quality of the time students are in contact with faculty also enhances control and decreases the possibility of dissent and critical thinking. The vulnerability of this group (ME, MY FRIENDS!!) is great and in many cases prevents them (US!) from organizing, unionizing, protesting. 

I LITERALLY CRIED reading his paragraph about that. 

2) Hiring lots of administrators (and staff too) and paying them higher and higher salaries. I had no idea that the numbers of students and faculty hasn't been changing much, but the number of administrators (of all levels and their staff, under-deans, secretaries, etc) has swelled incredibly.

3) Increasing the cost so students will be saddled with LIFELONG student debt that they will be forced to repay. So, they are most effectively controlled for life because of their debt!

I HAD NO IDEA that education, even an Ivy League education, was relatively inexpensive 60-70 years ago (until WHEN? I wonder). 

If you've lived in this country all your life, you may not know this (and you should see my students poor wistful faces every time I tell them that -- I just did last week), but in most other countries, UNIVERSITIES DO NOT CHARGE TUITION. Getting a college degree from a prestigious university is free or practically free in most developed countries, but not in the United States.

OK, I'm getting of my soapbox right now. Screaming like this is exhausting!!!! 

It's just I wish with all my heart I could be a "real" activist, but I just CAN'T! And it's not just that I'm a vulnerable adjunct, but I really don't have any rights here where I live. I cannot unionize, I do advocate for myself as much as I can, but although that can give me a temporary one more year of a full-time contract, it doesn't guarantee AT ALL future work. 

Sigh... all this is exhausting. I wish I could take a break from these thoughts, but they are my whole entire life, day in and day out. The mega-commute, the teaching of too many classes, the meager paycheck (which is actually great compared to other people in a similar situation).

It's easy to just feel too weak and tired to fight back. It's easy to feel defeated and powerless. But I don't want that for myself. I don't know how, but I will fight. I won't give up! (hopefully)

thanks for listening, if you're still here. 

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