The issue of adjunct faculty has again emerged, and there are rumors of a walkout. This is about thirty years overdue. Basically, the universities made student teaching level jobs permanent careers. While the full time professors were unionized, the adjuncts were not, and one cannot have part of an industry unionized, for reasons that are beginning to become obvious. While charging over a thousand dollars per student, and increasing the class sizes continually to well over thirty sometimes, the colleges paid the professors the equivalent of Seven-Eleven wages, if one course is one quarter of a full time load. Millions are spent on buildings and facilities, with the union janitors well paid, while the increase of adjunct pay is postponed because they do not wish to raise the cost of tuition. The teachers are forced to respond by eliminating content. If we, in American Government, assigned a term paper, we were under minimum wage for the hours required to prepare a class. So there are no term papers anymore, and the creative writing teachers have creatively learned to have the students grade the papers. Classes with content are discouraged, so students entering the required American Government class are unprepared for anything in a genuine college, but have skated through their flimsy courses just fine. We were forced to grade multiple choice tests by machine, which I would never do. Meanwhile the union faculty are paid about double a middle class salary, and live quite comfortably on the other side of an immense gulf. Certain types too are stuck permanently on the adjunct side. All adjuncts in politics are white males, while all full time positions go to white females. There are no non-white PhD s who are permanent adjuncts. Everyone knows this occurs, in Philosophy departments too, because the liberal arts were used to stuff the federal government’s quotas. If this were done in medicine, or brain surgery, there would be results that are visible to the many, or to more, and so this was done where no one would notice. Gender studies replaced political science and philosophy.
All this was possible, interestingly, because of student loans. The supply of teachers with degrees for college level exceeded the demand, and the Unions kept the advanced degrees out of the High Schools with this half-delusional degree called “certification.” Again, as is well known, the best students especially in the liberal arts go to graduate school, while the “C and D” (more accurately the B grade) go to Eastern Michigan to spend two two years and 50,000 $ on the sensitivity training they ought have got in Kindergarten. Indeed I exaggerate: They might also study “Outcomes Based Assessment” or perhaps merit pay for teachers, if they are administrators. They cannot usually even identify the great books on education, except for John Dewey and those who sing the praises of multiplicity. And just what is “merit” in education? Surely it involves a lifetime concern with the whole study of the human being and the current circumstances, and all the human things, history, Literature, psychology, politics and philosophy, as well as music, biology (to understand the third of us that is animal) and many other things. That is why our politicians cannot answer the question: “What is the goal of education.” They have never studied it or been concerned with these things, at least as priorities above career advancement, marketing and the American “success” ideology, which cannot distinguish between criminal and genuine success, so long as all the appearances are the same.
Plato, in his Republic, has, in my opinion, the finest and most thorough account of education in relation to the nature of the soul. Aristotle, Plutarch, Xenophon, among the ancients, and surely Rousseau, if also Dewey, among the moderns, are essential for understanding education and what has occurred for education in Modernity.
I know these things, but live half in a shed, so that I am now too poor to show up for work. Those in charge of Education in the state, while receiving vast salaries, have probably majored in something like how to prepare for certain tests and gain federal monies. Meanwhile, the people pay on those student loans of mine, and may get stuck with them, if I die before coming up with a hit, like a book that sells or an invention.
Add to this the new rule about smoking any where on campuses, including ones own car, while everyone ignores the rule except teachers, who are uniquely responsible to set an example by obeying the rules, and I am content to stay in my shed, be a blogger, and try to write. Who else has time to read the Revelation in liberty, without having to do obsequies for grant money?
So, the adjuncts must unionize because the full time faculty are unionized. But in two instances discussed above, the unions are the problem, because they place the economic interests of a class of workers above the good of the schools and of education. Unions will not solve the problem, but only a restoration and rediscovery of the meaning of education. The rich cannot tell what to fund, or they would likely not have had time to become rich. We, in America, have to care for virtue in private and for free, at the very top of our political order, as has always been the case. The secret is that our nation depends on liberal education, though we do not even know or care what this means. When the pharmaceutical companies say that psychology prescribes drugs like Ritalin for everyone, we have no basis in our psychology to even question, say, whether one of the side effects of antidepressants is school shootings. Take a poll of college and High school teachers, of what percentage have done a study of the constitution, and who their teacher was. Almost all the politicians come from money making enterprises. How many have studied political theory, even Locke, Marx, Hobbes, etc, not to mention Islam, so that we might know that with which we are dealing.