Tag Archives: education

Exploitation in Humanities Departments

There’s an idea that college professors should be free to pursue whatever interests them, to go wherever their professional curiosity takes them without concern for the market, but that’s close to the fantasy of fan-fiction, stories written for the fun of it without an eye on their publication (even though that too is changing).

Adjunct professor Kevin Birmingham brings up this point among others in his talk on the native exploitation by college humanities and English departments. On the one hand, adjuncts aren’t paid well.

An annual report by the American Association of University Professors indicated that last year “the average part-time faculty member earned $16,718” from a single employer. Other studies have similar findings. Thirty-one percent of part-time faculty members live near or below the poverty line. Twenty-five percent receive public assistance, like Medicaid or food stamps.

These teachers are easily hired, easily dismissed. Funding for actual classroom instruction has been declining, but administrative roles are increasing. Apparently, teaching students is a declining priority for many of our universities, which makes news of another closure more tolerable.

On the other hand, graduate programs are milling out Ph.Ds at a rate that far exceeds the need. Universities, Birmingham explains, have the only job market for these graduates, but they produce roughly four times the number of candidates for the available jobs and availability is shrinking.

English departments do this because graduate students are the most important element of the academy’s polarized labor market. They confer departmental prestige. They justify the continuation of tenure lines, and they guarantee a labor surplus that provides the cheap, flexible labor that universities want.

Like a migrant worker system.

Many market principles could be learned here. One broad one would be morality cannot be based on market realities (or just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should). Colleges exist to teach, and qualified teachers should receive the honor and compensation they are due. When you have the money to pay them well, you should.

But another one may be that if some universities don’t care to teach, others should be able to pick up that slack and grow, keeping a focus on their students’ well-being in mind and not treating them like grist for the sake of the program.

We Can Burn Books, So Why Not Teachers?

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“We train as researchers but spend our days managing the emotions of late adolescents, haggling over budgets, and figuring out how to use Moodle’s gradebook,” writes Jonathan Malesic, who used to teach at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, before he burned out.

“Eventually, I came to dread every class meeting.”

He describes his experience and some lessons learned.

Chronic dislocation produces the three main components of burnout: exhaustion, cynicism, and a sense of professional ineffectiveness. Burned-out professors, then, are people who cannot muster the strength to do the intellectual labor of their job, who see students as problems, and who feel their work has no positive effect.

Introverted teachers and students appear to be at greater risk for burnout in increasingly social learning environments. English teacher Michael Godsey tells this story:

After 11 years of teaching English at a public high school, Ken Lovgren left the profession, mostly because he was drained by the insistent emphasis on collaboration and group work. Engaging in a classroom that was “so demanding in terms of social interaction” made it difficult for him to find quiet space to decompress and reflect. “The endless barrage of ‘professional learning community’ meetings left me little energy for meaningful interaction with my kids,” he told me.

The Freedom That Undermines Itself

“Universities are addicted to censorship, and the Department of Education is their partner and enabler.”

David French writes about Title IX and students who have sued to restrict the statements of their professor. There he explains the ramifications of modern liberalism, which is self-destructive in the sense that it undermines the principles at purports to celebrate. In another article, he explains what happened at Northwestern University when a feminist professor wrote in favor of student/teacher relationships.

“Two students filed Title IX complaints against her, claiming that she’d violated federal law with her essay and a subsequent tweet. In essence, they were claiming that her writings on matters of public concern constituted unlawful gender discrimination.” More than that, they complained when others shared their complaints and spoke in favor of academic freedom.

While there is a huge, stinking pile of liberalism in this squabble, one of the lessons is the real threat to students in American universities like Northwestern. If they want to believe that love is what you make it, then they’ll have to realize they have kicked down all of the fences. All of them. The students have no grounds for complaint against a professor who supports sexual license, but if they idea scares them, they need to get out and reconsider their own self-destructive ideas.

Comparing Generations: Edwards vs. Jukes

Jared posted a couple myth busters a few days ago. The word sincere, he explains, did not come from the marketing language of Roman potters, as you may have been told, and Jesus actually talked about heaven more than hell, though he talked about hell a good bit.

Along that lines, I have a good source on an illustration I’ve read a few times and appears to have grown into a fish story. Jonathan Edwards, one of America’s best theologians, had many godly or otherwise productive children, grandchildren, and so on. Comparing his family to that of another man who lived at the same time is meant to illustrate the fruit of a godly life. Here’s the account from an article by Leonard Ravenhill:

A thin crust, a very thin crust of morality, it seems to me, keeps America from complete collapse. In this perilous hour we need a whole generation of preachers like Edwards.

“O Lord of hosts, turn us again; cause Thy face to shine upon us, and we shall be saved.”

Contrast this great man of God with his contemporary. I quote from Al Sanders in Crisis in Morality!

Max Jukes, the atheist, lived a godless life. He married an ungodly girl, and from the union there were 310 who died as paupers, 150 were criminals, 7 were murderers, 100 were drunkards, and more than half of the women were prostitutes. His 540 descendants cost the State one and a quarter million dollars.

But, praise the Lord, it works both ways! There is a record of a great American man of God, Jonathan Edwards. He lived at the same time as Max Jukes, but he married a godly girl. An investigation was made of 1,394 known descendants of Jonathan Edwards of which 13 became college presidents, 65 college professors, 3 United States senators, 30 judges, 100 lawyers, 60 physicians, 75 army and navy officers, 100 preachers and missionaries, 60 authors of prominence, one a vice-president of the United States, 80 became public officials in other capacities, 295 college graduates, among whom were governors of states and ministers to foreign countries. His descendants did not cost the state a single penny. ‘The memory of the just is blessed’ (Prov. 10:7).

To us this is the conclusion of the whole matter.

This is a better account than the one I’ve seen more often, but the details are not as accurate as they should be. According to the March 8, 1902, issue of The School Journal, the numbers vary a bit.

Suffice it to say, “The almost universal traits of the ‘Jukes’ were idleness, ignorance, and vulgarity. These characteristics led to disease and disgrace, to pauperism and crime. They were a disgustingly diseased family as a whole. There were many imbeciles and many insane.”

My version of the story says Jukes’ name is the origin of the word juke, meaning “to fake or deceive.” No, it wasn’t. It’s from a word meaning “wicked, disorderly” in a Southern English creole.

This is not so much a busted myth as a clarification. I hope I have edified you.