Bring On The Bursting Of The Bubble

I got this email from one of the socialist parties whose email list I somehow got onto; it’s by one Nicole Troxell, a Sociology professor in Kentucky:

When I was 19 years old, a college professor changed my life. I took his Feminist Political Thought course and realized for the first time that I could be smart and capable. …
When I was 19 years old, a college professor changed my life. I took his Feminist Political Thought course and realized for the first time that I could be smart and capable. I decided I wanted to give students what he had given me. I talked to professors about what it was like to teach college and it seemed perfect. There would be time for artistic and intellectual work, a chance to foster curiosity and critical thinking, building community, freedom to work a flexible schedule mostly from home, good wages and benefits, and opportunities to contribute to research.

In other words, she thought she’d hit the jackpot; getting paid big money to spend very few hours per week teaching an utterly valueless discipline. 

What could go wrong?

No one ever mentioned the word “adjunct” and I didn’t know what it meant until I took my first teaching job at a community college. I thought an adjunct position was probably a trial period for a full-time post that was sure to open soon. I was still full of hope for my career.

Today I have classes that run four, five, six, 12, and 16 weeks long at three to five different schools. I work more hours than a full-time college professor, yet I get paid less than half as much. I work so many hours that I sometimes average less than the minimum wage.

That moment when practicioners of valueless trades almost, but don’t quite, realize that their trade has no value.

I am working hard and not seeing tangible fruits for my labor. I can’t afford health insurance, even under the Obama plan; and I have nothing saved for retirement. I can’t pay my student loans and barely manage to pay basic living expenses. Occasionally I get warm fuzzy compliments from students who become passionate about what they learn from me, but mostly my poor students get a tired, overworked, unenthusiastic teacher who has to try hard to “fake it until I make it.” Why do I keep doing this? Simply because it was my dream to teach college.

Sucks, doesn’t it?  I hit that same wall when I was 29; It was my dream to do major market radio, but I was making $8 an hour with two kids to feed and #3 on the way.  I had to adapt. 

So is “adaptation” in the future for Ms. Troxell? 

Adjuncts are not without hope, however. Thousands are organizing around the country in unions like Service Employees International (SEIU)…Adjuncts can shake things up and galvanize change by urging their local unions to start organizing. Better wages and benefits would take away the incentive for adjunct positions and hopefully encourage universities to employ more full-time teachers.

Er, yeah.  Hopefully. 

Or – more likely – they’d realize, as value-conscious students are, that “women’s studies” and sociology are of no real value to them (beyond, maybe, general requirement survey courses, and even there I’d be pissed at any college that required me to waste any of my hard-earned time on either), and they’ll contract those departments even further, leading non-tenure-track academics to careers in insurance, real estate, and fast food. 

Just saying.

13 thoughts on “Bring On The Bursting Of The Bubble

  1. If I set up a road-side stand to fulfill my dream of selling pottery that I make myself, but nobody buys my pots because I suck as a potter and the economy is in the tank, then plainly my sensible course of action is . . . to join a union.

    Yes, it’s all clear to me now.

  2. Mitch: I worked for three small-town radio stations back in the 70’s. I noticed a trend. Exactly three weeks after I asked for a raise, I got fired. Just sayin’.

  3. She could have gone into nursing, computer sciences, retail sales, truck driver, on-and-on, instead she chooses womyn’s studies, and because that doesn’t pay up to her standards she’s thinking go union to extort her way up the pay scale. I wonder if she’s still paying off her student loans for a go nowhere dead-end job? SEIU will gladly take her dues money, will they improve her life status? I doubt it.

  4. I took his Feminist Political Thought course and realized for the first time that I could be smart and capable. …

    Translated: I found a professor who pandered to me and gave me an “A” so he could get a paycheck.

  5. This is a brilliant picture of why we need to return student loans to the private sector. If they were, anyone going for any major including the word “studies” would be confronted with the nonexistent employment prospects for the major and told “no” by the green eyeshades crowd.

    For that matter, it’d be nice to have the green eyeshades guys tell incoming students “sorry, but kids with your SAT/ACT scores and high school GPA have a 15% chance of graduation. We are not signing you up for a lifetime of debt slavery–you really ought to consider becoming a mechanic or plumber.”

  6. Bike: If you want colleges to be practical and pragmatic about churning out graduates with actual UTILITY, you’d be thwarting the wet dreams of about a zillion adjunct professors.

  7. Stinky; and the problem with that is? :^)

    Another effect would be that a professor intent on indoctrinating instead of educating would quickly find he was dealing with students who were more his intellectual equals than today. It would clean up a lot of the nonsense that goes on very quickly.

  8. It would clean up a lot of the nonsense that goes on very quickly.

    I’m sure that those in the academia power chairs know this, and that’s why it will never happen without a catastrophic event/series of events.

  9. Bill, absolutely, but let’s keep in mind that if we speak the truth to young people when they say that they want to “be a veterinarian because I love children”, to quote Julie Brown, and tell them that daycare might be more their speed, we will be helping to bring on that catastrophe, no?

    I work with the teens at my church, and suffice it to say that there are some that I’d give exactly that advice to. One girl wants to major in music but cannot read even the treble clef, and didn’t get the joke when I asked her “have you found your Petruchio?” when she mentioned she had a part in “Kiss me, Kate.” I’ve been telling one of the boys that if he doesn’t like to read, good luck making it through law enforcement school.

  10. It’s a translation problem. She thought that the Latin slogan of her alma mater, “Radices, porci, aut mori!”, meant “Celebrate your passion, future leaders of America”, when of course it meant “Root, hog, or die!”

  11. As I tell my teenage children, the point isn’t to get a piece of paper saying “Bachelor of _______”. The point is make sure that at the end of your University degree you have marketable skills. Yes, you must also broaden your mind, learn to learn, and meet and mate with other smart people (all very important). But if your daddy’s not a rich man (and I ain’t), you must make sure you acquire some marketable skills at college, so that you can start the rest of your life able to make some useful and remunerated contribution to society. The idea that “you should do what you love” neglects the fact that at the end of one’s time at college, one is expected to function as a self-sufficient adult. Somebody entering post-secondary education would do well to decide what kind of self-sufficient adult they want to become.

  12. @ Bikebubba: “…you really ought to consider becoming a mechanic or plumber.”

    Don’t know about plumbers, but ASE auto techs need to be a whole hell of a lot smarter than yer typical Liberal Arts BA, they know a lot more, and the best make six figures.

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