The other day, I called my gynecologist’s office to ask if she could recommend a plastic surgeon with whom I might consult about a proposed mastectomy (the breast issue is being dealt with at the Mayo Clinic; my gynecologist, one of the rare doctors whom I happen to trust, is “in the wild”: i.e., not with the Mayo). After considerable jabber with the telephone gate-keeper, I explained for the third time that it looked like I was going to have to have a mastectomy, that I do not want reconstruction, that my surgeon is pressuring me for reconstruction, and that I’d like to consult with a plastic surgeon who is not with the Mayo.
“Is that a pelvic procedure?” the young-sounding woman asked.
“No, dear,” I said, unwittingly condescending in my astonishment — was I speaking with a child? “They’re going to chop my boob off.”
“Oh,” she said. After the briefest of pauses, she resumed: “How do you spell that?”
You have got to be one of my students, I thought.
Back-office staff in doctors’ offices usually have at least an AA. Many have the BA. This, then, presumably was a college graduate who wondered if a mastectomy is a pelvic procedure.
Think of that.
Well, what I think is that this is yet another result of short-changing the educational system.
The practice of replacing full-time faculty with adjuncts is also a consequence of short-changing the educational system. And in my opinion the outcome is exactly what we see here: young people who are so ill-educated they’re not fit to be sitting at a desk in an office.
Many adjunct faculty, of course, are dedicated and highly competent. Many are not: we’re not paid to be either dedicated or especially competent. At pay rates that work out to less than minimum wage after grading and course prep are factored in — especially in writing-intensive face-to-face courses — we have more incentive to cut corners and rubber-stamp students along than we do to spend extra hours tutoring kids whose vocabulary is at the middle-school level. With no office space, no phone, no campus-based computer, and often not so much as a locker to hang a jacket in, we are simply not equipped to deliver real teaching to students who need extra attention. Or to any students, in my opinion.
The community colleges are awash in students who need real teaching. Yet the community colleges hire the lion’s share of adjuncts — at my district, for example, now the largest in the country, 80 percent of the faculty is adjunct.
Colleges and universities short-change employees and students for a simple reason: increasingly legislatures short-change education.
When education is shorted, as this case vividly demonstrates, business is shorted.
When business is shorted, America is shorted.
There is simply no way a US industry can compete in the global economy when employees can’t even define or spell the names of the industry’s services and products.
That’s why the issue of adjunct hiring is a business problem. It’s not just an education problem. It’s not just the problem of a few legions of PhD’s and MA’s who were foolish enough to pursue advanced degrees in the humanities (and in psychology, and in anthropology, and in art, and in music, and in the STEM disciplines…). It is America’s problem.
And it’s a very serious problem.
After three books, one of them a best-seller, emitted through mainline publishers, my first effort at self-publishing has gone live at Amazon! Slave Labor: The New Story of American Higher Education describes the predicament of America’s large and growing contingent faculty and shows what it is like to spend a semester in a classroom as an adjunct.
I hope you’ll take time to buy it and to recommend it to your business, community, and political leaders.
College Students: Are You Getting What You Pay For?
If you are attending a college or university or if you have a child in college, you need to read this book.
As a college student, or as a student’s parent, you face endless tuition increases. Do you know what that tuition is buying — and not buying?
Some 80% of college instructors are not professors at all, but underpaid, often underqualified part-time adjuncts. Fewer and fewer American students get what they pay for when they arrive on a college campus. Meanwhile, graduate programs churn out thousands of would-be college faculty with master’s and doctoral degrees, few of whom ever land full-time jobs in education.
Quality of higher education drops as full-time faculty disappear and are replaced by part-timers with no infrastructure, low pay, no benefits, and no representation.
This book explains the short- and long-term effects of replacing professors with part-timers and chronicles one adjunct’s semester in America’s largest community college district.