Wednesday, February 05, 2014
But the past is gone. Mr. Magoo retired, riding his moped into the sunset. The Restoration fell. I don’t see much to be gained in raging at the sun for rising, or in waxing nostalgic over a past that relied on a set of exclusions that we should be glad to bury forever. The urgent conversation in higher ed shouldn’t be about how to move backwards. It should be to figure out what “forward” can look like.
Honestly, if the hope of making higher education functional for the next generation is the goal, I think most people are. The past isn't worth going back to for most of us - it wasn't actually meritocratic, misconduct and abuses abounded, and if we long for anything about that era, it's the benefit of reflection and "the journey" - only we want it for EVERYBODY who could benefit from it, not just the privileged few.
So I really think you're overreading OTA's wistfulness. I think we WANT "good jobs for good people", as the long-standing promise to the grad student goes; I stand against a lot of my peers when I believe that is an earnest hope for the majority of graduate advisers, and not just a tool to get cheap TA labor out of abused grad students. I think we want a robust and robustly available liberal arts education, and I think we recognize that we're in a political climate where the public, at large, doesn't want to pay for that. You talk about a culture that doesn't know how to sustain a middle class all the time, DD. I see a lot more of that frustration in OTA's takes ("We don't spend enough time focusing on experience. That's a big problem with academia as it currently stands. Budget cuts severely limiting funding for students are only making this problem that much worse.") than I do a longing for some mythical "good old days" that never really existed.
I think a lot of the chasm between the administrator class, the full-time/TT faculty class, and the adjunct class comes from each imposing stereotypes on the others when we're a lot more on the same team than we realize. And it goes EVERY way - obviously the admin is just counting beans and is going to push all the faculty towards adjunct status because it's all about that money, obviously the TT faculty has grabbed hold of the privilege and they're not letting go of it and they're using their position to keep from expanding their ranks, obviously the adjuncts are refusing to face political reality and should be grateful that they have ANY job at ALL when the legislature continues to demand the budget cuts. All of that's bull, at every step, and yet I continue to hear it, repeatedly, from people who should be one another's allies.
I know this isn't the worst instance of such a stereotype. But the stereotype is still in there - the young academic who doesn't want to deal with modern reality. And honestly, OTA's post struck me as dealing with as exceptionally mature for its content. So I don't think the "nagging objections" are worth dwelling on. I think OTA's post is a legitimate form of mourning, and as a post of mourning for something she had access to that she can't provide access to for others, I think that mourning should be affirmed, not nit-picked.
Mourning for the exclusionary and elitist higher education system of the past is analogous to mourning for the end of the plantation system in the South. Yeah, it was great for the upper classes who could afford study abroad, but it was (and in elite institutions, continues to be) a system of credentialing that perpetuates inequality. The good old days? Good riddance. We can do better than that.
When the faculty feel threatened, it's explained away as self-interest (duh!) and also a privileged nostalgia for the past. The second part is partially true, but only partially true. The administrative class has an easy time telling themselves that the model they want is one that's good for the students and inclusive, but it's also a model that just happens to shift the balance of power from faculty to program coordinators, grant administrators, resource center directors, etc. etc. Faculty self interest is just privileged nostalgia for the past, but administrative self interest is apparently enlightened concern for students and a progressive desire for an inclusive and fiscally sustainable model. Except the fiscal sustainability is not clear to me.
And yes, I know that some of the people running these programs have the job title "faculty" on their paperwork. However, when they spend less time in the classroom and more time coordinating programs, they are on a trajectory that has more in common with admins than other faculty. They are particularly divergent from the adjunct faculty.
The (very large) number of students has not changed. It still reaches both the elites and the masses. I believe faculty pay is well ahead of inflation and teaching loads are down, explaining part of the change in per student cost (state plus tuition) from back then. You just must improve your ranking! But there are other cost increases not tied to the classroom, and even my CC is suffering from those.
I simply don't buy your negativity about funding education. Maybe you are correct and the United States is not as rich, per capita, as it was in the 1960s and 1970s, or even the 1990s. I don't think that is the case, yet, but what has changed is that the government spends rather than invests. I hope to live long enough to benefit from Medicare, but I know that you can't add all of that to our budget (plus the increased medical costs it helped drive) and have as much left for education.
Unless you think it is important enough to make it a priority.
Study abroad was an option for me. I chose not to take it, but it was there. I did take a summer in DC and it went well.
No, the point is that 20% unemployment as the New Normal and endless Class War as punishment for electing a non-white-male to the Presidency is a lousy way to run a society.
I don't see DD's "focus on the future" as helpful. Sometimes, the point is that the past was a lot better, and it makes no sense that the future can't be better, too. The big question is: why is our Social Contract in tatters (conservatism) and what can we do about it (expose conservatism)?
Per capita, we are far, far, far richer than any of those times.
Median . . .
Health care is devouring it.
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