Permanent Austerity

The adjuncts tend to teach core classes at Duquesne, and Cech noted the adjuncts’ lack job security because if their classes do not fill up, they are not guaranteed employment. Adjunct faculty members make up 40 percent of the liberal arts instructors and can earn up to no more than $10,224 in yearly salaries while full-time assistant professors within the liberal arts make a yearly salary of $65,300.

Part-Timers At Duquesne Unionize With the United Steelworkers

I’m always thinking that I sound crabby if not permanently angry so I go in search of good news. This piece, from Adjunct Nation, is in fact very good news insofar as it reports on six schools in the Pittsburgh area that are unionizing in affiliation with the United Steel Workers. It’s good news for a lot of reasons. I don’t think we’ll make any real progress until we have  a national labor movement,  and for that we need Card Check, but six schools in a city can at least begin to make a difference. Labor markets are very regional.

I like the idea of primary and secondary industry labor– the people who brought  us the weekend, ended child labor, created the minimum wage– working directly with tertiary industry people, especially education.   Solidarity is important, of course, and the traditional unions have a lot of expertise that we can all use. Even more importantly, we need a broadly representative labor movement that recognizes the necessity of a diverse economy.  Any economy overly focused on the so-called service industry is by definition a weak economy.

I also believe that these sorts of coalitions will eventually get us to the next important stage in the labor movement, which is a push to a shorter work week.  (Occupy Wall Street, are you listening?) It’s great that technology makes us more and more productive but if we don’t cut the labor week down to size this sort of progress will only lead to more unemployment. In the long run, the only real way to ensure some degree of equity will be to cut down the work week. If 20 hours were considered full-time, we’d really be on to something…

On the other hand it’s not all rainbows and unicorns…  The contrast between full-time and adjunct work at Duquesne and elsewhere illustrates a permanent state of austerity endemic in U.S. universities and growing worse each year.  These employment and salary disparities need to be widely known and ought to alarm everyone; if the austerity folks have their way our future is  an economy in which fewer and fewer workers have full-time positions while  more and more are under-employed and, of course, under-paid and over-worked.

You’ve Been Schooled: Class War, Class Struggle

A few years ago,  maybe less, the big insult from the right was to call Obama, or anyone they did not like, a socialist. It drove anyone who was literate nuts, simply because the Obama administration was nearly as far from socialist as you could imagine, at least in the traditional sense.  Arguably, something  had to be done less capitalism implode, but would a socialist spend all or most of his time saving the banks?

That doesn’t even take into account the endless wars and illegal assassinations and the cowardly abandonment of single payer health care and the endless compromises. Obama has certainly accomplished some amazing things but he’s not used the crisis to move the country in a decisively new direction. Clinton was Reagan with a (slight) difference and Obama is Clinton’s Reaganomics with a (slight) difference.

The socialist charge hasn’t disappeared but it’s been overshadowed by the latest charge: class warfare.  This too ought to drive anyone in education and anyone who’s educated nuts. It’s not simply that there’s no war, or implied violence. It’s that this idea serves is, in effect, a denial of the reality of capitalism as an ongoing class struggle over resources and power, not necessarily in that order. It’s not war but it is a struggle.

The last thirty years or so have shown that if ordinary people don’t respond to the struggle with their own struggle, resources and wealth tend to concentrate at the top.  It’s incorrect to think of this in terms of individuals, aka the millionaire’s tax. Instead this has to be thought of in terms of how resources and power are distributed and as a result what sort of society you want to create. That’s the real question.

That’s what the Occupy Wall Street reaction– it’s not  yet a movement–is about. Do we want a morally sound society in which everyone has access to food, health care, and education as a human right? If we do, we have to accept limits on the ability to accumulate resources and power.  That’s the discussion the Occupation has begun. I think the proposed limits in Obama’s Jobs Bill is a good start, but only a start.

Rebuilding Academia

Every year the Chronicle of Higher Education seems more attention to give the issues around academic employment, especially the use of contingent and non-tenure track faculty (“Adjuncts Gather to Discuss Tactics in Campaign for Equity”). It reminds me of the slow 30 year slog it took for global climate change to reach a place in mainstream media. Mainstream education media has taken a similar slow path to putting the our labor issues on its agenda. Tenure isn’t coming back, but we could build a better system if we were given the tools.

Unfortunately, it might take another decade or more to get our government, even our now liberal administration and congress, to begin to raise alarms about the dissolution of the tenure system. The Chronicle’s reporting on the president’s speech about education reports only that he’s going to talk about initiatives to reform the student loan system (“President to Tout Achievements in Higher-Education Policy”). Those were great changes, but I wish he would also talk about the need to reform the labor laws to make union organizing easier.

Governor Palin’s Choice

Our nominee for president is a true profile in courage, and people like that are hard to come by.

He’s a man who wore the uniform of this country for 22 years, and refused to break faith with those troops in Iraq who have now brought victory within sight.

And as the mother of one of those troops, that is exactly the kind of man I want as commander in chief. I’m just one of many moms who’ll say an extra prayer each night for our sons and daughters going into harm’s way.

Our son Track is 19.

And one week from tomorrow – September 11th – he’ll deploy to Iraq with the Army infantry in the service of his country.

My nephew Kasey also enlisted, and serves on a carrier in the Persian Gulf.

My family is proud of both of them and of all the fine men and women serving the country in uniform. Track is the eldest of our five children.

In our family, it’s two boys and three girls in between – my strong and kind-hearted daughters Bristol, Willow, and Piper.

And in April, my husband Todd and I welcomed our littlest one into the world, a perfectly beautiful baby boy named Trig. From the inside, no family ever seems typical.

That’s how it is with us.

Our family has the same ups and downs as any other … the same challenges and the same joys.

Sometimes even the greatest joys bring challenge.

Governor Palin’s Acceptance Speech, the International Herald Tribune, September 4, 2008

It”s a good idea to keep the kids out of the press, as Senator Obama has insisted. I think, though, that we deserve answers to some specific parenting questions from Governor Palin, especially given that she has framed her credibility, at least in part, in terms of her role as a mother. There are several issues that seem worth exploring.

I’d like to know, for example, how she feels about embryonic screening, given her apparent willingness to have a child despite evidence of genetic damage. I find this choice especially troubling, given that she already had four kids. Does her opposition to abortion, in effect, make this sort of testing irrelevant?

I’d also like to know if she applied the ‘abstinence only’ model to her discussions of sexuality with her children. If she did, I would like to know if she now questions her decision and if she plans to stick to that plan with her other children. I find her behavior troubling here too, because it suggests a kind of ideological rigidity.

There are other questions about Governor Palin’s ethical judgment in more official matters, too. The choice of Governor Palin has also suggested questions about Senator McCain’s judgment; ambition seems to have been his guiding principal. We won’t have a chance to find out unless Governor Palin stops hiding from interviews.