America’s Best Colleges 2008

America’s higher education system was built on an important public policy consensus: Investing in higher education is good for everyone. Beginning with the GI Bill and reaching its peak in the 1960s and 1970s, this policy consensus resulted in strong state support for public institutions and an impressive array of two-year, four-year and graduate programs, as well as an extensive system of federal financial aid to equalize educational opportunity. Our nation attracted the best faculty and staff in the world because our institutions of higher education provided good jobs and the freedom to work without outside interference.

August 07, 2007, Chicago
AFL-CIO Executive Council statement

I have to be careful not that this site doesn’t become “annals of of the underemployed…” Still, since I work in education I wanted to note the AFL-CIO’s recent statement here because it hints at a new agenda for the union movement in which education plays a key role. I would argue that education has to play a central role in any successful progressive movement. It’s helpful to contrast these ambitions with the banality of the U.S. News “best colleges” report, issued today.

It’s also important to emphasize that the role of education in a progressive agenda necessarily has two sides: one, making higher education accessible to everyone (It should be free, of course, and we are getting there very very slowly) and two, ending the ongoing exploitation of teachers generally and university teachers in particular. It would great to have a ranking that focused on those two factors. Exploitation is not too strong of a word, either.

“Today, 48 percent of all faculty serve in part-time appointments, ” according to the American Association of University Professors, “and non-tenure-track positions of all types account for 68 percent of all faculty appointments in American higher education.” It’s a ‘class war from above‘ that has succeeded in creating a hollowed out education system. Imagine the outcry if almost half of the doctors in hospitals were hired part time without any job security or benefits. We need unions and a union movement more than ever.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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