I have a nominal esoteric interest in formal education. I write, from time to time, about the schools, what they were, what they’ve become, and their modern failings.
To the point: increasingly, the “education” is worthless and is overly expensive. That’s a problem for students and for larger society.
The “liberal” takeover angle gets a decent amount of attention and rightly so. For instance, more and more schools abandon “AD” and “BC,” because PC. 10,001 other examples to go with that one.
But it’s not, as a whole, a purely left-right issue.
I follow a small number of my fellow WordPressers. I get daily updates. I read this one with thoughtful attention. Please do likewise. It’s by “The Homeless Adjunct” and, as might be expected, sheds light on the trials of the non-tenured, part-time faculty of America’s colleges and universities (75% of all instructors now). It’s bad.
This piece is a follow-up to an earlier post (2012). I think it was that one that made me follow Homeless. Read it too. Also consider her (slightly liberal – but mostly correct) take on the overall problem:
Within one generation, in five easy steps, not only have the scholars and intellectuals of the country been silenced and nearly wiped out, but the entire institution has been hijacked, and recreated as a machine through which future generations will ALL be impoverished, indebted and silenced. Now, low wage migrant professors teach repetitive courses they did not design to students who travel through on a kind of conveyor belt, only to be spit out, indebted and desperate into a jobless economy. The only people immediately benefitting inside this system are the administrative class – whores to the corporatized colonizers, earning money in this system in order to oversee this travesty. But the most important thing to keep in mind is this: The real winners, the only people truly benefitting from the big-picture meltdown of the American university are those people who, in the 1960s, saw those vibrant college campuses as a threat to their established power. They are the same people now working feverishly to dismantle other social structures, everything from Medicare and Social Security to the Post Office.
Looking at this wreckage of American academia, we have to acknowledge: They have won.
BUT these are victors who will never declare victory — because the carefully-maintained capitalist illusion of the “university education” still benefits them. Never, ever, admit that the university is dead. No, no. Quite the opposite. Instead, continue to insist that the university is the ONLY way to gain a successful, middle class life. Say that the university is mandatory for happiness in adulthood. All the while, maintain this low-wage precariate class of edu-migrants, continually mis-educate and indebt in the students to ensure their docility, pimp the institution out to corporate interests. It’s a win-win for those right wingers – they’ve crippled those in the country who would push back against them, and have so carefully and cleverly hijacked the educational institutions that they can now be turned into part of the neoliberal/neocon machinery, further benefitting the right-wing agenda.
So now what?
This ruination has taken about a generation. Will we be able to undo this damage? Can we force refunding of our public educational system? Can we professionalize faculty, drive out the administrative glut and corporate hijackers? Can we provide free or low-cost tuition and high-quality education to our students in a way that does NOT focus only on job training, but on high-level personal and intellectual development? I believe we can. But only if we understand this as a big picture issue, and refuse to allow those in government, or those corporate-owned media mouthpieces to divide and conquer us further. This ruinous rampage is part of the much larger attack on progressive values, on the institutions of social good. The battle isn’t only to reclaim the professoriate, to wipe out student debt, to raise educational outcomes — although each of those goals deserve to be fought for. But we will win a Pyrrhic victory at best unless we understand the nature of the larger war, and fight back in a much, much bigger way to reclaim the country’s values for the betterment of our citizens.
There’s more to it than that, but the five-point plan pretty well sums up the problem. This is something to truly consider if you’re off to college or have a youngin headed that way. Grades and test scores are up while IQs are down. Just too many degrees floating about. Faculty paid at 1970’s levels in 2017. A pathetic return on investment in many cases. Outside of a few (and shrinking) fields, an absence of actual learning. The death of critical thinking. Football coaches who view your daughter as a prostitute for the team and recruits. Get the picture?
For the adjunct faculty, Homeless and others, I may have a partial answer to the professional issues. Maybe, not sure. Just as there is a real thing called the IQ Communication Gap, that dictates an incredible difficulty related to and communicating with those 2 SD north or south of one’s own intelligence level, so there is also a real IQ cap on elite faculty – at places like Harvard, Yale, Oxford, etc.
The average student at Harvard (let’s call them representative of the elite students of the world) clocks in at 128 (W. or S.B.). That’s superior but not genius. The average faculty from these institutions rates around 133. And the curve is extremely narrow, clustering almost exclusively around that number.
Those too far below can’t make it for obvious reasons. Those above, however, suffer a similar yet more difficult to define exclusion. Around 135 there is a steep drop off. At 140 there is a collapse. One SD above the average, in the real genius range, the chances of obtaining elite teaching or research work effectively falls to zero.
This may be a product of the genius/near genius tendency for nonconformity. Or, it might have to do with the fact that we think and operate entirely differently that the rest of humanity. Whatever the cause, the effect is real.
I have a sneaking suspicion, one that might make a good thesis or research project for some psych. grad student. Anyway, I suspect that the average adjunct professional has a higher IQ than the average tenure track professional within a given institution. It’s even possible, as a whole, that average adjunct IQ exceeds that of the regular elite professors, as a whole. That could be a stretch – but not one too far. And that’s the faculty. I have no doubt I am 100% correct when comparing adjuncts to superfluous administrators.
Whatever the cause, the effects are real and felt. Please do read those above articles if you have half a modicum of interest in the subject.
Like Homeless I have some hope that the system may be salvageable. However, a better strategy is probably to abandon the schools and start new, better, and more modern alternatives. People are doing that with great success.
And, like the story of Cato’s cattle, it’s the great success that’s admirable.