Tuesday, December 28, 2010

the state of higher education

...segues into obligatory season version of the ubiquitous "whither U" conversation ~ whether rant, lecture or dialog. Our New Year's resolution (another obligatory seasonal genre) should be moving it from rant and lecture to inclusive dialog. By inclusive, I mean not leaving adjuncts, contingent and NTT academic labor out of the national discussion and decision make. Don't just toss an occasional hush puppy panel or even all day bone to the noisy dog.

Anthony Grafton reviews Higher Education? by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus and Crisis on Campus by Mark Taylor. Is going to an elite college worth the cost? The sluggish economy and rising costs of college have only intensified questions about whether expensive, prestigious colleges make any difference. Michael Konczal on the 21st-century retreat from public higher education. The academy as a commodity: What if the market has already devalued the knowledge on which the entire operation of accountability is based? From Arcade, Gregory Jusdanis on the oppression of peer review. Academics have long been criticised for being out of touch with the real world; many make great efforts to dispel ivory tower attitudes, but others believe such habits will never disappear. An interview with Phillip Brown, Hugh Lauder, and David Ashton, authors of The Global Auction: The Broken Promises of Education, Jobs and Incomes. The disposable academic: Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time. Can Tolstoy save your marriage? Cultural classics offer vital lessons about how to live, but our universities don't teach them that way. An interview with Martha Nussbaum on the value of the humanities (and more). Victor Davis Hanson writes in defense of the liberal arts: The therapeutic Left and the utilitarian Right both do disservice to the humanities. We're all conservatives now: Academics from the left and right blame each other for the state of higher education, but they're in agreement more than they realize.

Our part is to come to table stunningly well informed: homework done, all sides researched ~ add well articulated objectives to the list. Hence the timeliness of yet another review.

Coming up in this seasonally appropriate Janus series: an adjuncts' top 10 list for 2010, maybe even best and worst lists. Then if not resolutions, directions and realistic objectives for 2011.

What's on your list?

Posted via email from Academentia

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Update to issue 17 of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor

Higher ed concerns and issues are interconnected with and cannot/must not be separated from those of K-12

The current issue of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor has been updated with two new field reports.

Issue No. 17 of Workplace “Working In, and Against, the Neo-Liberal State: Global Perspectives on K-12 Teacher Unions” is guest edited by Howard Stevenson of Lincoln University (UK).

The new field reports include:

The NEA Representative Assembly of 2010: A Longer View of Crisis and Consciousness
Rich Gibson

Following the 2009 National Education Association (NEA) Representative Assembly (RA) in San Diego, new NEA president Dennis Van Roekel was hugging Arne Duncan, fawning over new President Obama, and hustling the slogan, “Hope Starts Here!” At the very close of the 2009 RA, delegates were treated to a video of themselves chanting, “Hope starts Here!” and “Hope Starts with Obama and Duncan!” The NEA poured untold millions of dollars, and hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours, into the Obama campaign. In 2009, Van Roekel promised to tighten NEA-Obama ties, despite the President’s educational policies and investment in war. What happened in the year’s interim? What was the social context of the 2010 RA?

Resisting the Common-nonsense of Neoliberalism: A Report from British Columbia
E. Wayne Ross

Faced with a $16 million budget shortfall, the Vancouver school trustees, who have a mandate to meet the needs of their students, have lobbied for more provincial funding to avoid draconian service cuts. The government has refused the request, and its special advisor to the Vancouver School Board criticizes trustees for engaging in “advocacy” rather than making “cost containment” first priority. The clash between Vancouver trustees and the ministry of education is not “just politics.” Rather, education policy in BC reflects the key features of neoliberal globalization, not the least of which is the principle that more and more of our collective wealth is devoted to maximizing private profits rather than serving public needs. British Columbia is home to one of the most politically successful neoliberal governments in the world, but fortunately it is also a place to look for models of mass resistance to the neoliberal agenda. One of the most important examples of resistance to the common-nonsense of neoliberalism in the past decade is the British Columbia teachers’ 2005 strike, which united student, parent, and educator interests in resisting the neoliberal onslaught on education in the public interest.

Posted via email from Academentia

Monday, December 6, 2010

Precarious, Precarisation, Precariat?

That's us. Precariously employed, objects of precarization, members of the academic precariat. I had a rather different post mentally laid out ~ a survey of affordable, non-institutionalized (e.g. involving neither conferences, unions nor other organizational affiliations) actions / acts of resistance available to the weary, disheartened adcon approaching semester's end, unsure and even less optimistic of what the next semester might bring. I'll still write it, but this caught my eye while searching keywords related to our condition.

Caveat: the article excerpted below does not specifically address academic labor. Yet it is relevant to the precarious working conditions of adjunct and contingent faculty.

I. Precarious literally means unsure, uncertain, difficult, delicate. As a political term it refers to living and working conditions without any guarantees: for example the precarious residential status of migrants and refugees, or the precariousness of everyday life for single mothers. Since the early 1980s the term has been used more and more in relation to labour. Precarious work refers to all possible forms of insecure, non-guaranteed, flexible exploitation: from illegalised, seasonal and temporary employment to homework, flex- and temp-work, to subcontractors, freelancers, or so called self-employed persons.

II. Precarisation at work means a growing transformation from guaranteed, permanent employment to less well paid and more insecure jobs. On a historical and global scale, however, precarious work is not exceptional. In fact the idea of a generalisation of so-called guaranteed working conditions was itself a short lived myth of the ‘welfare state’ era. In the global South, in eastern Europe, as well as for most women and migrants in the north – altogether the great majority of the global population –, precarious working conditions were and are the norm. Precarisation describes moreover the crisis of established institutions, which represented for that short period the framework of (false) certainties. It is an analytical term for a process and hints at a new quality of societal labour. Labour and social life, production and reproduction cannot be separated anymore, and this leads to a more comprehensive definition of precarisation: the uncertainty of all circumstances in the material and immaterial conditions of life of living labour under contemporary capitalism. For example: wage level and working conditions are connected with a distribution of tasks, which is determined by gender and ethnic roles; residence status determines access to the labour market or to medical care. The whole ensemble of social relations seems to be on the move.

in section III. Precarisation, the article moves beyond usual discussion of part-time/ temp labor to frame precarisation as a "complex and contested process" with the potential to transform traditional understanding and postion of labor ... but also with the potential to become farce and ideological football. Section IV connects precarious and migrant labor.

Posted via email from Academentia

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What Happens if the Charter School Companies Win?

Among the arguments made by advocates for charter schools is that they expand consumer choice and that given the state of education in many inner-city minority communities experimentation with alternatives can only help the situation. As buzz words, choice and experimentation always sound good. After all, we know about the disappointing performance of many students in inner-city schools under the current educational system so why not try something else?

Unfortunately, we already know what will happen if private-for-profit charter school companies take over K-12 education in the United States because for-profit proprietary companies have already successfully invaded what used to be called "higher education." These companies have defrauded the government, left families deep in un-repayable debt, and cheated students out of an education.

Higher ed and K-12 are connected ~ what goes down in one, affects the other; "innovations," policies, programs, etc. implemented in one domain will eventually come home to roost in the other, trickle up or trickle down. It behooves each to trend watch the other.

Posted via email from Meanderings

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Future of Work

this bit of research on the Gartner site; while it dates back to August has some interesting speculation about the Future of Work.

“People will swarm more often and work solo less. They’ll work with others with whom they have few links, and teams will include people outside the control of the organization,”

“In addition, simulation, visualization and unification technologies, working across yottabytes of data per second, will demand an emphasis on new perceptual skills.”

-       Tom Austin, Vice President and Gartner Fellow

Gartner points out that the world of work will probably witness ten major changes in the next ten years. Interesting in that it will change how learning happens in the workplace as well. The eLearning industry will need to account for the coming change and have a strategy in place to deal with the changes.

So much of this applies as much to teaching and learning possibilities.

"De-routinization" of work (or teaching) could return to autonomy to teachers, already implied in Downes. Work swarms and teaming fit in at PLENK 2010 but seem less likely candidates for the entrenched academic mind.

And on down the list. Just because it could happen doesn't mean it will though.

Posted via email from Meanderings

Monday, November 1, 2010

Welcome to Harbor Homes

First blog for Harbor Homes: up a creek wrangling WordPress without a paddle. How different can blogging platforms be? Just do it, how Nike. Very frustrating to find out that once I leave the site, I cannot return and edit the first post, which was the auto-post that I edited after initial log in. So I started another post in the form of a sub-blog, thinking OK surely that one I can edit. And I could as long as I was on the page tweaking, Not today, I am logged in but there is no editing link. Maybe it's an admin thing. Maybe I'm blocked for inappropriate breeziness, a deficit of corporate style (a repeating chapter in my life story) in addressing an "educated audience." Maybe it's just the plug-in, not WordPress. 

So here's edited post #1, taking asylum here. However, I certainly don't want to turn this into a single subject blog. Work and Life IRL aren't like that. 

Allow me to introduce Harbor Homesnew blog and myself, Vanessa Vaile, your resident blogger.  I’ll be blogging 3 times a week or more. da Blog is our way of informally telling the world more about our mission, becoming better acquainted with Harbor Homes LLC clients. suppliers, and associates as well as disaster relief agencies and organizations we work with.
For now, I’m feeling my way. Posts will be informational, sometimes serious, sometimes less so, but I hope always interesting. If you have questions, suggestions about related topics you want to know more about, ideas for posts, please email me or leave a comment below to let me know. I have ideas of my own that I’ll be sharing with you but want to hear your ideas too.
In closing, a brief word about the name change in the blog post title: the blog comes already named “deBlog”, but Harbor Homes is in Georgia, near the Gulf Coast. “deBlog” is not Southern (Creole maybe) but “da Blog” ~ like da Beeb, da Judge, etc ~ is.
Later ~ until then, y’all take care

Friday, October 29, 2010

work, unexpected

Just when I no longer expected it: I have a part time gig, web 2.0 marketing, PR (the web presence thing), primarily via blogging and social media. for Harbor Homes, LLC, the parent company, located in Georgia. Although the emphasis is disaster relief not oil patch, the nature of the company's products and my responsibilities resonate to past experiences, validating the adage that no knowledge or experience is ever lost or a waste. The opportunity to reuse either can return when least expected.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

How To Ease the Pressure of Blogging

Blogging and writing about it surely fit in "work and life" ~ even if unpaid. Why is it (socially) considered (worthwhile) work if we are paid for it?

A few thoughts on Life and Work: categories of work (paid, unpaid, knowledge work, manual labor, housework, volunteer work, drudgery) or not (fired, I quit, downsized, folded, etc) as subsections, not unlike my series "Poetry Matters," "Mountainair Wired," etc on Mountainair Arts. By that mark, blogging is a work phase.

A Guest Post by David Turnbull of Adventures of a Barefoot Geek

After the initial excitement of launching a new blog fades most bloggers are a few steps away from being overwhelmed with the pressure of blogging to the point that they quit, losing the momentum they were building up and all the progress they'd made. This is an unfortunately common occurence.

Writing. Guest posting. Commenting. Responding to emails. Continuous learning. It's a lot to take in and if you're not adequately prepared to face challenges as they appear there's a likelihood that one day you'll choose not to publish another post and then you're back to square one.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

5 Levels of Effective Communication in the Social Media Age

via Mashable! by Soren Gordhamer

levels image

Soren Gordhamer is the organizer of the Wisdom 2.0 Conference, which brings together staff from Google, Facebook, and Twitter with others to explore living wisely in our modern age. Mashable readers can use code 'Mashable' for a discount when registering.
In the era of social media, our networks are much larger than they have ever been, and we have more ways to communicate with those in them. Even if you are not very active on Facebook or Twitter, my guess is that your sphere of communication has expanded significantly in recent years. Who you communicate with and how you communicate has changed radically. This new connected era brings both opportunities and challenges.
In the past we had a set of contacts, all of whom generally knew how to reach us — via phone, e-mail, or regular mail. Today, thanks in large part to social media, we have many different levels of communication, each with a specific purpose and etiquette. When we do not understand the role of these levels, they can become huge time wasters. When we do understand them however, they can help us more effectively engage and navigate these new waters.

Monday, May 3, 2010

BlogLife: New Debate on Comments Brewing

or would that be "blog work"? Hmmm... a differentiation still up grabs. Is work life, life work?

If you've been following the blogging and social media scene over the last five or more years, you know that there's one heated debate that keeps on showing up: the debate about comments on blogs. Should blogs have comments? Should these comments be moderated? When has a comment gone too far? Judging from a couple of recent events, it's once again time to rethink these issues.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Myth of the Greedy Geezer

David Brooks wants to pull the plug on us greedy, grasping old folks. Or more accurately, he wants us to pull the plug on ourselves, by giving up our generous "entitlements" and submitting to Social Security and Medicare cuts. We should be more than happy to do this, he says, out of an altruistic urge to rescue younger generations from misery and penury. Too bad Brooks fails to mention that what really needs rescuing is the nation's system of social inequality and corporate greed.

In a New York Times column, called "The Geezer's Crusade," Brooks zeros in on one of the increasingly popular straw men of our times–that enemy of the people known as the Greedy Geezer.

Dripping with condescension, Brooks runs through a list of all the wonderful things that come with old age in the 21st century. Instead of sinking into dimwitted oblivion, the modern geezer–lo and behold–is actually able to think and function. "Older people retain their ability to remember emotionally nuanced events. They are able to integrate memories from their left and right hemispheres. Their brains reorganize to help compensate for the effects of aging." Brooks even has scientific proof for his claims: "A series of longitudinal studies, begun decades ago, are producing a rosier portrait of life after retirement," he writes. According to these studies, old people "become more outgoing, self-confident and warm with age." We "pay less attention to negative emotional stimuli," and are just plain happier than the middle-aged.

Yet despite all these bountiful gifts (which undoubtedly offset such minor inconveniences as not being able to walk, see, screw, or control our bladders), we old coots just can't shake the selfish idea that we ought to get a little help from society in our golden years. After working, raising and educating our kids, and paying taxes all our lives, we Greedy Geezers now want to sit back and rake in our "entitlements"–Social Security and Medicare. Can't we see that in doing so, we are actually stealing  from the young, denying them a future, and worse, driving the nation into bankruptcy? Brooks writes:
Far from serving the young, the old are now taking from them. First, they are taking money. According to Julia Isaacs of the Brookings Institution, the federal government now spends $7 on the elderly for each $1 it spends on children.
Second, they are taking freedom. In 2009, for the first time in American history, every single penny of federal tax revenue went to pay for mandatory spending programs, according to Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute. As more money goes to pay off promises made mostly to the old, the young have less control.
Third, they are taking opportunity. For decades, federal spending has hovered around 20 percent of G.D.P. By 2019, it is forecast to be at 25 percent and rising. The higher tax rates implied by that spending will mean less growth and fewer opportunities. Already, pension costs in many states are squeezing education spending. 
In the private sphere, in other words, seniors provide wonderful gifts to their grandchildren, loving attention that will linger in young minds, providing support for decades to come. In the public sphere, they take it away.
Brooks doesn't specify the exact reforms necessary to correct this cancer on society, but we all know what they are: We need only reduce the entitlements, along the lines Pete Peterson has been strenuously advocating. That can be accomplished by setting up an Entitlement Commission to impartially hand down "fast-track" cuts to old-age entitlement programs, tell Congress what it has to do, and get the economy back on course. When Obama sees the happy-times oldster lolling about on his houseboat in the Florida Keys, he ought to react the way Reagan did when he observed the "welfare queen" who was supposedly ripping off  taxpayers: Cut off the supply of federal funds, and stop letting the Greedy Geezers feed at the public trough.

If it isn't politically expedient to cut us off (because we darned geezers insist upon voting), then convince us to do it to ourselves. What Brooks calls the Geezer's Crusade is an imagined "spontaneous social movement" by elders to reduce their own benefits. He writes:
It now seems clear that the only way the U.S. is going to avoid an economic crisis is if the oldsters take it upon themselves to arise and force change. The young lack the political power. Only the old can lead a generativity revolution — millions of people demanding changes in health care spending and the retirement age to make life better for their grandchildren.
Brooks has audacity, I'll give him that. Too bad his premise is as phony as a three-dollar bill. But Brooks is far from alone in advancing what I call the Myth of the Greedy Geezer, in which old people's selfish attachment to their entitlements is the primary cause of the nation's economic woes, and entitlement cuts are the only solution. The myth is circulated by pundits of all political stripes, and graces the editorial pages of some of the nation's largest newspapers.
This fabrication serves a myriad of purposes. It substitutes a phony intergenerational conflict–a phantom battle between young and old–for the real conflict in American society: the conflict between the interests of poor and middle-class people, who pay more than their fair share, and the corporations and wealthy elite, who get an easier ride in America than they do anywhere in the developed world.

In the past 30 years, according to Congressional  Budget Office data, the income of the top 1% of Americans has risen 176%, while the middle fifth have seen a 21% growth in income, and the poorest fifth just 6%. But hey–why talk about taxing the rich when you can balance the budget on the backs of those Greedy Geezers?

Wall Street had to be bailed out to the tune of $1 trillion, and they're back to business as usual. But why take measures that might "stifle" the "freemarket" when we can just cut Social Security instead? (And never mind that the Greedy Geezers saw their retirement savings decimated and their home values plunge; they'll manage.)

Millions of Americans suffer and even die from inadequate health care, and medical costs drive thousands into bankruptcy every year. But why should we expect the drugmakers and insurance companies to reduce their hefty profits, when we can just reduce Medicare payments to those Greedy Geezers? After all, does grandma really need that hip replacement when it means taking money out of the hands of her grandchildren? Should grandpa have a triple-bypass, just to get a few more years of life, when it means bankrupting the country?
What we have here is a classic bait-and-switch. Politicians are talking about the urgent need to cut Medicare because Democrats and Republicans alike won't take on the real enemies of affordable health care–the insurance companies, Big Pharma, and other providers of medicine for profit. They're saying we have to "reform" Social Security (a program which, compared to Citibank and Goldman Sachs, is a model of financial solvency) because they are unwilling to really take on Wall Street. They're devising ways to skim off of entitlements, which have lifted millions of old people out of dire poverty, because they won't consider a more "socialist" tax structure–like, for example, the one we had in the United States during the Nixon Administration.

In the long run, the Myth of the Greedy Geezer also serves one of the most cherished items on the conservative agenda: permanent cuts to core social safety net programs that date back to the New Deal and the War on Poverty. Commenting on Pete Peterson and the other right-wing "granny bashers" last year, Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research wrote: "It should be evident that the granny bashers don't care at all about generational equity. They care about dismantling Social Security and Medicare, the country's most important social programs."

This quest just got a potentially big boost from David Brooks and his "Geezer's Crusade." I just hope we geezers don't fall for it.

(For another take on Brooks's piece, read this post by FireDogLake's pithy "Earl of Huntingdon.")

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Got Letters?

I'm not (living as an adjunct) anymore but colleagues still are. The title comes from Betsy Smith's subject line in a post to the adj-l listserv urging adjuncts to write Martha Kanter, Under Secretary of Education.

Speaking at the Saturday lunch, Martha Kantner, also a former adjunct, assured all present that she reads all of her e-mail personally - and gave her e-mail address. I know of at least one that she has read and answered.  As Raye Robertson at the The Adjunct Voice might say, It's good to have a voice.

if you haven't written yet, go to the Inside Higher Education article about adjunct issues at the 2010 NEA/AFT higher ed conference in San Jose. To get the email address, scroll down to Comments or just text search the page for "Write Martha Kantner."  Then write Martha and, if you will, please share with us. 

Letters can be posted as comments or emailed to me at vanessa.87036@gmail.com to post as separate entries. Please be sure to note if your prefer your name and/or institutional affiliation to remain anonymous. If you prefer the contents of your letter to remain private, that's your choice, but do let us know so your letter can be counted.

This blog is for the letters of anyone willing to share, without or without your names. Nor is it the only place to share. COCAL's Contingent Faculty email list (subscription only) invites subscribers to cc the list. No doubt other adjunct groups, organizations, blogs etc will post letters as well. The more the merrier... the louder, the clearer and the more polyphonic that voice the better.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

NFM out and about

Executive committee members, l-r: Ross Borden, Matt Williams, Maria Maisto, Anne Wiegard

March 12-13: Retreat and Strategic Planning meeting, Akron Ohio: Employment Insurance Initiative; budget and fund-raising; membership drive ~ chapters, "Toolit for Members" with provisions and suggestions for members to work on projects and/or in chapters; Chicago meeting planned to coordinate UI initiative; Yvonne Bruce to coordinate her faith-based initiative (Catholic universities' treatment of contingent faculty) with NFM; developing timeline and medium and long range goals for strategic plan, to be develped in time for COCAL 2010, August 13-15, Quebec City, Quebec 

Webpage housekeeping... out of date news items have been "unpublished" and other minor housekeeping. Link to Facebook page added, Twitter link still MIA   

June 3-5, How Class Works Conference, Stony Brook, Maria Maisto and Steve Street present in contingent issues in academic labor (maybe we can shake a preview out them to blog here...)

August 13-15, COCAL 2010, Quebec City, Quebec 

Tentatively, immediate (and interconnected) priorities are:

1.     Brochure
2.     Newsletter
3.     Fund-raising
4.     Membership development

(Note: original post edited 9:45pm, Mountain Daylight Time ~ I'd put the newsletter ahead of the brochure but that's probably just the community news blogger and former newsletter editor speaking)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Dew U UCube?

UCubed Catching Hold and Gaining Momentum, by Kiley Hernandez, Feb 25, 2010

"Ur Union of Unemployed" or UCubed, generated record-breaking numbers over the last 24 hours, with membership jumping from almost 480 job activists yesterday to well over 800 today. Ninety-six new cubes were created within the same time period, adding to the 84 cubes already created (six people within the same zip code make one cube). UCubed is now up-and-running in 48 states and the District of Columbia.

The UCubed website, at http://www.unionofunemployed.com, is creating an outlet for the 30 million-plus unemployed, and out-of-work America is beginning to speak loud and clear about the jobs crisis.

Since its launch in January 2010, UCubed’s steady increase in media presence and social networking is building a movement, and people are noticing. “This thing could hit critical mass pretty quick. Fire it up!” said one post on Common Dreams.

UCubed is committed to providing resources to the unemployed and providing a way to build strength in numbers via a unique web-based, grass-roots platform. In addition, UCubed allows members within their area to connect with other individuals who are unemployed and provide service and support for each other while spearheading legislative notices on critical jobs issues.

Learn more by visiting UCubed at http://www.unionofunemployed.com

Saturday, January 23, 2010

work sets

yes still at and now even tweeting more place and with pages on Fcbk. i love how nasty that sounds. that's one work set, if i can call something not in the least connected with gainful employment a "work set" ~ but why not? here i get to define "work." life on the other hand defines itself. work often defines life but does not have to unless you let it.

another "work set" involves learning how to use new social media and other applications for online teaching, ESL in particular. yet another personal peculiarosity in that i am not actively employed teaching online or otherwise. volunteer teaching ESL online may count somewhat.

and then there is the massive blogging effort and community networking. the chamber of commerce is no longer part of any work set though pull its tail (and the tails of true believers therein) on occasion could become one.

blogging and community networking even by blog (as in 1 if by email, 2 if by blog) should go into subcategories but not this time. ditto life not part of work sets.