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?

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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.

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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.

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