Thursday, April 11, 2013

Warning: Academic Unhappiness Ahead

Hi, friends.  I wanted to share something with you today, an essay from Sarah Kendzior on the plight of adjunct faculty in academia.  This issue and a similar issue in academic science are very close to my heart, as I and many of my friends have built their futures on the hope and expectation of long-term careers in university teaching and/or research.  Today I’m not going to rant about the immorality of current working conditions for many academics, but I do want to share the following from Dr. Kendzior’s piece.

“The plight of the adjunct shows how personal success is not an excuse to excuse systemic failure. Success is meaningless when the system that sustained it - the higher education system - is no longer sustainable. When it falls, everyone falls. Success is not a pathway out of social responsibility.

Last week, a corporation proudly announced that it had created a digital textbook that monitors whether students had done the reading. This followed the announcement of the software that grades essays, which followed months of hype over MOOCs - massive online open courses - replacing classroom interaction. Professors who can gauge student engagement through class discussion are unneeded. Professors who can offer thoughtful feedback on student writing are unneeded. Professors who interact with students, who care about students, are unneeded.

We should not be surprised that it has come to this when 76 percent of faculty are treated as dispensable automatons. The contempt for adjuncts reflects a general contempt for learning. The promotion of information has replaced the pursuit of knowledge. But it is not enough to have information - we need insight and understanding, and above all, we need people who can communicate it to others.”

(Bold added by me for emphasis.)

The current system is exploitive, immoral, and unsustainable.  We cannot keep doing this.  I agree with the author.  “Success is solidarity.” 


Laurie said...

I see similarities to my line of work.

Promotion of information has replaced the pursuit of knowledge. Yep.

Treated as dispensable automatons. Check.

No wonder this non-science woman likes to read about your pursuits in science. There are, in this case sadly, more similarities than I thought.


Raquelita said...

I like to think that MOOC's will be found to largely fail in what they claim they can accomplish, as online classes already have extremely high attrition rates and really low rates of student success. And that ultimately the value of the in-class personal interaction will be seen as a result.

Rosiecat said...

Laurie, I am so sorry to hear that. I think the information vs. pursuit of knowledge issue is very much a situation where we think that the final product of teaching is all that matters--we ignore the fact that the process is itself something that is taught. In other words, the questions matter as much as, if not more than, the answers. Because life itself is process.

Raquelita, good points. It seems like every issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article (or five) on MOOCs, but I think a lot of teaching methods really benefit from in-person interactions. For me, anything that is a series of steps, such as molecular biology techniques, is so much easier to understand when it's taught to me in person...or at least that was true before I had a PhD in molecular biology! :-)