Sunday, August 26, 2012

the dead end of higher education as a means to prosperity in america...,

aljazeera | It is 2011 and I'm sitting in the Palais des Congres in Montreal, watching anthropologists talk about structural inequality.

The American Anthropological Association meeting is held annually to showcase research from around the world, and like thousands of other anthropologists, I am paying to play: $650 for airfare, $400 for three nights in a "student" hotel, $70 for membership, and $94 for admission. The latter two fees are student rates. If I were an unemployed or underemployed scholar, the rates would double.

The theme of this year's meeting is "Traces, Tidemarks and Legacies." According to the explanation on the American Anthropological Association website, we live in a time when "the meaning and location of differences, both intellectually and morally, have been rearranged". As the conference progresses, I begin to see what they mean. I am listening to the speaker bemoan the exploitative practices of the neoliberal model when a friend of mine taps me on the shoulder.
"I spent almost my entire salary to be here," she says.

My friend is an adjunct. She has a PhD in anthropology and teaches at a university, where she is paid $2100 per course. While she is a professor, she is not a Professor. She is, like 67 per cent of American university faculty, a part-time employee on a contract that may or may not be renewed each semester. She receives no benefits or health care.

According to the Adjunct Project, a crowdsourced website revealing adjunct wages - data which universities have long kept under wraps - her salary is about average. If she taught five classes a year, a typical full-time faculty course load, she would make $10,500, well below the poverty line. Some adjuncts make more. I have one friend who was offered $5000 per course, but he turned it down and requested less so that his children would still qualify for food stamps.

Why is my friend, a smart woman with no money, spending nearly $2000 to attend a conference she cannot afford? She is looking for a way out. In America, academic hiring is rigid and seasonal. Each discipline has a conference, usually held in the fall, where interviews take place. These interviews can be announced days or even hours in advance, so most people book beforehand, often to receive no interviews at all.

The American Anthropological Association tends to hold its meetings in America's most expensive cities, although they do have one stipulation: "AAA staff responsible for negotiating and administering annual meeting contracts shall show preference to locales with living wage ordinances." This rule does not apply, unfortunately, to those in attendance.

11 comments:

DD said...

As I spend 5 hours to prepare for each one hour lecture, and also know that I won't be teaching this class again (since I have no masters and was a 'emergency' hire) I find this extremely amusing.

However, as a part time doomer I also hold no expectations of privilege and take what I can get, partially because I enjoy the experience and also because they could probably teleconference a foreign professor in for half what make in a 'fair' world.

Do I deserve better pay? I will say that the tenured faculty seem almost willfully ignorant of their equipment slush funds and relative lives of leisure, but that's a pretty universal fiirst world condition so it's hard to hold it against them more than others. The righteousness about sabbatical in the first department meeting was amusing.

They do clutch shamanically to their phDs though, as if not working until you are thirty, and then only in academia, somehow makes you more qualified.

Loyalty to tribe does seem to be an effective resource strategy, and the bigger the tribe the bigger the reward. But the bigger the tribe the less it becomes about morals and values and the more it becomes about resources. Bigger tends to seem wrong.

Maybe I'm the one clutching worthless tokens after all! Perhaps it's best to find a powerful king and bend the knee.

CNu said...

They do clutch shamanically to their phDs though, as if not working
until you are thirty, and then only in academia, somehow makes you more
qualified.


Urban public school districts are conspicuous victims of this PhD mafia which couldn't operate its way out of a wet paper bag with a hot, high-powered chainsaw. Some of the most pompous, idiotic, grossly overpaid imbeciles to leave a slime trail across the face of the earth.

Tom said...

Some of the most pompous, idiotic, grossly overpaid imbeciles to leave a slime trail across the face of the earth.

LOL, this is the kind of language I come here for.

umbrarchist said...

That is funny. I took psychological tests for 4 days when I was in college and at the end they told me my IQ was in the 98th percentile and I would have no trouble getting a PhD. But those honkys started acting really weird about the third day. I broke one of their tests. The woman ran out of numbers.

They just took for granted that I would want PhD. At the time I was thinking about a double masters. Electrical Engineering and physics. But a physics senior told me something really strange. I had recently read Tau Zero by Poul Anderson and had a conversation with a physics senior about time slowing down near light speed. He said, "you don't try to understand it you just memorize the equations and how to use them." I found that rather shocking my freshman year.

So I wasn't to impressed by physics at the school. I can't even explain how much this 9/11 business shocks me and the conversations I have had about it on the net. Either I'm stupid and/or crazy along with a minority of people or most people on both sides of this debate either can't comprehend Newtonian Physics or are huge liars.

Big Don said...

Probably way off base here so excuse BD for not reading/following more closely, but in a nutshell, just exactly what do you believe happened on 9/11, e.g., Bush arranged for Arab hijackers to run planes into the buildings, after pre-installing demolition explosives, to bring down the buildings for an excuse to wage war in the Middle East...??????

umbrarchist said...

Physics is not about BELIEVING dude! How do you make a 400,000+ ton skyscraper hold itself up and withstand 100+ mph winds without getting the distributions of steel and concrete correct?

So regardless of who did what or why on 9/11 how do educated "scientists" analyse the PHYSICS of a supposed top down collapse without that data? So when have you heard "scientists" discussing that in the last TEN YEARS.

Fiziks is Fundamental. Resistance is Futile.

9/11 is not about what people did on 9/11. Human beings cannot change physics and physics does not care about human beings. So how do all of the PhDs not figure out the obvious questions to ask about grade school physics.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0wk4qG2mIg

Big Don said...

BD has not studied the issue of the towers collapse other than what we have casually picked up over the years. However, recognize from well-known fundamental structural dynamics, the stress produced from the impact of a suddenly applied load is double the stress of the same load applied statically. And if you ever heated steel red hot with a torch, to bend it, you know that red-hot steel has virtually no strength (BD had a small hot rod machine shop as a "side hustle" back in the 1950s). So when the intense fires in the tower crash area heated the columns red hot, the vertical load of the above 10-20 floors (however many it was) crashed down and impacted the unaffected lower part of the building with something approaching double the normal vertical static load, wasn't a loading condition building designers likely would have considered.. You don't need to know the actual concrete and steel configuration in the building to believe that as a plausible scenario....


Wanna drag...??

umbrarchist said...

That old emotional analogy physics that only vaguely resembles what happens in the real world.

The lower 90 stories of the north tower were not subjected to fire. The fire lasted less than two hours so it is obvious to wonder how many TONS of steel had to be heated in so short a time to weaken.

And curiously in TEN YEARS no engineering school has conducted an experiment to duplicate the collapse.. In fact they don't even talk about doing such an experiment.

The Irony of Curiosity!

Big Don said...

I think if you dropped a million tons of debris (towers collapsing) directly on the ground next door to pretty much any building, whether or not that building was on fire, the earthquake effect could easily collapse that building. I've been in buildings when just a heavily-loaded 18-wheeler or railroad train passing by next door, shakes the building sufficiently to make person nervous....

umbrarchist said...

I presume you are talking about WTC7, but if that is the case why was it the only building in the vicinity affected in that way? It is so curious how people can twist physics to come to the conclusion they want and ignore the collateral damage of the same silly explanation.

Big Don said...

Well, again just a quick look, BD went to Google Images and put in "9-11 damage" (or something like that), ton of fotos, and there were other nearby buildings at least partially collapsed, one side gone and you're looking into apartment rooms etc., and otherwise heavily damaged. Would guess the quake intensity attenuates quickly with the inverse cube of the distance from ground zero, and the ground properties with all the foundations are not radially/circumstantially homogeneous, so you wouldn't expect all adjacent buildings to be equally affected.... Uh, this is running into serious billable minutes, where should BD send the statement for the consulting fees...??