Adjuncts Aren’t Slaves. Let’s Stop Saying They Are. | Vitae

Adjuncts Aren’t Slaves. Let’s Stop Saying They Are.

December 4, 2013

Amid the rightful discussion of our shift toward an entrenched, disposable academic laboring class, some adjunct advocates are making a striking analogy. Adjunct labor, they say, is a form of new slavery.

The comparison has become increasingly visible on blogs and within comment sections. Here’s one more example, from Langston Snodgrass: “It has been said that, ‘Adjuncts are the slave labor of higher education.’ This is factually true beyond doubt. Adjuncts are disrespected as teachers, as individual human beings, and as professionals in terms of what adjuncts are paid.”

So let’s be clear about this: Adjuncts are not slaves, and being an adjunct is not akin to slavery. Exploitation? In many cases, yes. Slavery? Absolutely not.

Slavery was (and continues to be) a system of forced labor, of lifelong servitude, of denied compensation and violence. Those who deploy the term as part of a rhetorical strategy are joining PETA, anti-choice crusaders, the G.O.P., Sarah Palin, Ben Carson, and a myriad of anti-Obamacareites by doing so. They are blinded by their cause, by historic myopia, and often by the privilege of whiteness.

Throughout history, slavery has been embedded within society. It has governed law, economic and political structures, and everyday realities. White supremacy has been a guiding ideology, a way to rationalize the exploitation and violence experienced by enslaved African and African-American people. Daily abuse, torture, sexual violence, and death have all been part of a system of slavery in the United States, and terror and violence were instrumental in maintaining a system of mass enslavement.

“Slavery for Black Americans was traumatic,” noted Patricia Moody Jefferson, a doctoral student in the Ethelyn R. Strong School of Social Work at Norfolk State University, during a recent discussion I participated in on Facebook. “Children and whole families were sold like animals. People, human beings were killed. Africans who were enslaved lost much of their identity.”

It should go without saying that being an adjunct is nothing like this.

It should go without saying that the ideologies and narratives leading to more and more contingent faculty don’t seep into every aspect of life. It should go without saying that violence and terror aren’t part of the adjunct experience, nor is being legally owned as a form of “property.” It should go without saying that being an adjunct isn’t a birth-to-death reality, one passed on to future generations. The analogy falls flat on its face. Not only does it deny and erase the history of enslaved Africans and African Americans within the United States, but it also obscures the real issues facing adjuncts in our contemporary system of higher education.

Continue reading at Adjuncts Aren’t Slaves. Let’s Stop Saying They Are. | Vitae.

NewBlackMan: Education in Era of the McTeacher

Education in Era of the McTeacher

by Theresa Runstedtler and David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

“It’s a Biblical principle. If you double a teacher’s pay scale, you’ll attract people who aren’t called to teach.” – Alabama state Senator Shadrack McGill (R)

Speaking at a prayer breakfast last month, state Senator Shadrack McGill (R) argued that increasing school teachers’ salaries would not only destroy the quality of public education in Alabama but it would be tantamount to blasphemy. (Of course, this position did not prevent him from advocating for a 67-percent pay increase for Alabama legislators.)

To go in and raise someone’s child for eight hours a day, or many people’s children for eight hours a day, requires a calling. It better be a calling in your life. I know I wouldn’t want to do it, OK? And these teachers that are called to teach, regardless of the pay scale, they would teach. It’s just in them to do. It’s the ability that God give ‘em. And there are also some teachers, it wouldn’t matter how much you would pay them, they would still perform to the same capacity. If you don’t keep that in balance, you’re going to attract people who are not called, who don’t need to be teaching our children. So, everything has a balance.

Even though McGill’s theological grounding of the issue of teacher pay is laughable at best, his assertion exposes an underlying tension in current debates over education reform. Ironically, those who demonize teachers frequently deploy this tired mantra of selfless public service to rationalize low teacher salaries, even as they expect the same teachers to operate in an increasingly corporatized, “results-based” environment – without corporate-sized wages.

In other words, they want to have their cake and eat it too, and all on the backs of those who spend their days working in the classroom, often with paltry resources, little support, and the constant threat of punitive measures and public derision. And this pressure to push the rubric of privatization into public education is not just coming from the Right. The “progressive” movement for education reform has also jumped on the corporate bandwagon.

Indeed, the logic of consumerism now dominates the “enterprise” of American education from kindergarten to college. We have entered a phase defined by a client relationship, with teachers becoming akin to academic concierges or service representatives, rather than intellectual leaders and mentors. Schoolteachers and professors must provide information, guidance, and whatever else their student-customers’ desire. More and more we are told that we are in the business of content delivery and job training, rather than social analysis and critique. In “Putting the Customer First in College,” Louis Soares, the Director of the Postsecondary Education program at the Center for American Progress, even argues for the establishment of an “Office of Consumer Protection in Higher Education”:

Students make customer choices based on available information, interests, abilities and life circumstances that will mostly determine whether they succeed in obtaining an education with a meaningful credential. The problem is our higher education marketplace today does not account for this customer focus that is so important to success. In large measure, this is because education policies that guide this marketplace are largely crafted by the dominant voices in higher education—colleges and universities with the resources to sway elected officials. Students as customers have no voice in this policy conversation. (emphasis added)

Writing about the phenomenon of helicopter parents, Afshan Jafar links the rise of hovering moms and dads to the heightened consumerism in U.S. education. “This trend is clearly the manifestation of a consumerist mentality: I’m paying for this, so even though I am a sophomore, I should be able to take the course that is open to juniors and seniors,” writes the assistant professor of Sociology at Connecticut College. “Or: I’m paying for this, so this better be good (and “good” really means a good grade here). This consumerist mentality explains the sense of entitlement that we perceive in some of our students and their parents.” While often attributed to the increasing costs of higher education and the recent string of consumer-fraud class actions brought by students, this “retail” ethic runs much deeper. It reflects a substantive paradigm shift in the language, practice, and structure of American education.

With this emphasis on benchmarks, quantifiable results, and customer reviews, it is no surprise that attacks on teachers, whether at the university or public school level, have escalated in the past few years. Whether measured by standardized tests or student evaluations, teachers are now expected to produce immediately recognizable “results,” even as the funds dedicated to the classroom (as opposed to testing companies and college administrations) continue to shrink.

continue reading @ NewBlackMan: Education in Era of the McTeacher.

Megan Greenwell: “To End the NBA Lockout, David Stern Must Shut His Mouth – Business – GOOD


To End the NBA Lockout, David Stern Must Shut His Mouth

Megan Greenwell

Greedy bosses want to cut employees’ pay. The union tries to fight back. So the CEO, a longtime bully to organized labor, pats the workers on their heads with an admonition: You can’t possibly understand such complex negotiations. Let the grownups decide what’s best for you.

If this were Walmart, we’d all be outraged, but not when it’s millionaires fighting against billionaires in the NBA. Yet the paternalism is no less ugly because of the amount of money involved. And it gets uglier when you consider the racial undertones that necessarily lurk in an industry where every owner but one is white and 83 percent of the workers are black [PDF]. Lately, those tensions have been bubbling to the surface—most egregiously in the acidic condescension of Commissioner David Stern.

The lockout has already claimed the first month of NBA games, and the possibility of losing the entire season grows more likely every day. The players and team owners remain miles apart on how to structure the league’s salary cap and revenue-sharing agreement in the age of ballooning player contracts and a weak national economy. There are legitimate disagreements at work here, but that doesn’t justify Stern’s condescension toward the men who are ostensibly his colleagues.

Things started to heat up a week ago, when commentator Bryant Gumbel voiced what many people sympathetic to the players had been thinking: Commissioner David Stern is on a power trip that knows no bounds. Stern has “always seemed eager to be viewed as some kind of modern plantation overseer, treating NBA men as if they were his boys,” Gumbel said, adding that Stern seems most interested in showing “how he’s the one keeping the hired hands in their place.”

It’s important to note, as Deadspin has, that “hired hands” are not the same as slaves, even in the context of a plantation. Gumbel didn’t “play the race card”; he correctly identified the power dynamic that has arisen from Stern and the owners’ fundamental misunderstanding of the value the players bring to a basketball league. Many people have said they refuse to sympathize with players making millions of dollars a year, but they, too, miss the point: Paternalism is paternalism, no matter how much money is involved.

Before the week was out, another prominent sports commentator had drawn fire for his own interpretation of the dynamic between players and owners. In a column largely critical of the owners, Bill Simmons wrote, “I don’t trust the players’ side to make the right choices, because they are saddled with limited intellectual capital. (Sorry, it’s true.) The owners’ side can’t say the same; they should be ashamed.” This came on the heels of a piece in which Simmons argued that Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce shouldn’t have been allowed to talk in a meeting because they spent a combined total of three years in college—as if higher education was the main criterion for being able to represent one’s own interests.

Simmons’ labeling of basketball players as stupid—he later defended himself by tweeting that other athletes are equally dumb—has been roundly criticized, most eloquently by David J. Leonard on the New Black Man blog. But what struck me is not that a sportswriter thinks the players he covers have “limited intellectual capital,” but that the NBA commissioner agrees with him.

The same day Simmons wrote about players’ lack of higher education, Stern blamed National Basketball Players’ Association chief Billy Hunter—an attorney, not a basketball player—for misleading union members about the specifics of the owners’ proposals in an interview on The Dan Patrick Show. It was not the first time Stern had tried to bully Hunter and NBA players through the media, but on this occasion, he went further than ever.

Continue reading @ To End the NBA Lockout, David Stern Must Shut His Mouth – Business – GOOD.

Liz Dwyer: Want to Boost Minority Achievement? End School Bullying – Education – GOOD

Want to Boost Minority Achievement? End School Bullying

Liz Dwyer

Education Editor

It’s no secret that victims of school bullying have a tough time keeping up their grades. After all, thanks to all that taunting and name-calling, almost 160,000 children stay home from school every day because they’re afraid to show up. Now, a study released Tuesday concludes that bullying has an even greater negative impact on the GPAs of black and Latino students than those of their white peers.

Lisa Williams, a doctoral student in sociology at The Ohio State University, and Anthony Peguero, a sociology professor at Virginia Tech, used national bullying data as well as survey results from 9,590 students attending 580 schools nationwide for their study, which they presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. They found that black high school freshmen earning 3.5 grade point averages saw their grades drop to a 3.2 average by senior year as a result of bullying.

The effect of bullying was even worse for Latino students. Freshman with 3.5 GPAs who were bullied as sophomores ended high school with a 3.0 average. In comparison, high-achieving white freshman who experienced bullying only saw their GPAs decrease from 3.5 to 3.47.

Why does bullying effect high achieving black and Latino students so disproportionately? “Stereotypes about black and Latino youth suggest that they perform poorly in school,” Williams says. When students from those backgrounds “do not conform to these stereotypes,” they end up being “especially vulnerable to the effect bullying has on grades.”

Continue reading @ Want to Boost Minority Achievement? End School Bullying – Education – GOOD.

Mark Naison @ NewBlackMan: The Tea Party’s War on Young Americans

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Tea Party’s War on Young Americans

The Tea Party’s War on Young Americans

by Mark Naison | special to NewBlackMan

During the last two years, a political revolt on the Right has changed the landscape of American politics. A movement which calls itself the Tea Party, overwhelmingly composed of white Americans over the age of fifty, has taken over the Republican Party, and with it the House of Representatives, with a program calling for drastic curbs on government expenditure and a moratorium on new taxation. The startling growth of this movement is in large measure attributable to racial fears triggered by Barack Obama’s election as president. But those fears are connected to demographic shifts which have made school populations majority minority in many states, and prefigure a future when whites are no longer the nation’s dominant group. Economic anxiety and racial fears have produced a truly vindictive approach to politics on the American Right. To put the matter bluntly, the Tea Party has declared war on American youth by trying to cut school budgets, library budgets, publicly subsidized recreation programs, and access to college scholarships.

Until quite recently. young people in the country, who do not vote in the same proportions as their elders, ( the 2008 Presidential Election excepted) have mounted little no significant resistance to the Tea Party offensive and showed few signs of dissatisfaction. But this could change with startling rapidity A wave of protest in other nations, starting in the Arab World, spreading to continental Europe and most recently taking the form of massive riots in England, all have originated among young people using social media to spread their message. It is not difficult to imagine that this wave of global protest, both non-violent and violent, will soon spread to the US, taking forms uniquely adapted to American conditions.

Some of this protest has already started; It is significant that the most important recent youth protests in the US have taken place in our prison system, a sector which dwarfs its counterparts in the Arab world or Europe. There have been two huge hunger strikes in prisons in the last six months, the first in Georgia, the second in California, in each case ending when authorities made concessions. Since a significant portion of the American working class lives in communities where people move in and out of prison with startling frequency, such protests are a sign of growing discontent among that section of the US population steadily being beaten down, not only by Depression imposed job losses and foreclosures,, but by the budget cuts Tea Party activists have helped negotiate.

Another sign of this discontent is are electronically organized commodity riots which the media have called “flash mobs,” groups of adolescents from poor neighborhoods, who, with the help of cell phone communication, suddenly descend on a downtown business district, or a store, and rob everyone in sight, disappearing as quickly as they’ve congregated. Incidents of this kind have taken place in Cleveland, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Maryland, prompting moral panic among politicians and religious leaders who view these outbursts as a consequences of faulty childrearing and parental neglect.

But while it is hard to endorse indiscriminate acts of violence which put forth no program and make no demands, it is also naïve to condemn them without referring to the increasing poverty and isolation of the young people responsible for these actions , or to the blithe indifference to their plight among urban elites and young professionals whose prosperity has been untouched by the recession. Can you really expect young people to stand by and suffer in silence while libraries and recreation centers are shut, while food becomes scares, while many among them are being forced into homelessness, and when schools become test factories, especially since their older siblings in prison are starting to organize and protest against their plight. As conditions worsen among the working class and the poor, expect more flash mobs, more school takeovers and walkouts, and more actual riots, especially when and if police over react to these other forms of protest.

Continue reading@ NewBlackMan: The Tea Party’s War on Young Americans.