I have not read more than four words of a Slate comment since “Thesis Hatement,” whose comments made me so depressed I cried for weeks (and, to be perfectly honest, I’m still not over it).
My dad just emailed me aghast at the comments on my latest for Slate, in which I wonder why more students and parents don’t care that they’re paying $40K/year to be taught by people with no office space, no resources, and often subhuman status on campus. So I decided to dip in there and see what my dad was talking about. They’re really not that bad, Dad–a lot of people agree. Yes there are a few who are like,”If you’re so bad at your job, quit and find a better one, you suck, whatever,” but those motherfuckers don’t know me. My students know I care. My students also know I do the best with what I have. And everyone now, except Slate commenters, also knows that I am leaving higher education after this semester, and that it would take a straight-up crime for UMSL to fire me mid-semester, and so I can and will be as honest as I want to, thank you very much.
The fact that many adjuncts still manage to be effective in the classroom is heroic, and I of all people understand this. Anyone who thinks the point of this article was that “adjuncts are bad,” when I myself am an adjunct and am not bad, is questionable at reading. The point is that adjuncts, given the parameters of their positions, are not doing right by our students, because we can’t. We care–but caring isn’t enough. When will students and parents begin to demand better?
One thing I wish my adjunct brothers and sisters would do is stop with the heroics already. Not stop caring, not do a bad job on purpose–just stop with the instinct to defend how great you are doing, because that just gives your administration a pat on the back for paying you exactly what it should, if not a little bit more. Every single time you say you’re doing OK at your job, and that you’re not depriving students of a mentorship relationship they deserve, you reassure an administrator that adjunctification was the right way to go.
I of all people believe that adjuncts are some of the most gifted and dedicated pedagogues in the US. How could we not be? Why would we do this if we were bad at it? If we didn’t like it? Anyone who reads me regularly knows this. But if we are going to get anyone to give a fuck about us, really give a fuck about us, then we need to admit that we do not do our jobs as well as we could, as a result of the very parameters of these jobs.
In the end, it’s just yet another set of ridiculous personal attacks in response to a systemic critique. That is all anyone ever has to offer in critical response to my work, and it’s just farcical at this point. If you can’t make a substantive argument about why it’s a good idea to pay the majority of college professors in this country sub-minimum wage, then shut. the fuck. up already.