I got into a bit of a lather over this on Facebook. So why stop there?
I read an article by an adjunct about adjuncting from The New Yorker.
It irked me.
Here’s a tiny bit of it:
“The irony of this setup has not escaped me: the adjuncts who teach well despite the low pay and the lack of professional support may inspire in their students a similar passion—prompting them to be financially taken advantage of in turn.”
First let me say that it’s not that hard to talk to students who aspire to a position in academia about this issue. And we should. It’s mis-serving them not to do so.
And I am all for solidarity. I’m a union woman, always have been.
But this article and some others I’m seeing lately disturb me just a little.
It’s not as easy as you might think to stand shoulder to shoulder with colleagues who talk endlessly about how their partners make enough money for a comfortable life but oh the pity of being an adjunct. I don’t want pity; I would like some real job security and some benefits so I don’t have to twitch every time the Republicans start making noises about eliminating Obamacare, my life line, since adjuncts largely aren’t insured (or pensioned, for that matter).
Maybe it’s because I watched my own brilliant, eighth-grade-educated father lift his family out of poverty to a reasonably stable working class life in one generation. I knew who was privileged in my young world and who wasn’t…quite.
Maybe it’s like someone who isn’t in my life anymore told me once: “You’re trying to rise above where you belong, you need a “real” job, this is elitist bullshit you’re trying to imitate.” I didn’t believe him then. I don’t believe him now. Even so, there’s a bit of truth in what he said. There is. I see it in almost every encounter I have with certain tenured professors. Not all, thank goodness, but certain ones.
Maybe I have discovered I enjoy teaching. I enjoy the students. I enjoy research and I enjoy hard work outdoors and in a lab, too. Maybe I know I’m being taken advantage of financially compared to some. And, yes, I do warn students about this potential fate.
Still, maybe I don’t understand the academic world. I probably don’t. I do understand teaching and learning. I do understand that. And I’m one of those adjuncts who, in today’s academic climate looks around and says “at least I have a job doing something I enjoy.”
Is it enough? Financially, no, not really. Security-wise, no, not really. Do I hold out financial hope for myself in the near future in this particular world? No, not really. Yet here I am. There’s a certain contentment in where I am right at this moment. If I have to do something else soon, then I will.
Maybe I should write a damn book.
Maybe I will.
In case you were wondering, these lovely smiling faces are a few of the family, friends, and even former students who sometimes migrate out to Rainshadow Farm for a day of farm-based learning and fun.