The MLA President And The New Faculty Majority

I don’t hate MLA President Michael Bérubé’s report from the New Faculty Majority conference in Washington D.C. I respect that he positions himself as a listener, as someone who has something to learn from the NFM and from the part-time and contingent faculty who now teach two-thirds of all courses in college and universities. And Bérubé seems to understand just how dire the labor crisis is in higher education. He seems, in short, to care. But Bérubé’s position of authority and influence (and the fact that he seems genuinely interested in getting the strategy right) means he must be held to a very high standard with regard to how he frames the problem and proposes solutions.

I have to point out some problems with his report. Continue reading

Bizarre-O World

David Brooks’s NYT column is essential reading because, by studying his words, one can discover what the ruling class thinks about everything. It is quite fascinating! For example, Brooks, like many of his peers, honestly believes that the only thing standing between an un/underemployed person and a job with health care benefits is a college degree. Of course, it has to be the right college degree from the right institution. No middle-class standard of living for you English majors! Like his colleague, Thomas Friedman, Brooks would prefer if all the unemployed people went to MIT and studied Engineering or some other Technology field. Do you know how to make those microchips that make the Apple computers work? Then you will be employed for life because you have a valuable skill! Continue reading

What Are We Defending When We Defend Public Higher Education?: Or, How Frances Fox Piven Blew My Mind a Little Bit

This was a question that came up frequently during the Defending Public Higher Ed Conference at the Graduate Center earlier this month. Let’s linger on it a bit. What does higher education do that is worth defending?

There were many thoughtful answers at the conference, including from scholars like Michelle Fine who advised us to reclaim the idea of education as a public good, something that doesn’t just empower a few individuals to succeed in the new economy, but is part of a collective, democratic endeavor to create a more equitable society.

Sounds great to me. Where do I sign up?

A different kind of answer (though it is really more of a question, which is why it is so brilliant) came from GC Professor Frances Fox Piven who, I have to say, blew my mind a little bit. In remarks that seemed to come off the top of her head, Piven explained how the global economy, which has spawned a new kind of predatory capitalism, has changed her thinking about the role of education in society. “We used to think,” she explained, “the ruling class wanted to use education to reproduce the class structure. Now I’m not sure they’re interested in reproducing anything.” Continue reading

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