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Thomas Frank at Salon writes Congratulations, class of 2014: You’re totally screwed

 college costs more and more even as it gets objectively worse and worse. Yes, I know, universities today offer luxuries unimaginable in the 1960s: fine gymnasiums, gourmet dining halls, disturbing architecture. But when it comes to generating and communicating knowledge—the essential business of higher ed—they are, almost all of them, in a frantic race to the bottom.

According to the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty, only about 30 percent of the teachers at American colleges these days are tenured or tenure-track, which means that fewer than a third of your profs actually enjoy the security and benefits and intellectual freedom that we associate with the academic lifestyle. In 1969, traditional professors like these made up almost 80 percent of the American faculty. Today, however, it is part-time workers without any kind of job security who are the majority of the instructors on campus, and in general these adjuncts are paid poorly and receive few benefits. That is who does the work of knowledge-transmission at the ever-so costly, ever-so excellent American university: Freelancers. Contract laborers.

The awful lives of these workers is the subject of a vast and popular literature. Read around and you will discover that these adjuncts sometimes collect food stamps and live out of cars, that they race from job to job, that they inflate grades and endure whining rich kids and come to despise the academics they once sought to join. The most shocking tale of all (so far) concerned an 83-year-old adjunct at a university in Pittsburgh who was reduced almost to the level of a homeless person before dying last year from an illness that she endured without benefit of health insurance from her employer.

What makes all these stories so irresistible, of course, is their overwhelming sense of irony. These adjuncts are people who once believed they were signing up for a life of teaching, writing and highbrow contemplation. And just look at the world of shit they got instead. Many of them have PhDs and many work hard at teaching. But it seems that all the learning in the world, all the good grades and high test scores—which they had too, remember, just like you—don’t mean a goddamned thing when people have no bargaining power.

Yes, you are a screwed generation, Class of 2014, with a helping of debt that will take you many years to digest. But consider this other generation that has also been screwed, and screwed by the very same people who secured that millstone to your neck. You borrowed and forked over enormous sums in exchange for the privilege of hearing lectures ... lectures that were then delivered by people who earned barely enough to stay alive. It is a double disaster of the kind that only we Americans are capable of pulling off.

Actually, it’s worse than that. This is a disaster not only for individual adjuncts but for the production of knowledge itself. What do we really expect college classes to be like when they are taught by people in such dire situations? Is our new precarious professoriate able to research or write at the same pace as its predecessor? How many of them feel secure enough in their position to defy the prevailing conventions of their disciplines? [...]


Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2011Oil-subsidized Senators just returning the favor:

When Republican Senators (with two exceptions) decided on a procedural motion Tuesday not to take up a bill that would have removed $2 a billion a year in tax "incentives" for the world's five largest private oil companies, they had one good reason in their pockets. Over the past two decades, since 1989, they have collectively accepted just under $21 million in campaign contributions from oil and gas companies, according to ananalysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Democrats (with three exceptions), plus the Senate's two independents, voted that there should be a debate about the incentives—a collection of tax breaks that amounts to subsidies of the five oil giants, which in the first quarter of this year made $36 billion in profit. Collectively, the Democrats and independents who voted for a debate have accepted just under $5 million in campaign contributions from oil and gas companies.

Six Republican Senators alone took in twice as much in career oil-company contributions as those 48 Democrats and two independents who voted "Aye" in the Senate. They are: John McCain of Arizona ($2,718,774); Kay Bailey Hutchison ($2,141,025) and John Cornyn ($1,734,950), both of Texas; James "Climate Change Is a Hoax" Inhofe of Oklahoma ($1,256,023), David Vitter of Louisiana ($943,885), and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky ($914,811).


Tweet of the Day:

Even this bunch of co-opted, complicit hawks agree that Snowden exposed need for reform, transparency, oversight: http://t.co/...
@froomkin
 


On today's Kagro in the Morning show, new polling reveals significant support for immigration reform, whatever that might mean. We hit the limit on the Abramson story. Idaho's Republican gubernatorial primary debate is filled to the brim with crazy. Then, a three story mash-up becomes our big umbrella topic of the day: how & why the DoJ misled the Supreme Court in order to shield the national security regime from any judicial review; runaway biometrics technology may make anonymity & obscurity generally impossible; and the emerging "right to be forgotten" which may be our only chance to save ourselves.


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