rethink: The American Dream

holy intellect
Professor [but not really Professor] D. A. Scott
Dude I had considered a friend asked another from our circle why I couldn’t find a permanent teaching position.  I just ignored her stoking of the gossip flame.

He had no degrees, but was a fairly–that is regionally–accomplished artist.  He was enjoying one of those “visiting professor” positions–it was his first.  Perhaps his condescension was in fact idealism.  I’d had it when I accepted my first adjunct position which came with three promising statements:

We always have courses available.

We never let anyone “go” except “under extreme circumstances.”

When a position opens, you will be in line for it.

I dared to believe that when I became a “lecturer” it was a promotion, the first stage to the fulfillment of the third promise.  I tried not to think of paperwork that had been mistakenly left in my desk listing my rank as assistant professor while I was getting paid at the lecturer rate.  My MFA was a terminal degree equivalent to a PhD, the terminal degree of other fields, when it came to presenting the department as highly skilled and educated; a master’s degree when it came to determining that I was not worthy of benefits or more than a semester to semester; if I was lucky a year to year contract making less than local public school teachers with less education.  Of course, it’s not just education that makes one a capable teacher, but degree-age is often the bar by which one is to be measured, and if it were not many of my tenured colleagues would be paupers by now.

Aric Greenburg writes:

“After two years of this full-time position, they deliberately let my contract lapse so that they would not be in danger of my suing them for tenure — a risk that universities face when employing a short-term contract employee for several consecutive years in a full-time position. This is common practice at our school and elsewhere.”

It happened to me.  And eventually to my friend who wondered about my career trajectory.

It’s one of higher education’s dirty little not-so-secrets.  The very place where one expects to pursue the American Dream systematically shuts out the people who give students the tools to do that.  It’s a sick system, but you’re probably more interested in hearing something you didn’t already know.  So read the rest of Greenberg’s narrative here to learn more:

How One Professor’s  American Dream – Teaching – Turned Into An American Nightmare

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