Re: hittin' the road

Steve Krause (krause@MIND.NET)
Thu, 26 Sep 1996 08:18:18 -0700

Marcy wrote (in part):

> I want to be clear about what I'm saying, here. I was/am
>speaking on a personal level; I think we all ought to get up in the
>morning and, before breakfast, we ought to think of five alternate career
>paths that would make us happy. I'm serious about that. Eric is heading
>off to the corporate world in his mind before breakfast. Bob's doing
>consulting (well, he _really_ is). Me, I'm alternating between
>homeschooling my kids, being a freelance writer, teaching kindergarten, and
>running a canoe livery on some river in Maine. I think that's a really
>important way for us to keep our sanity and sense of self-worth.

Frankly, I find this line of discussion quite frustrating. I KNOW there
are lots of other things I can do besides being a college teacher. Unlike
a lot of my colleagues (everyone from some freshly minted PhDs like myself
to folks who came out of grad school in the late 60s), I didn't go straight
through to my PhD and I've had real jobs of the 9-to-5 sort and otherwise.
I know I COULD do a lot of other things to pay the bills and try to make
myself happy, but I don't WANT to do anything else. I think that teaching
at all levels is a "calling" in some classic sense, but this is also a
profession that I PICKED because it's what I like to do and it's what I
think I'm good at. So please: can we move past the "do something else"
argument for a second here?

Marcy also points out (rightly so, I think):
the big
>threats to tenure _aren't_ the full-frontal attacks such as we're seeing
>in Minnesota, they're the losses we incur through attrition. I know of
>at least two schools where tenure lines were lost because somebody
>retired, and rather than hire another tenure-track person, the schools
>opted to hire lecturers instead. In one instance, four out of nine
>people in the English department retired -- and to replace them, the
>department got two lectureships for this year.
No question about it, and I think the last thing we want to do to prevent
this from happening is simply lie-down and die on the issue of tenure. If
anything, we (I mean that collectively, as a profession and also as faculty
on a campus-- ie, a union) need to encourage a _reform_ of tenure while
simultaneously fighting for _more_ tenure and "tenure-like" securities for
folks teaching as instructors or part-time adjuncts.

Now, I know Eric and Victor are ready to start the magical rhetorical
circus tour (coming to a town near you soon!!!) and I appreciate the fun of
all that. But I doubt this circus will provide me or my wife any sort of
medical insurance; I doubt there will be a retirement or insurance plan; I
doubt it will pay me a wage that will allow me to live a semi-decent life;
and the idea of always being "on the road" doesn't sound like fun to me.
So while it might be fun for a while, I think if we went to a more
circus-like system for teaching (ie, even more part-timers, instructors,
and other non-tenure-track, non-"permanent" staff), I think the circus
workers/teachers would be unhappy, and education would suffer. So, when
Marcy says (in part) that:

>And it [tenure] _is_ a luxury. We'll be poorer without it in too many ways to
>count. But taking the long-term view is not very popular these days . . .
...I'd argue that considering the alternatives (the rhetorical circus, a
group of roving "temps" running the show), tenure of some variety is not a
luxury if we value the concept of higher education. If anything, while we
re-define tenure, we ought to be working to increase the definitions of who
is eligible for tenure instead of shrugging our shoulders or deciding to
wonder off to other jobs.

Steve Krause * Department of English * Southern Oregon State College
1250 Siskiyou Blvd. * Ashland, OR 97520 * Office Phone: 541-552-6630
School e-mail: * Personal e-mail: