It's a fair trade. Trouble is there's a perception that we have had not
only too good a deal--it's hard to find sympathy for tenure when many
people see it as guaranteeing a job for life (oversimplifying it),
especially when many who aren't protected by that have been laid off,
fired, let go, dismissed and downsized (why are we special?). It's also
hard to argue for tenure when those same people and many of the
legislatures and administrators who serve them believe that as a whole
teachers don't teach enough or don't teach well. The sense of the nation
is that we are coddled and spoiled and lazy and eccentric, if not
radical, and in many respects for us in the humanities, irrelevant. What
good is yet another book on Shakespeare, they ask? Test scores are down,
what you mean you need more money, you wasted what you've been given.
So what has happened at Minnesota, variations that are happening at
UTDallas, attacks on faculty salarie and duties that have occurred at
UMass aren't going to go away. What gets me is that many of the people
making the attacks, at the legislative and administrative and from
business levels, many of those people if not nearly all, have been in
college, have learned there, but are still ready to undo the system.
There's got to be a reason for that, and part of the blame does fall on
Colleges and Universities changed radically at the turn of this century,
expanded their curriculums and raised the bar on how much education a
person needed before they could teach there. Now we're ending both a
century, and a millenium, we're in the midst of rapid and uncertain
redefinition of our economy, of our culture and of what it values; we're
just starting to reel from the effects of all that, 15-20 years after
other sectors have felt the effects. Look at what Zuboff described from
studies begun in the late 70s.
While we need to defend what we do, we also need to have alternatives in
mind, if not in place, because like it or not, we're about to swept up in
what will be for many of us cataclysmic change. I don't know what the
years 2,000 will be like, but if it gets bad, armageddon outta here.
Nick Carbone, Writing Instructor
Marlboro, VT 05344