Re: hittin' the road

Nick Carbone (nickc@MARLBORO.EDU)
Thu, 26 Sep 1996 10:35:10 -0400

Marcy noted that tenure is a luxury. I spose it is, but depending on how
you want to look at, it's one of the few luxurie many profs--many
teachers if we think beyond higher ed.--get. These corporate downsizing
models that are brought to bear don't apply: we don't get profit
sharing, we don't get paid a lot compared to the length of training and
professional practice we devote to the craft of teaching/research/service
that define most of what we do. True there are exceptions to this, as in
many fields, star players who can write their own tickets, who write
books that people actually buy, get endowed chairs and regular paid
lecture invites. But most of us depend upon a system that, while subject
to some abuse, says basically, dedicate yourself to the life of the mind
and to teaching our students how to use their minds, and while we can't
make you rich we'll make sure you have the freedom to explore ideas and
the relative financial comfort.

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
our profession.

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 College
Marlboro, VT 05344