Opinion
9:24 am
Tue September 30, 2008

Commentary: Part-Time Adjunct Instructors

Buffalo, NY – Given the downturn in our economy, and the fact that universities and colleges will soon be hiring for the next academic year, I think it's time to reprise an old diatribe on why it's NOT a good idea to hire part-time adjuncts to teach our students, at our colleges, in our wonderful, if harrowed, New York state.

For those of you who don't know, let me add that an adjunct part-timer is a person hired to teach your college-age child for a salary of anything from $1,500 to $2,500 per course. No benefits like health insurance, usually. No retirement benefit. No job security. None. And, this person will have a master's degree, and often a doctorate. Thus, s/he will have spent two to ten or more years of education, typically on her or his own dime, to teach your child. For, depending on the course, as little as six or seven dollars per hour. Again no benefits.

"Good value," right? Many college presidents are wise about this issue they do not see the value; many, however, are not. These latter might be inclined to say, to you and to us all, "Good value!" If this is a marketplace of higher education, then. . .let's get what we can for cheap! Such college presidents would be. . . hugely mistaken.

Here's why. And, let me say forthrightly, most college administrators already KNOW what's right. They have just glommed onto a business model of education, that allows them, like our own national president has allowed himself to be so unwise about so MANY things, to foist upon you, and your children, a business model of so much that isn't about business, or profit, in terms of dimes and nickels and pennies, at all.

Why is it unwise, to value bottom line over real people's security and good-enough pay, who teach your children?

1. First, do you really think it's a good idea to trust bottom-line marketplace values, for your kids? Do you, really, want a Walmart mentality for their education? Just think what "profit" means, for truth and accuracy, much less democracy. Do you really want the knock-down price of the lowest common denominator, to educate those you love best? Think of the last time you were in a knock-down store. Is THAT, truly, what you want for your offspring? For their minds? I think you will agree your children deserve, and need, much better.

2. Let's imagine that generous adjuncts do their level best, to educate your children wisely and thoroughly, for little or no valuation of what they do. Are you really willing to snatch and grab such opportunity' for this current generation of kids, alone? What about their children? Their children's children? If we as a nation pay our teachers next-to-nothing to teach your children, then do we really expect THEIR children to step up to plates, and teach with similar charity? It is charity, believe me! Or, are you hoping that these children will find jobs . . .somewhere. . . not here. . . that are good ones, and thus. . .we will export them from our region, and we will continue to cannibalize Humanist professions? That would be a short-sighted, bottom-lined, and idiotic way of conducting a civilized society.

3. Consider, if your son or daughter should want to be a teacher. An honorable profession, one might say. Would you want him or her to sit in a class and learn to love to teach as what better impulse could there be, than to want to help teach humanity then do you want your son or daughter, to. . .look forward to a life of relative poverty? I too, have taught with a Ph,D. and a will and a heart and spirit, for $7 per hour. Are we, really, willing to say to our good-hearted sons and daughters, "To be of service to your nation and to humanity as a teacher means you must never think of being secure, never have children of your own, because that's too expensive, and never do anything with your profession except serve some college president who looks to bottom lines, and profit?" What a SHAME that would be.

For the supposedly "richest nation on earth," the one that "believes in humanity and individuality and in becoming the best one can be," we must do better. We must not put stock in the conniving, bottom-line-oriented nabobs of profit that have, let us be blunt, led our beloved country into decline, and possible ruin. We must be braver than that. We must be willing to pay our teachers, of our most beloved resource, our children, a decent wage. And they, with such decent wage, will give to your children, from the bottoms of their hearts, their level best.

Listener-Commentator Andrew Sachs is a full-time adjunct assistant professor in the Communications Department at the University at Buffalo.

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