SocraticGadfly: Trying to have your adjunct outrage and eat it, too

December 17, 2013

Trying to have your adjunct outrage and eat it, too

Rebecca Schuman, from her blog
A very interesting, boiling over (seemingly) essay on Slate from an adjunct college instructor frustrated with coddled students who can't write.

Rebecca Schuman's answer? Stop making them write

Uhh, no.

Increasing the coddling? That's called "enabling."

From the world of addiction, I know that doesn't work.

Second, she appears to be pulling the "and eat the cake, too," routine.

On her blog, she has two posts about the Slate essay. On the earlier, she sure makes it sound like this is more than snark:
After this, I might get fired from my job adjuncting…and honestly, I don’t really care. I would rather tell the truth than be “safe” in the spike-covered arms of academia, where I am a barely-recognized non-person anyway.
That sounds serious enough.

On the later, she sounds halfway as narcissistic as the students to whom she wants to stop giving essays.

My initial response to her outrage, whether real or faux "outrage"?

First, this, which I posted on her later blog post in comments:
Better yet, why don't we just have colleges spread their legs, open themselves to bidding from students, then just given them that piece of paper, and free Skype for four years to "virtually" pledge themselves to the appropriate frat? Oh, and love the renaming of "adjunct" as "contingent." Hey, it's still a sow's ear, not a silk purse, Ms. Schuman. If you really don't want to grade papers, you can always stop being an adjunct instructor.
And, that's that. 

My more serious thoughts, if she's serious herself?

Some people might say writing has a certain amount of bullshit. I could argue back it's impossible to bullshit your way through a good essay, too. (And, I taught adjunct classes myself for a year-plus, so I'm not a total stranger. As for my sarcasm, I was trumping hers. I told her that if she wants a serious response to the issue, it's called unionizing adjuncts, which may not currently be the case in St. Louis. If she doesn't want a serious response, then some of us will out-sarcasm her original, I guess.

She, in one post on her blog, claims this is white hot serious, but later on, in another post, she appears to try to have her cake and eat it too. So, which is it?

She says:

"Most students enter college barely able to string three sentences together—and they leave it that way, too."

Then flunk them.

If they make progress, even crappy, you can give them a lady's or gentleman's D.

Anyway, I don't know how old she is, but she sounds perhaps half as narcissistic as half the students she bemoans. Given that her BA is in 1998, I'm probably guessing right on her age, that she's from the tail end of Gen X/start of Millenials. Given that her BA is from Vassar, my initial snark about elitist schools and just skipping actual college entirely seems about spot on.

It is sad that tenure-track literature professorates may be dead, as she claimed in what she says is her most bomb-throwing Slate essay, the current one being No. 2.

However, at the same time, given the tenor of that essay, she sounds like a classic Dunning-Kruger Effect case study, knowing that she was in a rat race before completing the Ph.D., yet somehow thinking that wouldn't apply to her. I second that because, per the "areas of research AND teaching interest" (my emphasis) on her vita, it seems like she bought right into the postmodern literary academia world she then decried.

She also sounds elitist in another way. From that top bomb-thrower, "Thesis Hatement":
When this happens to you—after you have mailed, at your own expense, the required 60-page dossiers to satellite campuses of Midwestern or Southern universities of which you have never heard ...

And, you're teaching in St. Louis now. Loverly. Hope you're loving those Midwestern/edge of Southern college or university students as well today as you gave the appearance of wanting to do in "Hatement."


The positive way to address this issue would be, for students who bring a modicum of writing skills from high school to college, to be to promote the real-world post-collegiate value of essay-type writing.

Let's say you're majoring in business, management, entrepreneurship, etc. If you can't write a sales proposal, a form of mini-essay, or midi-essay if a bit longer, you're in a lot of trouble. And, I'm probably going to reject your proposal if I'm the decision maker and its written badly enough.

If you're a hard sciences postdoc and you can't write a grant proposal, you're in a lot of trouble. And, I'm probably going to reject your proposal if I'm the decision maker and its written badly enough.

Or, if you might be in a career that involves a fair amount of video creation. Well, the speech you give on a video is going to start as at least a roughed-out, if not fully fleshed out, speech. (If you're making a proposal by video and it's purely stream of consciousness, if I'm the decision maker, I'm going to reject it.)

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