Graveyard Shift — my hero, the rat hunter!
Offered this follow up to Higher Ed Watch “Graveyard Shift” blog
Anyone working at any community college in the United States will tell you that the entire system has collapsed. I want to hazard a guess at Fall 2009 — when the recession was starting to be felt in higher education, when the clarity of the financial crisis was drawing near.
In the past, a group of graveyard shift workers could take care of the courses, perform very limited duties (service, community outreach, curriculum development) while the permanent part time and Full Time (tenure? in a state system community college?) faculty attended to the teaching and administration of the department. It was a flawed system to begin with — it stiffled creativity and ingenuity as well as treated all faculty like chattle. Now, even the flawed system is shifting from collapse to utter annihilation. Why?
The system as it stands right now breeds in-action, thrives on bureaucratic control, and the increased dependence on credit and state/fedeal loans. Industry partnerships are at an all time low. Revenue-generating programs and courses are almost always centralized, distributed, and then weakened in their broad application to more and more constituents. This is not how innovation works. A great idea is then used to seed the next great one; when the same seed is used over and over again, you get a Monsanto situation where the genetic code of the idea seems the same but the product is absolutely toxic.
There is one way out of this mess: innovation.
This is to say, embrace action . . . which is decision making, which is learning from mistakes, which is collaborating with the best of the best to address directly any and all problems regardless of cause or past consequencelet the teachers teach, the professionals develop, teach, and administer the courses, and put the administrations in their place. They are support staff, high-paying support staff. Like an executive producer, they hire the best people to get the job done and then get the hell out of the way. They establish trust and a mediated relationship with the talent. They raise the money; keep everyone in line (budget, quality control, standards and practices, etc.). But, they acknowledge and then respect the limitations of their role: they are not teachers; they are not creators; they are not serving on the front lines.
Or they can choose to help, throw down their flailing hands and work. Hard. Take back the classroom with the adjunct nation and build a better way to meet the needs and expectations of our students. Please. Just stop saying “it can’t be done.” For two reasons you should stop saying it: (1) it’s not helpful and (2) gives away your non-teaching world-view without hesitation. No teacher says “Well, I give up.” (At least not right away.)
Ben Okri (poet, novelist, philosopher) puts it this way:
We rise or fall by the choice we make
It all depends on the road we take
And the choice and the road each depend
On the light that we have, the light we bend.
On the light we us.
On the lies we live by
And from which we die.
-Dr. Robert Craig Baum (aka Migrant Intellectual)