Saturday, June 27, 2009

More than a commitment to diplomas

The American Federation of Teachers FACE blog has a recent posting ("Why Faculty Need to Speak Up") about the Obama Administration's commitment to "improving degree attainment rates in higher education." Lost in the fray however is any commitment to restoring learning to education. Without a commitment to increasing the number of faculty and raising the standards of employment for contingent faculty, any commitment to graduation rates is a hollow indulgence, worshiping diplomas for their own sake rather than the education that should underlie it.

Let's put it plainly: the heart of education is the relationship students attain with learning. The most salient models students are exposed to are the classroom faculty they encounter every day. It is those faculty who must be the center of any and every effort to improve the quality and accessibility of education. As the title of that posting suggests: indeed, it is high time faculty speak up. It is high time that contingent faculty walk away from mistreatment. It is high time that tenured or tenure-track faculty make plain their displeasure with the system that shuts out so many promising scholars, because of lack of funding for faculty positions, and the disgraceful overuse and abuse of contingent faculty, with no job security and often no benefits.

Only when we have a powerful collective voice, when we look beyond our own private battles for tenure for instance, or cower under the ridiculous restrictions to free speech that are being demanded by administrators, will we have meaningful and productive change. Hell, if the Iranian people can rise up, so can we!

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