US adjunct faculty are turning to unionization for academic workers' rights. Unionization is being met with resistance from universities. It is claimed that adjunct faculty unionization will force universities to increase tuition, passing the cost of higher adjunct faculty wages, benefits and job security on to students. What is missing from this discourse are the costs that are already passed on to students from the bloated administrations of most colleges and universities. Many faculty witness universities simply multiplying deans rather than hire more teachers. There appear to be deans for everything now. A dean of the drinking fountain, a dean of hall monitoring.

Okay, this is hyperbole, but it's not far from true. Adjunct faculty make up over 75% of all instructional positions at US universities, yet face the prospect of low wages, little or no benefits, and little if any job security. If adjuncts are the bulk of the workforce, does it not make sense they should be paid fairly?

I guess I could teach

Undergraduate college class sizes are far too large for any teacher to have a meaningful impact on the lives of his or her students. The student/teacher ratio at most US colleges and universities is an absurdity. One teacher with 50 to 100 students who must then read and grade 50 to 100 papers and tests per week per semester. Typically its the adjuncts who fill this role. Imagine the exhaustion and the realization that the low salary often requires taking on multiple teaching assignments at multiple institutions just to make ends meet.

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In the US students are often asked, “What can you do with a degree in 'insert subject here?'” Partially as a consequence of former President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, and partly as a consequence of the US obsession with the STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) students who study the Liberal Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences are typically left with one answer, “I don't know...teach?” Perhaps not realizing that they will become a part of the mass of significantly underpaid and under appreciated adjunct faculty now finally organizing to demand academic workers' rights.

Standardized Testing and STEM

The obsession with standardized testing has created an economic racket. Students who studied to work in a particular discipline typically make more money teaching standardized test preparation courses for any number of test prep companies, than they would teaching or working in the field for which they studied. This is only if one happens to be good at standardized testing.

Generally the people who are good at standardized tests are those skilled in the STEM fields, thus again leaving out those who have expertise in the Liberal Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities. Tutoring is another area that has become a racket. Large companies have taken over tutoring in the United States. One finds their annoying ads and marketing on glamorous employment websites like CraigsList. Again, they are primarily only interested in tutors who can teach standardized testing and STEM.

To make matters worse, the United States has created a system of teacher licensure for its K-12 public school system. Students who have already spent four years in an undergraduate college, and two years getting a Masters in Graduate School, are then required to do another two or more years in a teacher licensure program. It is absurd that it is more difficult to teach at the elementary and high school level, than at the undergraduate college level. Therefore, most students who do not know what they will do with a degree in the Liberal Arts, Humanities or Social Sciences end up “choosing” to teach as an adjunct at the very university they graduated from. Only to face the reality of life as an adjunct. Students thinking of teaching, and present adjunct faculty already struggling, would do well to join the growing movement of academic labor organizing and demand workers' rights for academic labor. #Education #Policy #Book