Disposable youth in the age of irrationality and post-literacy
Dahn Shaulis, the author of what you will soon read below, is both an activist, critical investigator and college teacher. He teaches at Camden County College in New Jersey.
Chris Hedges has written about the devastation that is Camden, New Jersey. A ‘sacrifice zone’, he has called it. But Hedges has written more extensively about Camden and it is worse than one can imagine. It truly is a city in ruins:
“Camden, New Jersey, with a population of 70,390, is per capita the poorest city in the nation. It is also the most dangerous. The city’s real unemployment—hard to estimate, since many residents have been severed from the formal economy for generations—is probably 30–40 percent. The median household income is $24,600. There is a 70 percent high school dropout rate, with only 13 percent of students managing to pass the state’s proficiency exams in math. The city is planning $28 million in draconian budget cuts, with officials talking about cutting 25 percent from every department, including layoffs of nearly half the police force. The proposed slashing of the public library budget by almost two-thirds has left the viability of the library system in doubt” (http://www.thenation.com/article/155801/city-ruins).
Then there is corporate Democrat, Representative from South New Jersey, Robert E. Andrews. He resigned recently stating:
“I love Congress, but I love my family more,” Mr. Andrews, who represents part of southern New Jersey, said in an interview” (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/05/us/politics/rob-andrews-to-resign-from-congress.html?_r=0).
The same old line: “I want to spend more time with my family”. Of course the pathological Andrews never mentioned the current ethics investigation into alleged misuse of his campaign funds that he is facing. Sure, he loves Congress and government: for it is his vehicle for asset stripping the country and involving himself in corruption.
And not to forget the other corporate Democrat, Robert Menendez,, the anti-Castro Cuban who has worked assiduously, and has received campaign funds for his efforts, to block the extradition of criminal banksters from Ecuador, the Isaias brothers, and who has attempted to broker asylum for the fugitive criminals (http://www.dailycensored.com/democrat-robert-menendez-the-anti-castro-cuban-senator-from-new-jersey-denies-that-an-investigation-has-started-against-him-for-his-ties-to-criminal-fugitives-in-miami/).
Nor is it a coincidence that Chris Christie, the corpulent mob boss of NJ, has fought to privatize all education in NJ and is virulently anti-teacher. He was a former lobbyist for the Apollo Group (The University of Phoenix); they, with their Carlyle Group investment partners, have worked day and night to game the stock market, denude students of their monies and plunge them into debt, and market their ‘product’ (education) as if it was commodity for sale, which it is (http://www.dailycensored.com/the-apollo-group-and-its-for-profit-university-of-phoenix-is-bilking-teacher-pension-funds-taxpayers-and-students-for-hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars/) (http://thinkprogress.org/education/2011/06/13/243804/christie-firm-school-privatization/?mobile=nc) (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/06/30/990160/-Christie-s-Client-Caught-Ripping-Off-Veterans).
Christie left for the private sector and began a lucrative career as a lobbyist at Dughi, Hewit, a friend’s law firm, advocating for such clients as the University of Phoenix, a for-profit college; Edison Schools, a for-profit operator of public schools; and the Hackensack University Medical Center (http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/julyaugust_2012/on_political_books/the_ascent_of_chris_christie038426.php). Now Christie is doing what he was paid for: lobbying for full spectrum privatization of schools (http://www.phillytrib.com/newsarticles/item/8318-nj-to-take-over-schools-in-troubled-camden.html).
Like Menendez and Andrews, Christie is now embroiled in multiple criminal investigations. So much for New Jersey mobsters posing as politicians. The Sopranos was more realty than TV.
But the real story here, besides the material setting of the tragedy, is the role of the ‘adjunct professor’ and what it is doing to higher education and the welfare of our nation’s children. Camden is a perfect example. But the nation is seeded with the devastation of teaching through the exploitation of adjunct professors.
I was an adjunct faculty member of Allan Hancock Junior College in California for 17 years. With other adjuncts, we started our own adjunct union with the American Federation of Teachers back in 2000. I served as chief negotiator for the union for a short while.
Although we tried to negotiate a fair contract, the role of the adjunct professor is simply impossible. Not being able to receive more than 9 units of instruction BY LAW, I was forced, along with other colleagues to seek employment as a “freeway flyer”, working multiple campuses in an attempt to gain a decent wage to support my family.
When I was thrown online, in 2003 as an adjunct, I never met one student. Enrollment would take place online and with over 60 students, neither the students nor I had a chance at education or learning, let alone getting to know each other.
The disgraceful treatment of teachers, in this case adjunct teachers at public universities and colleges, has been documented as deplorable. And it is. The affect on students is despicable. This is not education, it is teacher union busting. We all know it.
We often never meet our students, teach so many classes we cannot remember names and of course must bow down to the administration with multiple paperwork and bureaucratic work not related to the job of teaching. Now, with MOOCs and the new cyber cages called classrooms, students will suffer social death as they are forced to ‘go it alone’ online with thousands of other students. Learning in isolation within a nation of socio-pathology.
The fact is, the ruling elite fear an educated population which is why they have attacked public education. This, and the fact that privatization offers many fat bonuses and gains for the capitalist class and its supplicants.
One of my students hung himself in his home in the early 2000’s. I remembered him but had no way to get in touch with his family nor did I have the time. One day, he was simply not in my class anymore.
The institution, Allan Hancock College, failed this young man. Had he had mentors, and teachers who could spend time with him within a community of caring perhaps he would not have taken his life.
The experience imploded within me and I will never forget it.
Dahn Shaulis is one who understands. Take a look at his story below and ask: “If we had major investment in public education and did not face neo-liberal privatization would the following have happened?”
By Dahn Shaulis
February 19th, 2014
Yesterday was a tough day. I won’t bore you with all my personal problems, but I want to tell you a story about yesterday.
After my second class of Intro to Sociology at Camden County College, I was looking through my email, and opened one message from a student at Camden. Her name was Esperanza.*
In the email, Esperanza told me that she was sorry that she had to drop my class…her fiancé had been shot and killed, and her son was in the hospital with a gunshot wound. She wrote that she would return to school next year after her son had healed. I felt so sorry for her and asked if I could tell her students what had happened and if they would pray for her. She said that it was ok.
In between the emails, I took a look at my attendance sheet; Esperanza had been to class every day except for the last two. And yet, I wasn’t sure who she was. Perhaps I’d recall her if I saw her face.
I wondered if Esperanza would have known me if I hadn’t been teaching seven courses at three colleges (in two states) this semester. I was used to getting to know many students when I was teaching four or five classes. But I needed seven courses to be able to eat and pay the rent.
Adjuncting for a living is dehumanizing, not only for adjuncts, but for the people they are supposed to teach. There is an effect, there are so many effects. Not knowing Esperanza or her peers, enough, is one.
*I have changed her name to maintain the student’s anonymity. Ironically, I had seen the front page headline in the local paper about the incident, but didn’t have the time to look at the article and figure out that one of my students was affected.