Laura McKenna looks at how the use of adjunct professors adversely affects students.
From my own experience as an adjunctsee my academic autobiography for the detailsI know that the demands made on adjunct faculty often reduce their effectiveness in the classroom. But this can take many forms.
When I was an adjunct, I was fairly well paid and managed to do most of my teaching at a single school. So most of the time I didn't have to dash from one school to the next, but when I did have to teach at more than one school, I was able to take the subway or a commuter train, which allowed me to relax or work as I saw fit.
I was always prepared for class and was able to meet with students in my office(s) when they needed to see me. (I was fortunate in that I always had some sort of office space wherever I was teaching.) I even managed to write recommendation letters for students and occasionally was able to improvise a field trip (that sounds odd coming from a former philosophy professor, but it's the best description that I can think of) to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
But as the years of adjunct teaching went on, I often found that I was exhausted. This led to increased illness, among other things. Fortunately for me, I was never seriously ill, but I had to cancel more classes on account of illness as the years went on. And as I became increasingly sleep-deprived, there were a few mornings when I simply couldn't get out of bed, and thus I had to cancel class again.
The job search also became more involved, as schools became more demanding in what they wanted applicants to include in their application packages. So my job search tended to take up more time as the years dragged on. I didn't have any choice but to apply for jobs, so I occasionally had to cancel class in order to have time to get my applications in the mail to meet the deadlines.
So, I guess, the most direct effect on my students of my being an adjunct was my missing class from time to time as I tried to juggle everything that I had to do. (That is, I missed more classes than I would have if I had been a full-fledged professor.) I'd like to think that I didn't fail my students in any major way during my decade as an adjunct. I worked very hard and did the best I could. I'm just glad that I don't have to work at such a ridiculous pace anymore.
Paul Waldman wonders why so many politicians and policy makers think that the US needs a bigger military. After all, he asks, which of our many wars of the past half century was started because our military was too small? Precisely. So it's not really about defense, is it?
Mr. Waldman's article reminds me of something that I read years ago. Unfortunately, I don't remember the details, but it goes something like this. Lord Salisbury, who was the British Prime Minister several times between 1885 and 1902, once said in exasperation that his military advisers would garrison the moon to ward off an attack from Mars.
I think of Salisbury's remark whenever I read of renewed calls to enlarge our already huge military.
I'm reading a lot about crime these days, partly because the general topic interests me, but also partly because I've read a bunch of Colin Wilson's books during the past few years. I mentioned my interest in Wilson's work in an earlier post, and I hope to post about his ideas about crime in the near future. My own work has been taking up a lot of my attention, and so recently I haven't had much free time for blogging about my reading.
But I just finished Robert D. Hare's Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, and I thought that I should say something about it. It's a fascinating book, and certainly one that is relevant to criminology. After all, many criminals have psychopathic personalities. Consequently, some rudimentary knowledge of Hare's work might come in handy to anyone interested in crime, be it fictional or non-fictional.
Below you'll find two images: one of the book's cover, another of Hare's list of the ten key symptoms of psychopathy.
I have to admit that I was struck by how restrictively Hare formulates his concept of psychopathy. His checklist seems, at least to me, to epitomize confidence tricksters and unscrupulous glad-handing businessmen. Prior to reading his book, I assumed that lack of remorse and lack of empathy were the two salient features of psychopathy. Many people I would have characterizedin my casual way as someone who has not been trained in psychologyas psychopaths don't really meet Hare's more stringent criteria.
On page 175 Hare writes of psychopaths as leading "lives of callous self-gratification." I'm not sure that I've ever known someone who could be described in this manner, although I've known self-absorbed people who often acted in a callous fashion. Maybe that's the same thing under a different description. But there are self-absorbed people who can be brought to think and care about the consequences of their actions. It's just that they have to be pushed by outside influences to do so. Psychopaths, as Hare diagnoses them, just don't care, although they're often good at pretending that they do.
When I taught at the University of Pennsylvania, I met a few business students who almost certainly were the unscrupulous glad-handing type, but I never got to see them in their full glory in the business world. But they have to come from somewhere, and I'm sure that Wharton graduates its share of them. How else can you explain the financial crisis of 2008?
When I was in academia, I met many people who obviously possessed several of the traits on Hare's list. I guess, though, that their lack of imagination, their dogmatic certainty that they and they alone were in possession of the truth, and their indifference to the welfare of other peopleall of which taken together often produced behavior that seemed psychopathic to mewere what you should expect from highly introverted people whose scholarly training has convinced them that they belong to a special elite. But according to Hare's criteria, they shouldn't be classified as psychopaths. These people, whatever their faults, I would never have characterized as glib or impulsive. Some were certainly egocentric and grandiose, and obviously had shallow emotional lives, but they typically had tight control over themselves.
You might say that their personal rigidity was intellectual and emotional. They easily excluded other people from their moral purview, and probably did so because they did not regard others outside of their elite groupings as worthy of respect and decent treatment. Hence their abominable behavior. That seems psychopathic to me, but Hare's research indicates otherwise. I guess that for Hare it's just a rather involved form of learned callousness (perhaps grounded on a natural shortage of sympathy and empathy) that doesn't go all the way down to the roots of their personalities as psychopathy does with psychopaths.
Well, of course, I'm not in a position to settle this debate. I'm glad that I read Hare's book, and I recommend it to your attention. I'll take it as my starting point for future reading on the topic of psychopathy.
Once you've warmed to the topic after reading Professor Krugman's article, then you might want to look at another post on the austerity delusion. There you'll find an informative video from Professor Mark Blyth on the politics of austerity.
Seth Freed Wessler explains how your college professor could be on public assistance.
When I was an adjunct professor, I never had to apply for unemployment benefits, food stamps, Medicaid, and the like. Fortunately, I made enough money to pay all of my bills, and even to save a little, but I also never had any of the larger financial obligations that someone of my age at that time would normally take on.
So I never bought a house or a car, never got married, never started a family, and so forth. I bought my own health insurance, which I never had to use, since my health at the time was mostly quite good. In short, I never experienced the worst depths of life as an adjunct. Therefore, for the ten years that I was an adjunct, my situation wasn't terrible, but it certainly wasn't what I wanted.
By the way, I should add that I never met a single adjunct who wanted to work on a part-time basis. Naturally, there had to some such people somewhere in academia. It's too big for there not to be people seeking part-time employment. But you should always be wary when you see some administrator quoted as saying that many adjuncts want to work part-time. My experience tells me that such a claim is just false.
If you aren't already familiar with my blog, then you can go to my academic autobiography to read the story of my years as an adjunct.
Here's something special for admirers of the work of H. P. Lovecraft. Check out this video of a performance of Roy Magnuson's "Innsmouth, Massachusetts, 1927":
Surely, this isn't the first symphonic composition (other than film music) inspired by one of HPL's stories? I really don't know. Anyway, in this case, of course, the story in question is The Shadow Over Innsmouth.
What fun! Let's hope for more HPL-inspired music from Mr. Magnuson!
I recently changed my ISP from Earthlink to Verizon. Because I had been with Earthlink for over twelve years, my Earthlink homepage contained a lot of material that I decided to move to my Typepad blog (which is where you are now, of course). But some of that mass of material was also out of date, and so I've been going through old files in order to decide what to keep and what to throw into the digital trashcan.
As I was revising my CV, I was reminded of my first academic publication, which was a review of the Reclam edition of Kant's Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics That Will Be Able to Come Forth as Science. The odd thing about my review was that I wrote it in German. Consequently, my first academic publication was in German, even though English is my native language. There's a little story behind how this happened, and I thought that you might enjoy reading it. So here it is.
When I was living and studying in Munich, I shared an apartment with a German political philosophy student who was also the co-editor of the HfP-Zeitung, which I guess you could call the once-a-semester student magazine of the Hochschule für Politik. (Or at least that's how I remember it. I apologize if I've misremembered.) He had a copy of Kant's Prolegomena for review, and since I too was a philosophy student, but one who specialized in German idealism, he asked me to write a short review.
Well, I'd never written much German prose, yet I figured that I could give it a go. By that stage of my graduate school career I'd read Kant's Prolegomena in English many times, of course, but I first had to read it in German to write the review. Now I was doing this slightly two hundred years after the publication of the book. So my job wasn't to say whether or not it was a good book. It was written by Kant in the 1780s, which means that it's of tremendous philosophical importance, regardless of what one thinks of it. So, instead, I wrote a few paragraphs trying to explain some of the basic ideas in clear, simple language. (Which wasn't all that hard to do, since my German prose was itself fairly simple.)
Naturally, my prose was imperfect, but my roommate was kind enough to correct my mistakes (which he had to do anyway, since he was co-editor of the magazine). My review was then published in the winter semester issue of the 89/90 academic year, and so there I was with a little piece in German that also happened to be my first academic publication.
My review covered slightly more than one page of the magazine. I've scanned the two pages and uploaded the images below. I erased another review that appeared at the bottom of the second page, just in case the author (my roommate the co-editor, in fact) doesn't wish it to be reprinted without his permission.
It was really not much more than a bit of fun, but it was a worthwhile exercise that no doubt contributed to improving my German, which, after all, was why I was studying in Germany in the first place.
If you would like to download the review as a single PDF (1.3 MB), then click on this link.
This had me laughing. I've been watching the second season of Elementary, and in the episode entitled "Paint It Black" Sherlock says the following: "My father is a Lovecraftian horror who uses his money to bludgeon his way to ever-more-obscene profits."
I can't recall ever encountering a more mainstream reference to Lovecraft than this one. According to the credits, the episode was written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe. Well done, Mr. Wolfe!
I added that parenthetical "continuing" since Mr. Edsall has been writing about this sort of thing since at least the early 1990s, when he co-authored a book entitled Chain Reaction: The Impact of Race, Rights, and Taxes on American Politics. I read that book when it first appeared in hardback. Even though it's over twenty years old, it's still as relevant today as it was back then.