Thomas Frank looks at the swindle being perpetrated by higher education.
Because I worked as an adjunct for a decade before I left academia in 2003, I can fully appreciate Frank's remarks about part-time faculty. But I also felt the poignancy of his remarks about wildly overpriced textbooks, rampaging administrators, and ballooning student debt.
I haven't linked to anything by Thomas Frank in a while. I see that these days he's writing for Salon.
Anyway, because I worked as an adjunct professor for ten years, I couldn't help being interested in this article in which he tells the class of 2014 how badly they've been served by their colleges and universities. The plight of adjuncts is a large part of his tale of woe.
I gave up my regular reading of conservative journalism several years ago, but I couldn't help noticing the recent brouhaha involving Cliven Bundy, by which I mean not so much the uproar over his racist remarks, but rather his ongoing battle with the federal government over grazing fees. Here's a serious conservative perspective on the whole sorry affair from The Weekly Standard.
James Surowiecki reminds us that social mobility has never been very great at any time or in any place. But if that is so, he says, then it makes more sense to shift our attention to people's standard of living:
. . . in any capitalist society most people are bound to be part of the middle and working classes; public policy should focus on raising their standard of living, instead of raising their chances of getting rich. What made the U.S. economy so remarkable for most of the twentieth century was the fact that, even if working people never moved into a different class, over time they saw their standard of living rise sharply. Between the late nineteen-forties and the early nineteen-seventies, median household income in the U.S. doubled. That's what has really changed in the past forty years. The economy is growing more slowly than it did in the postwar era, and average workers' share of the pie has been shrinking. It's no surprise that people in Washington prefer to talk about mobility rather than about this basic reality. Raising living standards for ordinary workers is hard: you need to either get wages growing or talk about things that scare politicians, like "redistribution" and "taxes."
True, it's politically easier to talk about mobility than inequality, but that's because we live in a plutocracy. In a genuinely democratic society it shouldn't be so difficult for politicians to raise, much less tackle, the issues that affect the economic well-being of the vast majority of the population.
They seem to exist, he says, but only until that point in time in which they might actually come to fruition, whereupon they promptly disappear. Chait dubs this metaphysical sleight-of-hand the Heritage Uncertainty Principle.