12 March 2009

We Don't Need No Education

At least I didn't have to go to the college today. In fact, I didn't talk to anybody until I went for my electrolysis session. There, I could talk about everything but school if I wanted to. And I was happy for that opportunity. Today Paula, whom I hadn't seen in a while, worked on me. She asked how soon until my surgery. When I told her "less than four months," she said, "Oh, that must be so exciting, so good."

"Oh, you bet it is."

All I said about work is that I've been busy. And I wouldn't have had to say anything about it to anybody had Dominick not called after reading my entry from last night.

As if it were not enough to feel the same way about my identity and sexuality as other people do, I have to work in a place and in an industry that doesn't operate by the same sorts of rules or logic as other businesses do. It's also driven more by personality disorders and conflicts than most other fields of endeavor. So, trying to explain it in a rational way for someone who wants to make sense of it because he thinks it's supposed to make sense in the same way as everything else is frustrating. And, I admit, I don't do frustration well.

To give you an idea of how different higher education is from anything else, here's something Dominick asked rhetorically: How is it that you, who go way above and beyond the call of duty, have to worry about whether or not you'll have a job next year?

To paraphrase the Clinton's first campaign, It ain't the economy, stupid. Even in the best of times, instructors, especially those in the humanities, with little or no seniority are subject to the same conditions. So are the ones who, for whatever reasons, aren't in the good graces of their department chairs and deans. As I am not.

My department chair gave me two courses for next semester: an adjunct's schedule. She said she hadn't heard anything about my reappointment, and that I was on the bottom of the seniority list. "So why did Professor X get reappointed?" She responded with something people in her position like to say when they've been found out: "Well, I can't talk about other people's cases with you."

I understand why she can't do that. But I really would like to know why someone with less seniority and who, frankly, hasn't done as much or as well as I have, was reappointed and I'm being left to twist in the wind.

And I'm supposed to go to my classes and be a role model for my students. I'm supposed to say, in effect, that if you work with and for the system, it will work for you. The very act of teaching in a publicly-supported educational institution is, in essence, a representation of that notion.

If I tell them the truth, I definitely will not have that job--or any other in education--next year or in any following year. No, knowledge is not power, especially if you are hated simply for being who you are. Being an educated member of a "minority" group allows the empowered members of the "majority" culture to remain ignorant. I think again of Mitterrand's first meeting with Reagan, and how the former's beautiful command of English put him at a disadvantage with an American president who, if he were to read poety, would have chosen Robert Service, Rod McKuen or Jewel as the Poet Laureate.

So my department chair thinks that next fall she can get me to do everything I do now on a part-timer's schedule--and pay. Outsource my job to Sri Lanka, why don't you? Go ahead: I'll find another. Or better yet, I'll make myself a job someplace. If I do, it certainly won't be in education. If you really want to teach and learn, as I do, then it's exactly the wrong place for you. Ditto if you want to write well, let alone interestingly and movingly.