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Showing posts from December, 2012

A Poor Man's Christmas

Christmas was coming and my father was between positions again. It was the late seventies and well after his temporary gig driving the van delivering flowers in downtown Philly. It must have been between computer-programming jobs, possibly Textronix in Blue Bell and Arthur's Travel in Center City, the job that would launch him to California and alter the trajectory of his life.
     But in the winter of 1978 or ’79, my Dad had nothing. He was broke. I remember him hinting at this, but I don’t have a great sense of feeling any danger because of it. As best I knew, he could cover his child support and his rent on a decent two-bedroom apartment in a generic development in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. His child-support payments were low, but he wrote the check each month. It was over at my mom’s, living in a one-floor three bedroom and eating chicken five times a week that I felt closer to poverty. My dad lived in houses, whether he rented or owned, and he would spring for vacations an…

Rob Balla

Here's a six-minute Chronicle video featuring Rob Balla's take on the adjunct situation. He's raising a family of four without health benefits, driving a ten-year-old car, and teaching up to eight classes a semester. Sound familiar?

Here and here are some fresh frontpage stories from the major pubs about the adversities his, and our, students can face. You put the whole thing together, and it's not too difficult to recognize the viability of the case that much of contemporary college isn't about education as opportunity and lifting young folks above their socio-economic origins. And here's another one that suggests more STEM majors aren't the answer either. The current president of Penn State seems to be doing okay, though, and I can't help but note that his $85,000 raise is just a bit more than what NPR reported it would cost to implement the NRA's plan for the federal government to bring an armed guard to every school, and just over twice the 40K …

calling out well

I'm one of those weird ones who shows up; I can't remember calling out sick in sixteen years of teaching, and the only unplanned absence I can recall is one involving a delayed flight from another country.

Although I try to be, I'm not invariably punctual, and I remember early mornings in my adjunct days, with courses on two campuses and then evening tutoring ahead of me, when I'd arrive past civilization's ten-minute mark for occasional 8:00 a.m. and 8:40 a.m. sections, but I also remember teaching full days after the worst of a stomach virus came and went in the middle of the night along with other days when mere papergrading or insomnia was what limited my sleeping the night before.

One winter day in January or so of 2005, in freezing temperatures on my walk to a first 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. section from my 21st and Race "junior" one-bedroom, my anxiety and fatigue combined with anticipation of a full day of teaching and then evening tutoring to a more si…

thank you, teacher

I wanted to share this excerpt from Migrant Intellectual with all of my teaching friends:

First, thank you.
Thank you for your work.
Thank you for staying in the game.
You are so important; your work is so important; your voice is so important.
You are a blessing to your students, to your friends and family, to yourself.
In the language of my mentor Avital Ronell, you are a dear one, my friend.

In these words, Dr. Baum is comforting an adjunct who reports from the teaching front on her own anxieties and second-hand clothing. It reminds me of how my father wandered back into the world of higher education in the mid-90s, having not taught a college class since the early 1970s but in need of an income years after losing what he had in the white collar world of computers and technology.

Anyway, in Florida, he was scheduled to teach calculus at a community college, and with some passion he planned his lessons and gave it go. But he walked in on the first day, saw twice as many students as he wa…

the migrant intellectual and the mainstream news

This migrant intellectual says Brett Baier of Fox News will be reporting on the adjunct issue, apparently in response to this wake-up call for mainstream media. The master-slave rhetoric ("plantation," "field workers," and "cotton pickers" for example) will be offensive to some, and there may be some sweeping generalizations in his blog, unless things such as invariable last-minute appointments apply specifically to the one community college he mentions, but his comments about the low pay are a common reality for any adjunct who attempts to show genuine dedication to grading the papers and planning the lessons, and the health insurance concern is urgent and also why the majority of us were hopeful enough that Obama's plan will work that we voted to reelect the guy.

So far, there have been news stories about two colleges, Community College of Alleghany County and Youngstown State, adjusting their maximum number of courses downward in order to pay teac…

Donkey Tired, Donkey Gets Slapped With A Wet Fish

Today in contemporary literature (haha), we had some fun evaluating Steve Almond's "Donkey Greedy, Donkey Gets Punched," the leadoff hitter in the Richard Russo edited 2010 Best of American Stories. Although that one is mainly about fathers and sons, therapy, poker, and among men competition, bonding, animosity, drunkenness, insanity, and generalized angst, we still had time to consider his comic "deconstruction" of Toto'sAfrica in relation to all of the postcolonial and transnational stories we've been reading.

So it was a veritable Steve Almond Experience in Daniel 405, and apologies to any students present or innocents reading this now who wind up swaying to the beat at an inopportune moment.

Here's some bonus coverage of Almond on bad jobs with some additional thoughts on the bad job that is the writing life.

Man, if this wily veteran rock 'n roller is still knocking on doors, what does that mean for the rest of us?


peace and trade, redux

Here's a follow up to the peace and trade blog below, Philly style with Michael Nutter in Tianjin. I can't prove that this sister-city business lifts all boats in both towns, but I can't prove it doesn't, either (although there are news articles everyday about how young people around the world are struggling).

"Staggering" is Mayor Nutter's first description, and his impressions sound similar to mine during last summer's visit to Suzhou and Shanghai. Here's an excerpt from the article:

"Seeing what goes on here is a reminder of the things we can do and must do to maintain our presence on the world stage," Nutter said.

It also underscores "what our federal government can do if we would have, at times, a little less debate and a whole lot more work and understand that investment brings job and activity and furthers American interests," said Nutter, who also is president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Make no mistake, Mike, China…