Friday, November 13, 2015

Life in the Pissant Swamp: And the Award Goes To Lovely Rita Metrics Maid...

For the second year in a row I am being "honoured" by being "asked", nay ordered, by SUNY Oneonta's bureaucrats to complete an evaluation form for a general education class that takes hours to do.

A little background. I teach part-time at SUNY Oneonta. I earn the staggering sum of around $2750 per class, a job, by the way, that required around 5 hours of work every day during the summer for the preparation of one class, three hours a week teaching the class, several hours a month grading assignments, and several hours a day answering student queries I receive everyday via email. I am, in other words, paid slave wages for the "honour" of teaching at a college. Add to this overwhelming workload for poor pay the bureaucratic duties we part-timers are now required to do including completing faculty activity reports and flawed "metrics" like the one I am being ordered to do by some of the ever increasing number of bureaucrats on college campuses and I guess one could say I don't even get paid slave wages.

One of the reasons I have tended to prefer part-time academic work to full-time is that up to know part-timers traditionally haven't had to involve themselves as much in the mind numbing bureaucracy that has increased as exponentially as the number of high level and particularly mid level bureaucrats on college campuses. The general education "metric" I did last year is one of these mind numbing bureaucratic practises which bureaucrats with neoliberal mindsets use to discipline, to use a Foucauldian term, academics, particularly in the "radical" liberal arts in the modern "university". The general education "metric", for instance, wants the percentage of students who passed, the percentage of students who failed, objectives, those bureaucratic practises that were developed for primary and secondary school which like high school itself has been making its presence felt in colleges and universities, and data about the global component of the class.

What these "metrics" don't, of course, ask for, and this is why they are fatally flawed, is the whys of student success and failure. They only want to know the what. Since they only want to know the what they are simply meaningless. These measure are grounded in a neoliberal ideology that has become more and more prominent since the so-called Reagan Revolution which, in truth, was less a revolution than, on one level the retention of the status quo along with, on another level, a back to the nineteenth century future of bah humbugsism. One of the fundamental assumptions of this neoliberal gobbledygook is that broader social and cultural contexts really don't matter when it comes to student achievement. There is no noise, these "metrics" assume in the interaction between teacher and student that teachers can't overcome. While such an ideology may play in neoliberal lalaland it doesn't in real academic life. For instance, the reason that almost everyone failed in my US History II class last spring was that they didn't do one or two of the assignments which made up individually 20% of their grade. In neoliberal lalaland, I guess, this is all my fault because the focus is all on the outcome and not the reasons for the outcome.

Over the years I have attended and taught in colleges and universities across the US I have seen the high schoolisation, the increasing corporatisation, the increasing bureaucratisation, and the increasing trivialisation of a liberal arts education. I have seen in the small state schools, in medium state schools including medium state research universities, and even at some medium sized private schools the death of education as it once was or once hoped it was. I expect this death by a million cuts to continue at these universities leaving the true liberal arts to the Oxford's, Cambridge's, the Harvard's, the Michigan's, the Chicago's, and the Indiana's. Sadly, only a very few, probably the siblings of the wealthy and powerful and perhaps even the most gifted, will ever have a sense of what a true liberal arts education is like.

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