So there's this front-page article in the paper today about the how public universities are exploiting part-time and adjunct faculty. Stop the presses! Holy crap people... We all know about higher Dd's dirty little secret - that wasn't what drew my attention. No, I was more intrigued by the article's claim that students are somehow instructionally short-changed because part-time instructors and adjuncts have life commitments that get in the way of the real business of education.
So what is it that gets compromised when an adjunct is teaching 4 classes at one school and three classes at some other school one hour down the Thruway? The argument assumes that full-time/tenured faculty provide a better product to students in their sections. The argument also assumes that the value of the part-timers is not what they bring into the classroom, but what they leave out because they're busting their collective ass to get from one campus to another.
It's a complicated labor issue. It's a complicated ethical issue. What's not complicated is the fact that 9 times out of 10, the adjunct is bringing life-experience into the classroom -- experience that translates into practical, skills-based instruction, which prepares students for life beyond the academy. I realize, of course, that I'm focused on technical communication instruction. I'm thinking about the discussions I've had with program chairs in the schools in which I teach... about how full-time faculty with Ph.D.s or graduate degrees in English, textual studies, and Composition prove woefully inadequate in the tech com classroom... about how these full-time faculty struggle to contextualize the design and development environments in which their students will some day write.
On top of the issues of exploitation, cheap labor, and limited opportunities, let's heap on a healthy dose of failing to recognize the value of life work.