Magazine article Radical Teacher

Tenured Bosses and Disposable Teachers: Writing Instruction in the Managed University

Magazine article Radical Teacher

Tenured Bosses and Disposable Teachers: Writing Instruction in the Managed University

Article excerpt


Edited by Marc Bousquet, Tony Scott, and Leo Parascondola. Southern Illinois University Press, 2003.

As I began Spring semester, 2004, marking my eleventh year as an adjunct, I decided that I would begin making a serious move toward a full time job in a community college. Carrying six composition classes across three campuses, I planned to devote as much time as I could to publishing my first academic article--doing the work, acting the part of a "real" academic. I saw the request for this review and decided to pounce on the opportunity. In addition, I planned to write an essay, and compile my perfect composition reader.

I teach in the New Jersey community college system. I had taught for three to five years at two of my campuses. Spring 2004 marked my first semester at this third campus. One day, around midterm by chance, I visited the office of my chair at this third campus, as she spoke on the telephone. She held up her finger telling me to wait; she want ed to speak with me. She told me "Another adjunct has just quit; do you want her dames?"

In my current economic state, I could not refuse. Without realizing it, this experience placed me in the perfect position to review Tenured Bosses and Disposable Teachers: Writing Instruction in The Managed University, the collection edited by Marc Bousquet, Tony Scott, and Leo Parascondola. I made it through my first semester teaching eight classes across three campuses, a feat I hope not to repeat. I did not write the essay, but I have almost completed work on my reader. And I have learned a great deal, including how much I have to learn about the realities of the academic market place, from Tenured Bosses and Disposable Teachers.

A review tells the reader as much about the reviewer as it does about the object reviewed. I have an MA in Secondary Education. Lacking the emotional tenacity to teach high school English, I have decided, after ten years on and off teaching college Composition, to pursue a career for myself at the college level, including teaching eight dames across three campuses. I do not claim to understand all the issues raised by the collection.

Marc Bosquet, in "Composition as Management Science," examines the phenomenon of the non-tenured full time position. Bosquet views this position as constituting nothing but acquiescence to corporate market values that the university should challenge and change. I understand Bosquet's point, but as a person struggling to pay bills, I cannot say that I would find unattractive Joseph Harris's proposal of "reasonable salaries, benefits, working conditions, and job security; autonomy over [my] work; and to be treated with respect as colleagues" (28), which Bosquet quotes critically. However Bosquet righdy claims that the major changes in history did not come about without bold action and powerful rhetoric. The non-tenured, full-time position greeted by many, including me, as innovative, contains neither boldness nor power, but for the adjunct working two or more campuses, it may offer hope. Amanda Godley and Jennifer Seibel Trainor, in "Embracing the Logic of the Marketplace: New Rhetorics for the Old Problem of Labor in Composition," examines how two institutions have dealt with staffing using the full time, non-tenure track rank. Neither has completely succeeded, as administrators--deans--have continued to view the traditional adjunct workforce as a cost saving measure. However, English departments themselves seem to support these positions.

Richard Ohmann continues Bosquet's analysis by demonstrating that writing program administrators--WPA's--and politicians separate "Citizenship and Literacy Work" in their own rhetoric. This separation results from university administrations' vision of the university as properly serving market forces. I admit a particular fondness for this piece, as the exploration of citizenship and literacy comprise major pieces of my own work. …

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