Sunday, April 12, 2009

new paradigm

More for the curious:

1. The knowledge factory: dismantling the corporate university and creating true higher learning / Stanley Aronowitz.
2. The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex, Henry Giroux.
3. The Great Turning, David Korten.

This is an essay I wrote for some university professors contemplating what to do in this economic crisis. Their university fired all lecturers and GAs, and tried other measures that all seemed rather ... hm.... quick fixes.

What baffles me is literal thinking. We should think in more complexity.

First, this is in some ways better and some ways worse than Great Depression, not because of the unemployment rate and lines for bread, but because this is the collapse of the old paradigms, the old "regime".

Great Depression didn't change anything in the way people lived their lives, fundamentally. Everyone continued chasing the dollars and destroying the Nature, the economy and PEOPLE'S THINKING did not change one bit. Before and after Great Depression, it was the same paradigm - globally.
Great Depression led to developing consumerism as a quick "fix it" without any foresight to consequences, which led to more efficient and faster destruction of Natural resources, and a much faster me-me-me old fashined greedy grabby lifestyle - the same lifestyle that humans have had for centuries.... No change, just better grabbing. And all over the world. Japan, Germany, and E. Europe are the most polluted countries in the world. US produces 70% of world's trash. Oahu will lose about 40 ft of shoreline rather soon due to raising sea levels.

Right now, the whole PARADIGM is changing, GLOBALLY. And that is potentially a good thing, because now the paradigm needs to shift into something more humane, sustainable, and on a higher level of thinking, on a higher consciousness than basic ape consciosness we have had so far, grabbing as much as we could for our own okole and never thinking of consequences. The consequences are here and demanding attention:
An iceberg size of Connecticut is just about to break in Antartica, which will lead to climate change. All the garbage, the chemicals, the pollution, the complete trashing and destruction of our natural resources - globally - is now due to be "paid".

So, yes, this is way worse than Great Depression, in some ways, because the whole Earth is at stake. What we are talking about is a global crisis that is forcing us to completely reform ourselves and start paying attention.

How does it apply to this little corner of the world and our little school and our little paychecks? It is obvious that how colleges are run needs to change.

Univ. of Phoenix and many other schools established rather expensive education, but affordable to some, esp those who cannot leave work to attend classes and/or have no ability to do well in real college classes. They employ ONLY part-time lecturers who do not have to have PhD, just work experience. They pay lousy, and hire lecturers class by class. Classes are about 5 weeks.
Pros: their classes can be a lot more fun that traditional college, which is too theoretical, too ivory tower, too dry and boring to death. No hands on, no projects, no team work, students just sleep through lectures and then study on their own. Schools like U of Phoenix have real-life projects, team work, teachers have real-life experience and stories, and it can be FUN, exciting, and PRACTICAL.
Cons: it is considered low quality school. Lecturers are not paid well so why should they bother, the students are low quality and not really willing to work.
THis model has worked very well in the past, and now it is not, because of low quality their diploma is not worth a lot, so less students are interested.

Traditional colleges like UH Manoa do employ lecturers too. I know well one of them and let me tell you, it is slave labor. It translates into about $12 per hour. They had 55 students and had to grade that all every week, themself. It pays 4000$ per semester, minus tax, so ..... they taught 5 classes and made 20K minus tax last year. They have a PhD, have taught tenure track before, and are considered a good teacher. They did not want a full time job, with all the boring politics and all other waste of time associated with it. They just wanted to TEACH, and do it WELL. Unfortunately, it is impossible to make a living doing that.
Plus, lecturing is extremely stressful job, admins always want to cut your class and do cut it, at the last minute. And they are totally cutting it now, so no more work at all. If it pays lousy, that;s one thing, but if it pays lousy AND is unstable, then it is really nerve wrecking.
So, lecturing is for someone who has another job 'for real" and does this on the side. Well, if they have another job, then they are not going to have enough time to dedicate to lecturing. Sorry, but that's how it is. My friend did a lot of extra office hours, handouts, class exercises, etc. on their own time, for free. They are paid to have 1 hr of office hours per week, they always had at least 4 hrs. They were just doing the same thing like back then when they were a nicely paid visiting prof on 1 yr contract. Then they realized they are now just a meagerly paid lecturer and could not afford any free labor because they had to actually make money to eat. So they went ahead and got a full time job.
So anyone worth their salt will leave such lousy jobs. If you want someone good, pay them.

So, I would definitely not recommend any "cheap lecturer" paradigm to any university that wants to maintain high standards and a good name. Manoa has research profs - let them do research, pay good lecturers well, and let's see what happens.

So, this new happening in the world is perhaps a chance for all of us to rearrange our thinking and to stop wanting to have something for nothing. Globally, we all are trying to grab money in any way possible, even if it destroys Nature, other people, etc. Well, it is time humanity grows up.

How this translates into what to do with Manoa? I think it translates into profs doing more research and getting more grants. In terms of lecturers, GAs, to have Chancellor or not, to have a superdean or not, those are details I am not qualified to comment on. Someone with very good $ experience and a lot of honest intent will have to solve that. Faculty will have to be mature enough and work together. There is a lot of very smart people here, if you really turn your Higher brains on, you will find the solution.

I definitely advise against a short-sighted "fix" like trying to make money on GMO research and other things that are already harming and eventually will kill Hawaii land and its people, not to mention the global community, as we are all related. It has to be something SUSTAINABLE, and for a long term.

One has to be very very wise and think the old fashined way: how is what i am doing today influencing seven generations from now?

Copyright 2009 bt Milica Barjaktarovic