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You may have noticed a new phrase emerging in academic circles sweeping higher education journals, newspapers, websites, twitter and blogs. Precarious, contingent, or adjunct faculty are living in poverty like low wage service employees. Adjuncts are forced into this new economic climate to accept jobs offering semester only contracts (if that) and low salaries as well as few opportunities for health insurance and retirement benefits.
Recently our classes have been cut even further by universities insisting they can’t afford the cost of insuring us with the new health care law. And now we have the cuts in food stamps which is eroding our ability to sustain our families that helped us survive our low wage higher education teaching jobs. We happen to be teaching all over the United States in every academic discipline you could imagine. As 79% of the professors employed, you can imagine this is causing some of us adjuncts to stand up and organize for better working conditions and a more viable future for our colleagues as well as a better learning environment for our students.
In sociology and economics, the precariat is a social class formed by people suffering from precarity, a condition of existence without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare, and also means a member of a proletariat class of industrial workers who lack their own means of production and must sell their labor to live
All of us who work under these definitive conditions have one thing in common. We, like you so cleverly noted, are forced to “rely on friends and family” and “we lack faith in American possibilities.” Not now, we don’t.
I do not, however, agree with your statement “this fatalism is historically uncharacteristic of America”. It’s actually completely characteristic of America, just as your views are completely characteristic of the New York Times neoliberal agenda crushing the field of journalism.
Every time I read one of your editorials I feel as if the ground is shaking and I am being thrown towards the pit of hellish despair. Choose your words wisely Mr. Brooks. There is a revolt at hand. If the Precariat of this generation at this point in time actually speak out against people like you who have so little background in American history to state something so incredibly naïve and offensive to anyone who has studied labor history, then I worry about your ability to keep your job, because there won’t be any educated, intelligent people left to pay to read your words.
There is a long history of resistance to the greed and avarice of the elite and rich society that has governed our political and educational systems. From Frederick Douglas to Susan B. Anthony, and on to Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcom X our revolt is characteristically American.
Do you think those revolutionaries were without faith in American possibilities? Yes. They were without faith when it came to the possibility of the American political and economic systems representing and providing for them. But they were committed to the human possibilities of creating a society that honored labor and honored the heart and soul of the disenfranchised, and they sure as hell did everything they could to fight for a better working and living environment for the downtrodden and working poor of this country.
Well, Mr. Brooks, why doesn’t someone give you a “moving voucher?” I would like to see you move out of the world of journalism altogether and give an aspiring young and intelligent writer a chance to describe what it’s like to be a contingent worker, a member of the Precariat who has lost his home and his chance to give his children an education. Every day she goes out and struggles to work 2, 3, or 4 jobs in order to bring home enough money to feed her family, and all you’re worried about is how she might be tempted to “join a protest movement”?
Margaret Mary strikes back from the grave whispering “give them a living wage so they do not end up like me.”
*Sara Crew (Shirley Temple) in The Little Princess: "I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even if they aren't pretty, or smart, or young. They're still princesses. All of us."