Links Roundup: 18 September 2013

“And who is poor? Mostly women. The National Women’s Law Center combed the data and found that more than one in seven women is living in poverty, and more than half of the country’s poor children are in female-headed households. The poverty rate for men is still lower, at 11 percent, than the record low for women, which was 11.5 percent in 2000. About a quarter of black and Hispanic women live in poverty.”

“Do many parents still wish for this to be done? Enough that 19 states still allow the practice. The last state to ban corporal punishment in schools was New Mexico in 2011; spanking in schools remains legal in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming (in states where corporal punishment is permitted, some school districts may still prohibit it).”

– Note the linkages between the practice of allowing teachers in public schools (State institutions) to administer corporal punishment in a context when students of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately suspended and expelled. In fact, in a previous blogpost, I wrote, “African-American students represented 18 percent of the public school populations in the US, yet, a report by the U.S. Department of Education found that African-American students accounted for 35 percent of suspensions and 39 percent of outright expulsions.” Now, think of this in terms of the school-to-prison pipeline.

“Meanwhile, I called Adult Protective Services right after talking to Margaret Mary, and I explained the situation. I said that she had just been let go from her job as a professor at Duquesne, that she was given no severance or retirement benefits, and that the reason she was having trouble taking care of herself was because she was living in extreme poverty. The caseworker paused and asked with incredulity, “She was a professor?” I said yes. The caseworker was shocked; this was not the usual type of person for whom she was called in to help.

Of course, what the caseworker didn’t understand was that Margaret Mary was an adjunct professor, meaning that, unlike a well-paid tenured professor, Margaret Mary worked on a contract basis from semester to semester, with no job security, no benefits and with a salary of between $3,000 and just over $3,500 per three-credit course. Adjuncts now make up well over 50 percent of the faculty at colleges and universities.”

“On April 8, 2013, the  New York Times reported that 76 percent of American university faculty are adjunct professors – an all-time high. Unlike tenured faculty, whose annual salaries can top $160,000, adjunct professors make an average of $2,700 per course and receive no health care or other benefits.

Most adjuncts teach at multiple universities while still not making enough to stay above the  poverty line. Some are on  welfare or homeless. Others depend on charity drives held by their peers. Adjuncts are generally  not allowed to have offices or participate in faculty meetings. When they ask for a living wage or benefits, they can be  fired. Their contingent status allows them no recourse.

No one forces a scholar to work as an adjunct. So why do some of America’s brightest PhDs – many of whom are authors of books and articles on labour, power, or injustice – accept such terrible conditions?

“Path dependence and sunk costs must be powerful forces,” speculates political scientist Steve Saidemen in a post titled ” The Adjunct Mystery“. In other words, job candidates have invested so much time and money into their professional training that they cannot fathom abandoning their goal – even if this means living, as Saidemen says, like “second-class citizens”. (He later  downgraded this to “third-class citizens”.)”

“In my classroom at the community college where I teach, students can sit in two types of seats: at computers, which are arranged in horseshoe formation facing three walls in the room,or at the four rows of long desks that are in the center. It’s a tight space, each table seating seven students. But every morning we meet, as if by instinct, my freshmen choose these desks over the individual computer stations. They wait to be asked before logging onto the PCs — and they wait sitting quite close together. They are an ethnically diverse group from various Baltimore communities, different socioeconomic backgrounds, and a wide range of college preparedness.

Their desire to sit shoulder-to-shoulder, facing me, is essential. It means, whether they realize it or not, that their concept of college is driven by human interaction. The Internet, which many of them access nonstop through smartphones, is a secondary resource in our classroom. I, the live person, smiling encouragingly as they expound on a thought, am the first.

When discussing the rise of online learning and free massive open online courses as waves of the future, many ignore the dynamic a classroom like mine provides for a population often let behind…”

  • The Civil Arab: “Anthony Bourdain, Will You Marry Me?”

“Something amazing happened on CNN last night. Palestinians were portrayed as human beings.

In his show “Parts Unknown,” Anthony Bourdain travels to exotic and controversial locales to examine the intersection of food, politics, and everyday life. Last night, he visited Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.

He was immediately mesmerized by Palestine, which is a common phenomenon. It is an amazing place, where the gravity of the history and spirituality is heavy in the air. It feels majestic. But something is a little off. Bourdain felt the splendor, but, as he said, “Then you see the young draftees (teenage Israeli soldiers holding machine guns) in the streets, and you start to get the idea.”

He began his journey with an Israeli chef and author, Yotam. They started by tasting some falafel in Jerusalem’s Old City. Yotam told the audience, in a stunning admission, “Israelis made falafel their own, and everybody in the world thinks falafel is Israeli, but in actual fact, it is as much Palestinian, even more so, because it’s been done for generations here… The question of food appropriation is massive here.””

“There is not a lot of money in African journalism. As an African journalist, I know this all too well. An illustrative example: I was in South Sudan in November 2012, on a trip I was financing myself. Weeks in flea-ridden hostels culminated in a four-day stay at a refugee camp near the border with Sudan. I was the only reporter there and pleased with myself for getting a story that no one else had. Not so fast. On my last day there, a small plane descended unannounced on the tiny airstrip and disgorged four foreign correspondents in their khakis and combat boots. They represented two of the biggest and best-known international media outlets. They spent a total of two hours in the camp. One of them had filed his story even before he left.

As they hijacked my interviews, I chatted to their fixer who whispered to me that they had spent $8,000 to hire the plane for the morning. To me, this was an unimaginable sum: their morning cost more than four times my entire two weeks in South Sudan. And, of course, they missed the story. In four days I barely scratched the surface of what was going on in the camp, but in their two hours, they could not even get beyond official statements.”

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