So there was a thing at the Modern Languages Association annual conference this year. It was about adjunct teaching blah tenure lines blah interviewing blah. Blah. My take is that, strip the precious specificity of academia away, and you're seeing a fairly typical problem of the politics of skilled labour.
Wait? You don't consider professors teaching English at a university to be "skilled labour" in the same sense as the honest hands of toil making cool things with Very Big Machine Tools?
A photo essay on cognitive dissonance:
The "Help!!" sign is just about the definition of a shortage of skilled labour, and the skill in question is close reading. True, it is shelf schematics, as opposed to Beowulf, and it is so that buyers will know what is going to be on the shelves when they make their purchase. SAMS work doesn't have as much social capital as lecturing the children of judges and doctors on Point Grey -to put it mildly!-- but any adjunct in this country would kill for the lifestyle of our company's roving SAMS expert.
In the face of the triple crisis of higher education, employment and demographics in this country and on this continent, it is worth contemplating the intractable mystery of skilled labour in our modern economy. Somehow, we got the story of skilled labour radically wrong. Our story is that an increased supply of skilled labour will drive the economy forward. When in fact, it just...
Oh. Wait. That's not a mystery at all.
Seventy years ago, labour worked differently. Voracious factories absorbed every hand they could, and then some more, and the Flak batteries in the park were crewed (in part) by the League of German Maidens.
And in Belfast.. . In Belfast. .
"In the county Tyrone, in the town of Dungannon
Where many a ruckus meself had a hand in
Bob Williamson lived there, a weaver by trade
And all of us thought him a stout-hearted blade.
On the twelfth of July as it yearly did come
Bob played on the flute to the sound of the drum
You can talk of your fiddles, your harp or your lute
But there's nothing could sound like the Old Orange Flute.
But the treacherous scoundrel, he took us all in
For he married a Papish named Bridget McGinn
Turned Papish himself and forsook the Old Cause
That gave us our freedom, religion and laws.
And the boys in the county made such a stir on it
They forced Bob to flee to the province of Connaught;
Anyway, in the land of anger and hate, there was this:
|Wikipedia (also below)|