This article was first printed in the Atlantic Monthly in June and then reprinted in the Atlanta Journal Constitution (where I first read it) on Sunday June 15, 2008. There’s already a bit of discussion about the article on blogs including Education and Class and Mike Rose’s blog so I have to add some here myself.
As you read the article and various comments related to it, think about social class, opportunity, privilege, and marginalization. And don’t forget Power. The anonymous writer who describes himself as an adjunct working two jobs claims he doesn’t want to seem “classist” like the Brits or “sexist” but yet continues to paint a picture of his first-year-college-students (and perhaps first-generation college students) as uneducated, disengaged, and unable to absorb even the most simple concepts from his course. Never once does he consider that it might be his own “deficits” (a word he claims to like) about teaching and learning and his own underpreparedness and miseducation that might have led him to this impasse with the students sitting in his class.
Isn’t it just like the archetype “teacher” in our society to fail at teaching and then blame the students?
Get a grip pal. The second job you took on to pay your bills is one that comes with much privilege and power and it seems you are failing miserably at using yours in the best interest of hopeful, faithful, tuition-paying students who are looking to you for some leadership, guidance, and education. When did teaching stop being inspirational? Motivational? Energizing?
If you just needed a second job, go get one where you’re not messing with people’s lives.
Truth is, you are classist, just like most folks in the U.S., and it sounds like you are doing much more damage than good to the students, their experiences with institutions, and to the institution itself.
Do us all a favor: learn to teach or get out.
And don’t write anonymous articles that only further inscribe society’s classist perceptions of success, failure, and the value of human beings.