We’re fortunate that two of the most thoughtful writers on higher ed are also among the most frequent. Matt Reed, more or less the provost at Brookdale Community College in coastal New Jersey (his actual job title is Vice President for Learning), writes a near-daily blog called Confessions of a Community College Dean for Inside Higher Education. And his stablemate John Warner, a novelist and long-time adjunct instructor and publishing columnist for the Chicago Tribune, writes another regular IHE blog called Just Visiting. Both of them are close to the ground, describing the complications of higher ed in ways that make it clear what’s at stake for students and teachers alike. If you want to know what the work looks like, and what it means, they’re a great place to start.
So when I discovered that John had reviewed my new book for his IHE post today, I was delighted. But I hadn’t expected how powerful the review would be. I’ll quote his first line: “Normally the only contingent faculty career that could bring me to tears was my own, but the latter stages of The Adjunct Underclass: How America’s Colleges Betrayed Their Faculty, Their Students, and Their Mission by Herb Childress had my eyes filling sometimes with sadness, sometimes tinged with anger.”
And again, it’s that sense of despair, that sense that we all know that we could do it right but yet somehow choose not to. We’ve walked slowly but steadily in the wrong direction for nearly forty years, and now we’re so far from home that it seems impossible to reclaim. I still think we could get there, but it would require a powerful reimagining of our path, and powerful argument to make that path meaningful to a broader public.
If we’re going to make that turn toward home, it’ll take people like Matt and John, like Karen Kelsky and Sara Goldrick-Rab, like Adam Harris and Hua Hsu. People who carry the unique blend of empathy and knowledge and powerful, accessible writing. I’m grateful to be on their team.