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The Unbearable Sadness of Adjunct

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The Price of the Life of the Mind

tumblr_mhwfl0rYaL1qmylbao1_500-02192013I’m having a lively conversation with PissPoorProf about the value of a Liberal Arts degree. He maintains that liberal arts should be corollary studies in college while I think they should be central. Others are chiming in. It’s a discussion I welcome because the topic goes well beyond the choice of undergrad studies. As Burnt-Out Adjunct so ably points out (in his many posts) the life of the mind does not come with an income. In fact, it requires an income to satisfy those lower elements in Maslow’s hierarchy, just to get to the point where one can, well, buy time to think/read/write/converse.


Also agreed: the treadmill that is adjunct work, with day and night responsibilities (Honest: preparing lecture/discussions, delivering those educational events, responding to questions and grading take way more time than I would have ever believed when I was a cubicle dweller with a steady paycheck) is relentless and seemingly possible only when you have another income. So when PissPoorProf describes adjunct teaching as “about as soul-sucking as a wage-slave job can get,” I tend to agree.

And yet, we agree that the life of the mind—whether taught or caught or pursued or scrimped and saved for—is a thing of value. Maybe part of our equipping for undergrads, as well as for those later in life who want to think, is to help each other understand we need to pay your own way to join the larger conversation.

There is so much more to say about this.


Image credit: BORONDO by Arte urbano Madrid via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

February 19, 2013 at 10:08 am

7 Responses

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  1. Reblogged this on Burnt-out Adjunct.


    February 19, 2013 at 10:34 am

  2. […] I posted under the title “The unbearable sadness of adjunct.” I hope you read on to see it was a larger discussion about the price anyone pays to live a […]

  3. The going rate for adjunct teaching is about $3.50/hour. Not much is that low except being a server, and even then, you get tips.


    February 20, 2013 at 5:08 pm

  4. Interesting post since its a topic of conversation that I and friends often talk about. I think liberal arts should be central to education at the undergraduate level since while the life of the mind does not come with an income the point of this type of education one needs the tome to fine tune the skills needed to think/read/write/converse clearly and to the point. The point is that all of these skills sets can be redeployed in other ways after graduation in different jobs and disciplines.


    April 8, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    • I definitely agree all skill sets need to be redeployed–but that is really a lifetime skill, isn’t it? Thanks for reading!


      April 8, 2013 at 5:52 pm

  5. […] truth is there are only so many hours in a day. If you’re an adjunct professor, you are basically volunteering your time, which might have gone toward research. If you […]

  6. […] wondered: Why go into college debt just to be a philosophy-talking barista? We’ve lamented the pitiful conditions of adjuncts. Colleges in my area cut budgets and then cut more, from fat to bone. And now wholesale amputation […]

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