Higher EducationPedagogyPop Quiz

Pop Quiz: How would you change the system?

Hey everybody! Excuse the late post–I’m sure you’re all familiar with December craziness.

As I was reading this article by Jeffrey J. Williams in the Chronicle of Higher Education the other day, I got to thinking about the way we’ve structured our educational system. For those who haven’t read the article (and are too lazy to click through), its basic premise is that higher education’s “Great Stratification” –the separation of academic labour into more narrowly defined roles such as professors, administrators, and adjuncts–is part of a much larger cultural trend, and mirrors the increased division of labour in many other professions, including law and medicine.

Adjuncts, Williams argues, are the educational equivalent of nurse practitioners or perhaps dental hygienists: it is their job to carry out the kind preliminary instruction that prepares students for more in-depth study with tenured professors later on in their academic careers. This increases the system’s efficiency by allowing tenured professors to focus on education of more advanced students and their own research rather than having to dedicate a substantial amount of time to teaching low-level courses that can just as easily be covered by graduate students or other instructors with less formal training in the discipline.

The difference between academia and other professions, of course, is that adjuncts are not generally treated as a distinct class of professionals with their own certifications and and unions that represent their interests. Rather, they are usually expected to have the same educational qualifications as their tenured and tenure-track peers despite their significantly different job profiles. Further, as we frequently mention around here, they all too frequently have none of the protections afforded to their academic and administrative co-workers through their unions.

Where it really gets interesting is in Williams’s proposed solution to this situation. Rather than just focusing on adjunct unionization or creating more tenure track positions, Williams suggests implementing a more formal and permanent division of instructional labour by creating a new degree level between the Master’s degree and Ph.D intended specifically for those students who wish become classroom teachers at the university level rather than researchers. Such a degree would have less onerous research requirements than a traditional Ph.D (because they would not be strictly necessary for full-time teachers rather than teacher-researchers) and could also include formal training in classroom instruction. This would make adjuncts into a distinct professional class, and eliminate the perception that becoming an adjunct instructor is just something you do when you don’t make it on the tenure track. Rather, they would become a permanent, integral fixture of the university system just like the professors, librarians, and clerical staff they work with every day.

I have to say, I really like this idea. We could even call the degree a Pg.D (for paedegogiae doctor) in order to highlight its intended purpose. If I were Emperor of Education, I’d probably issue the necessary decrees tomorrow. Which leads me to today’s question:

If you were the Emperor\Empress of Education, how would you change the system?

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons (ET), unless Dan breaks his phone.

Featured image: Her Imperial Majesty, the reigning Empress of Education, courtesy of justgrimes.

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Dan holds a PhD in Music History from a major Canadian university and is now pursuing a M.Ed in Higher Education at another one, because he likes to collect very expensive paper. He performs stand-up comedy at venues all over Toronto when he's not busy playing JRPGs with his cat, Roy. You can follow him at @incontrariomotu, but he isn't going anywhere. You can also send him a tip on PayPal (paypal.me/dandonnelly) if you like his work!

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