College tuition is free; and executive salaries capped at 15 times the minimum wage.

The Yes Men media pranksters have claimed responsibility for a million-copy spoof edition of the New York Times handed out yesterday on Manhattan streets.

It captures the gap between what is needed–what we hope and long for–and what we’re likely to get with a pragmatic Chicago pol at the helm, and the NYT filling his sails.

The lead story narrates our exit from Iraq and inquiries into war crimes. Other stories note the passage of universal health coverage, not Obama’s fake plan, and Adolph Reed’s proposals for free higher education, which I’ve discussed in this space before, including a great video interview with Reed, recorded about a year ago.

Of additional interest to Chronicle of Higher Ed readers, since its annual “Executive Compensation” issue is in press, is a spoof story announcing passage of a new maximum wage law that caps all executive salaries at 15 times the minimum wage. This means that in a society paying a floor of $10/hour, executives could still earn $300,000.

As I point out in my forthcoming column in the compensation issue, though, public interest pay grades (military and civil service, eg) tend to keep the pay maximum closer to a multiple of 5.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and most state governors earn only about 5 times the wage of the lowest-paid college graduate in their service, generally not more than 8 times the earnings of the lowest-paid 18-year old without any college at all.

In Reality, However
Meanwhile the real NY Times pimps one of the sleaziest Sophie’s Choice deals ever concocted by quality management (you know, the same people who have sold you the idea that you’re “participating” in management by getting to decide whether to take on more work or accept less pay).

Obama’s favorite schools superintendent, Michelle Rhee, is trying to break the union and teacher tenure in the public schools by offering a $40,000 raise to any teacher who will give up tenure. What they’re proposing is a dual compensation scheme: a $40,000 raise for those on the new “green” track, and squat for those on the tenured “red” track.

So the same people who turned teaching into a crap job–a job that qualified, motivated people can’t accept because of the low pay, low workplace autonomy, and continuous, compulsory teaching to high-stakes tests, now can find money and space for creativity?

Sure, that’s just what we need. School administrators with even more control of teachers than they have now. Because they’ve done such a great job with the curriculum–no music, no art, no sports, no thinking, no citizenship.

Rhee (and her fans) don’t think of teaching as a profession at all. It’s something that wealthy and privileged people do as volunteerism, as the NYT eventually, reluctantly, gets around to observing:

Ms. Rhee’s attitudes about teaching were forged in the 1990s in Baltimore, where she taught in an elementary school as a member of Teach for America, the nonprofit group that recruits college graduates to teach for two years in hard-to-staff schools, after which many leave for jobs in other professions.
“Michelle does not view teaching as a career,” Ms. Weingarten said in an interview. “She sees it as temporary, something a lot of newbies will work very hard at for a couple of years, and then if they leave, they leave, as opposed to professionals who get more seasoned.” Teachers first won tenure rights across much of the United States early in the 20th century as a safeguard against patronage firings in big cities and interference by narrow-minded school boards in small towns, said Jeffrey Mirel, a professor of history and education at the University of Michigan. “And the historical rationale remains good,” Dr. Mirel said, pointing to the case of a renowned high school biology teacher in Kansas who was forced to retire nine years ago because he refused to teach creationism. “Without tenure,” Dr. Mirel said, “teachers can still face arbitrary firing because of religious views, or simply because of the highly politicized nature of American society.”

The Contingent Majority
Speaking of management getting exactly what they want and crushing tenure, we already have that in higher education as Gwen Bradley, lead AAUP staffer on contingent faculty issues, has long been pointing out.

She’s just released a special issue of Academe devoted entirely to the problem of nontenurable appointments in higher education, including an article by Audrey Jaeger, whose recent series of studies has added to the mounting evidence that management’s victory over tenure has harmed students.

And Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor has just released a special issue on the problem of mental labor: why do smart people do dumb things?






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