From the Editor: "A Hundred Miles Down the Road"

By Aaron Barlow

At the end of his epic trilogy U.S.A., John Dos Passos writes: “A hundred miles down the road. Head swims, belly tightens, wants crawl over his skin like ants: went to school, books said opportunity, ads promised speed. . . . A hundred miles down the road.”

Today’s faculty members, and too many of our students as well, have long been that waiting hitchhiker, thumb out, watching America whiz by, expecting to reach that something down the road.

Instead, that something daily moves farther and farther away. We educators and those we educate sometimes remain stuck in the fantasies of the past rather than facing the reality of today’s “Camera Eye.” We pull the tatters of tenure around our shoulders, never understanding why we still shiver; the surety of the true believers about us obscures the light of academic freedom, and all we do is complain about the dark; deliberate pressures of time and action squeeze away shared governance, yet we squeal instead of pushing back. While some among us have organized into effective unions and other organizations that advocate for quality in higher education, too many are passive. Loud sometimes, but essentially passive.

We cannot wait for the drivers of our society to take pity on us and give us a lift. We need instead to create our own ride by helping ourselves, strengthening the powers we already have.

The message to us should not be defeat, standing in the roadside dust. In the words of Joe Hill, “Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize!”

All of us should be active AAUP members at the very least, participating either in an AAUP collective bargaining unit or in an advocacy organization, perhaps along with another local union. We should be reaching out to others to join, countering the antiunion and corporate forces that seek to disempower us. Ours should be more than a voice of complaint; it should be a voice of action.

The first article in this issue, Kelly Wilz’s “A Day in the Life of a Public University Professor in Wisconsin,” shows just why it is so hard, today, for faculty to take that next step, to organize and act—it is harder still for those on contingent or adjunct contracts. Next, Adeline Koh continues our running theme from past issues on the importance of social media in “Imagined Communities, Social Media, and the Faculty.” Heather A. Howley follows with “Social Inequality and the Access Myth,” an eye-opening look at corporate assumptions about higher education and the importance of the AAUP as a countervailing force.

Next, David J. Siegel and Daniel M. Carchidi, in “The Meaning of MOOC-topia,” argue for the necessity of experimentation in the milieu of the hypermanaged institution. Finally, Craig Vasey and Linda Carroll present findings from a survey on the evaluation of teaching conducted by the AAUP’s Committee on Teaching, Research, and Publication.

The online edition of this issue features two articles addressing preparation for college, Jeffrey R. Wilson’s “What Shakespeare Says about Sending Our Kids Off to College” and Patrick Sullivan’s “An Open Letter to High School Students about Reading.”

After reading this issue, pass it along to a faculty colleague or even someone beyond your institution. If you read Academe online, share articles through social media or e-mail. Most important, encourage your colleagues who aren’t yet members to join the AAUP. When we act collectively, our message will be heard.

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