This is why nobody is ever going to put me in charge of anything.

26 08 2013

Imagine two companies. The first treats and pays its employees well in the hopes of developing their full potential and making them as productive as possible. The second treats its employees badly, paying them poorly and riding them as hard as possible in the hopes of maximizing production before they quit, at which time those employees can be replaced by other more desperate people. Both these strategies are economically rational. What determines which direction a particular company will take is its culture.

Leaving aside the fact that most universities aren’t companies, which strategy does the current culture of academia suggest? I’d argue (hopefully uncontroversially) that academia has gradually gone from Strategy A to Strategy B over the last few decades. [Hello? Adjuncts?] While Walmart has time clocks and scanners that tell management every item being scanned at every moment,* universities drive their full-time, tenure-track employees with useless bureaucracies created by people with bullshit jobs primarily designed to justify their own wildly-inflated salaries.

What can you do to fight this kind of treatment? “Just say no,” argues Michael DeCesare in a must-read blog post for professors everywhere:

More and more is being demanded of professors. We are told that we must standardize our syllabi and textbook selections; that we must satisfy those aspects of teaching on which the institution was “dinged” by the accrediting body; that we must earn approval from the local institutional review board for any and all research projects, even those that do not involve human subjects; that we must assess virtually everything that we and our students do; and that we must [insert your favorite personal example here]. In short, we must do whatever administrators want us to do.

All of these administrative “musts” come on top of the traditional, truly important job requirements in the areas of instruction, scholarship, and service; namely, teach effectively, present and publish important research, and serve our institution, discipline, and profession. The list of additional “musts,” which seems to be generated annually by administrators, cuts deeply across all three of the traditional areas of faculty responsibility. What eludes most faculty members is that administrators’ requests are often only that—requests. They are rarely “musts.”

It’s not like anything he has to say in that essay is even remotely revolutionary. Indeed, this is the way that industrial relations is supposed to work. Employment, especially academic employment, doesn’t mean you have to kiss your autonomy goodbye.

I actually had the privilege of hearing Michael deliver the paper on which that blog post is based at the last AAUP convention a few months ago. Therefore, I can tell you with certainty that he’s not recommending anarchy. For example, if your administration replaces your department’s 3-page annual review form that takes an hour with a 30-page annual review form that takes a day and a half, just do the old form. The sun will not go dark. The planets will remain in their orbits. Faculty should certainly be accountable for their actions to some degree, but there are limits, and when that limit is surpassed you have to stand up for yourself or you’ll only just encourage them.

You also have to stand up for the interests of your students. “What does this have to do with students?,” you ask. It’s a resource thing, as Chris Newfield explains with respect to the Obama higher ed plan:

Autonomy is cheaper than administration, because you don’t have to pay for a compliance bureaucracy. This is a big deal at universities, whose every interaction with the federal government involves complex reporting on everything from the sports programs to research grants and financial aid. Universities have to pay for this, and they charge students to do it. The Obama plan will only increase these costs, and add to the administrative bloat that is a major source of the cost growth that everyone dislikes.

More bureaucratic costs, of course, mean less resources for actual education.

Since professors are the ones on the front lines of education, we’ll be the ones held to account for our universities’ bureaucratic failures despite our opposition to their creation in the first place. Since we’re in a lose/lose situation anyways, we might as well get used to resisting now. This way, even if we can’t get rid of the entire bureaucracy, we’ll at least have a fighting chance of driving our employers back towards Strategy A before we’re all swept away by a new hurricane of pointless busy work.

* You knew that Walmart is a Big Data pioneer, right?


What can tenure-track faculty do about the adjunct problem?, Part 1: Don’t work so hard.

26 03 2012

You never know what blog posts you write will strike a nerve. Last Tuesday’s entry was really no different than anything else I’ve written about adjuncts in this space, but I think the title, “The adjunct problem is every professor’s problem,” captured a sentiment that really needed to be said. Unfortunately for me, capturing a sentiment that needed to be said was clearly the easy part.

“What, Jonathan, do you suggest that full-time faculty do to stem the tide of adjunctification and put us back on course?,” asked one of the commenters to that post. You mean I can’t just pontificate and let action-orientated people decide what the next step is? Sigh. That’s a difficult but fair question, so after some thinking I want to see if I can offer three answers to that question this week, in increasing order of importance.

When I worked for the AFL-CIO in DC back in the last century, we occasionally spent the day organizing for the Washington local of the Hotel Employees/Restaurant Employees union (HERE). They handed us leaflets in many languages, then we’d enter some Marriott out on the Beltway, take the employee elevator up, getting off at different floors. From there we’d hand out leaflets until the security guards found us and asked us to leave, hoping the whole time that we wouldn’t get arrested. Afterwards, when they took us out to eat, the union guys absolutely refused to bus their tables. “They should hire more workers to do that,” they’d say. I thought of them coming back from my trip on Saturday when I saw that the Schlotzky’s in the Denver Airport has installed computerized ordering machines. You press buttons with pictures of your sandwich and condiments on it, then swipe your credit card. That way, only two people had to work the front of the house. It didn’t look as if their jobs had become any easier, and I’ll bet you anything that those two weren’t getting paid any more than before.

We as tenure-track faculty need to stop busing our trays and ordering by computer. I realize that this might seem to be a dangerous suggestion, particularly when there are lying liars in the Washington Post telling the public that professors don’t work hard enough. But I’m not suggesting that we all go Galt. What I’m calling for is more of a strategic slowdown.

When I heard Marc Bousquet talk in Boulder last December, he pointed out that when we someone teaches a class with 400 students and no TA there goes at least 3 jobs that could have gone to needy grad students right there. When we decide to use technology like Twitter to make such unacceptable conditions marginally acceptable, then we are simply making it easier for the powers that be to turn 400 student classes into 600 student classes. People off the tenure track don’t have the job protection required to protest such conditions, but those of us with tenure do.

The same thing goes with regard to administrative work. There are multiple proposals in front of our Faculty Senate right now designed to cut the size of committees and the Senate itself for that matter since the people who run those committees have had trouble filling vacancies. There’s also an absolutely insane proposal that would allow retired faculty to come back and serve on committees and advise students on a voluntary basis.

What groups other than Republicans and college professors would ever consider making their governing bodies less representative rather than more so? If the need for retired faculty to advise students isn’t an admission that we don’t have enough tenure-track faculty, what is? I say don’t let any administration off that easy. If they want to follow Walmart’s staffing practices, then I say just like Walmart we should tell our customers to complain to the management.

By the way, there are plenty of people around on campus who’ll do the work that you decline to do going forward. They’re called adjuncts and lecturers. I’m not suggesting that you exploit them more by giving them advising duties. I’m saying that we as tenure track faculty should try to bring them up through the ranks.

Convert adjunct positions into lectureships. Convert lectureships into tenure-track positions. I’m not saying hire your adjuncts without searching for the best person available to fill the job, but excluding your adjuncts from such openings because they’re your adjuncts is just idiocy. If they’re good enough to teach your students on a short-term contract, then they’re good enough to teach your students on the tenure track.


15 03 2012

Before I forget, I want to blog about what I was doing last weekend. I went to an op-ed writing workshop at the University of California – Santa Barbara organized by the historian Nelson Lichtenstein and sponsored by the United Food and Commercial Workers union. Our teacher was Harold Meyerson of the American Prospect and the Washington Post.

The format was that everybody writes a 750 word op-ed, then Meyerson and the whole group suggest ways to improve it. Let’s just say that while everyone was treated with respect, it was still a justifiably humbling experience for many of us sitting around the table.

I think the most common mistake was doing what they call in the journalism “burying the lede,” dropping the argument down to the third or fourth paragraph. When I realized that I had done this too, I explained to the group how ironic this was. I spend hours telling students to put their argument in the first sentence of the first paragraph of everything. They protest that their English professors tell them to begin with a hook and bury the argument. I (and I presume many others there) simply figured that since this wasn’t an academic paper, the English professors were right this time.

When I asked Meyerson how to resolve this hook/thesis dilemma, he responded, “Ideally, the hook and the thesis will be the exact same thing.”

There’s your teaching moment for the week.

The other folks around the table with me beisdes labor historians were Walmart workers from an organization called Our Walmart. While sponsored in part by the UFCW, what these folks are really doing is organizing and making demands of their notoriously authoritarian employer outside the confines of a union. [Of course, they had a hand in the video above too because public relations is an important way to make those demands heard.]

In terms of writing about labor issues, the Walmart workers had all us professors beat on the authenticity issue hands down. But more importantly, I think they can actually teach us academics something about how to gain respect in any workplace. While I kept babbling on to them about how brave they were, what I heard back is that they don’t feel scared when they speak up about Walmart because they know that literally thousands of other Walmart workers are standing behind them.

In other words, you don’t need a union to change life on the job. You just need to organize.

Why haven’t most of us in academia figured that out already?

* I know you were expecting Aretha. If you feel cheated, click here.

Scapegoating faculty for high tuition.

11 03 2012

Since I have a 2-and-a-half hour layover in the lovely Denver airport, I thought I’d quickly link two stories on my Google Reader feed that make sense together. First, via Eric Rauchway, here’s the Cornell Management Professor Robert Frank explaining why faculty salaries are the reason college costs so much:

College instruction more closely resembles a musical performance than an auto assembly line. Although information technologies have yielded some productivity growth in academia, instruction still takes place largely as it always has.

To recruit professors, universities must pay salaries roughly in line with those made possible by productivity growth in other sectors. So while rising salaries needn’t lead to higher prices in many industries, they do in academia and many other service industries.

As I wrote at Eric’s place, “The fact that 75% of faculty in American higher education are now poorly-paid adjuncts is all the proof I need to conclude that Robert Frank hasn’t got the faintest idea what he’s talking about.”

Also on my Google Reader feed is a rather disturbing higher ed story at Colorado Pols coming out of a university in the same metro area as this lovely airport.

Apparently, CU-Boulder President Bruce Benson caused a stir by raising administrator’s salaries by obscene amounts in this economy while at the same time raising tuition. What did he do to fix this PR nightmare? Blame faculty. Pols has the e-mail he sent all over campus:

Reality: We are in a market economy and are a people-intensive enterprise. Some three quarters of our expenditures are for people. Delivering a quality education at CU means investing in people. Additionally, our business has increased substantially during the recession, with an 11.5 percent increase in enrollment the past decade and record enrollment on our campuses. Degrees awarded over the same period increased 34 percent.

Top administrative raises accounted for a small percentage of the total salary pool. The vast majority went to faculty, who are critical to the quality of a CU education. More than 85 percent of those who received merit raises received less than $4,000.

Playing the workers against the customers. Just lovely. Apparently, Walmart management tactics have finally hit higher ed. hard. The only way to fight that is to do what Walter Reuther tried to do to General Motors in 1945 and demand that they open the books.

Every last one of them.

Why is there no history department at the University of Phoenix?

15 01 2012

There is no way that I’m going back to political blogging this election year (as there are more than enough angry liberals out there in the blogosphere already), but sometimes political stories have subtle higher ed ramifications that I may want to consider. Take this NPR report on Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, for instance:

The public relations problem for private equity capitalists at firms like Bain, KKR and Blackstone is that they’re the agents of the creative destruction part of capitalism. They aim to take over underperforming firms and operate them more efficiently. [Steven] Davidoff, who worked on merger and acquisition deals as a lawyer before becoming a professor at Ohio State, says there’s no doubt that in that process people can get hurt.

“Sometimes operating them efficiently means that employees lose their jobs, plants are closed down and companies are restructured,” he says.

This is the philosophy that the people who control education are putting into practice right now. Our local school district announced the closing of three schools in Pueblo last Friday, including the elementary school two blocks from my house. Similarly, I find this prospect from Fortune magazine’s The Future Issue absolutely terrifying:

[C]orporations, frustrated by the skills gap of high school grads, may open schools of their own. Wal-Mart High, anyone?

Vocational education for all, anyone? I guarantee you that in this future there will be no classroom time devoted to the great historical questions of modern times, such as why we let Wal-Mart destroy this nation’s social and economic fabric in the first place.

And if you don’t think higher ed is already facing these same kind of efficiency considerations then you’re living on Mars. Why is there no History Department at the University of Phoenix? Because it’s not profitable. Colleges, especially for-profit colleges, live by efficiency. History departments die by efficiency because sitting around contemplating the answers to ageless questions doesn’t really do all that much for the gross national product. Therefore, I think we in history and many closely-related fields will disappear in the coming wave of technology-induced efficiency unless we offer a different set of values through which to justify our existence.

I happen to be rather fond of joy. Sitting around contemplating the answers to ageless questions may not be efficient, but it is lots of fun.

I went to the University of Pennsylvania as an undergrad during the mid-1980s. At that time, the Wharton School of Business really determined the mindset of the entire place. I hung out with the engineers and the comp lit majors, but I did know a lot of Wharton students.* While most of them can undoubtedly buy and sell me several times over by now, I know for a fact that as a history and political science major I enjoyed my classes a lot more than they did.

I, for one, am sick and tired of trying to defend the humanities by arguing that it teaches a particular skill set that will help you get employed (although it does). That’s a losing argument. Students who are worried about that will major in business or computer science anyways…and they’ll often be miserable as a result. I think people should major in history because history is fun, just like they should go to college because learning is fun too.

At least it should be. While I have never taken a class at the University of Phoenix, I’d bet good money that an online, mostly-vocational education is no fun at all. [It certainly doesn’t sound fun in this article from Harper’s.] The University of Phoenix model is, however, very efficient. Which one of those considerations is more important to you? Which one of those considerations do you think is more important to Mitt Romney? Via the Edge of the American West, I see that Romney is quite enamored with Full Sail University, a Florida for-profit school that charges $80,000 for a 21-month program in video game art. That program has a graduation rate of 14 percent. If this is the future of higher education then we are all doomed.

At least with the Democrats, the humanities as they’re supposed to be might drag on for a little while longer.

* Including my freshman roommate, Bernie Madoff’s surviving son, Andrew.

The invisible supply chain in higher education.

16 12 2011

There are books you don’t have to like, but you have to acknowledge that they capture the zeitgeist of their respective eras:  Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Passing of the Great Race, and then there’s The World Is Flat by Tom Friedman. Despite the fact that the guy admits that he did research with just Google for some sections of the book, he really was describing globalization in 2005, long before that term became cliché.  The problem with the book is not the reporting.  The problem with the book is Friedman’s childish enthusiasm for anything technological, accompanied by his complete disinterest in the effects of whatever he describes on workers rather than consumers.  Take his description of the Walmart supply chain (p. 133):

In improving its supply chain, Wal-Mart leaves no link untouched.  While I was touring the Wal-Mart distribution center in Bentonville, I noticed that some boxes were too big to go on the conveyor belts and were being moved around on pallets by Wal-Mart employees driving special minilift trucks with headphones on. A computer tracks how many pallets each employee is plucking every hour to put on trucks for different stores, and a computerized voice tells each of them whether he is ahead of schedule or behind schedule.

Sounds like a great way to work, huh?  Well, teach online and this is your future. You will become a mere tender of machines.  Real human relationships?  A luxury that we can no longer afford. Even during the age of austerity, rich people can still afford a real education.  Everyone else gets a computer program – students and teachers alike.

I’m beginning to think that higher education is beginning to reach its Tom Friedman moment.  We can either accept the fact that some students will get a quality education, while others won’t or we can fight back against what the people with power claim is inevitable.  I’m not really a big fan of the term edu-bubble because there’s no question a good education pays still pays dividends in the long run, but a future of students paying through the nose an education conducted entirely over Blackboard is simply not sustainable.

The people in the best position to point this simple truth out are, of course, faculty.  Even if you have a (comparatively) cushy tenure track job, you’re fooling yourself if you don’t think the forces of austerity will threaten your livelihood eventually.  That’s why I bookmarked WE ARE NOT CONTINGENT:  An Adjunct Manifesto the moment I saw it. Here is the beginning:

We are the non-tenure track faculty who now constitute two-thirds of the instructional workforce at universities and colleges across the nation. We are frequently invisible to administrators, yet we are the first professors and instructors that undergraduate students meet on their journey to becoming engaged learners. We are the majority. We have been silent too long, and it is time for us to reclaim our voices and outline our demands.

Unfortunately for higher education’s 1%, it is impossible to keep your supply chain silent if it consists of human beings with rights who refuse to stop telling the truth to power.  When I was listening to Marc Bousquet a couple of weeks ago, I thought wouldn’t it be great if adjunct faculty had their own “We Are the 99%” Tumblr?  I bet it would be a sensation, because most faculty – heck, most STUDENTS – are totally blind to what most faculty have to do to just survive. Indeed, as Marc himself suggested, we are all blind to everyone else’s terms and conditions of employment in academia and that’s exactly how administrators want it.

The only way to stop all us losers from talking to each other is to enlist our student-consumers into their war as our enemies. This piece in the National Review (which deserves its own special takedown) on how teachers unions are destroying online education in California’s public schools is a classic example of that. But what I liked most was this throwaway line:

Online courses are valuable because they customize curricula to students’ individual learning needs, allow students to access teachers at virtually any time of the day or night, and produce immediate and transparent progress reports on students’ performance.

[emphasis added]

Um…who are they going to get to staff those LMSs in the middle of the night to answer all those student homework questions?  Indians?  You just know that would get Tom Friedman all excited, but even Friedman recognized that globalization has its limits. “If societies are unable to manage the strains that are produced by this flattening,” Friedman wrote on p. 296 of The World Is Flat:

there will be a backlash, and political forces will attempt to reinsert some of the frictions and protectionist barriers that the flattening forces have eliminated, but they will do it in a crude way that will, in the name of protecting the weak, end up lowering everyone’s standard of living.

But what if it’s “progress” that’s destroying everyone’s standard of living?  What if the virtual product is inferior to the actual good? More importantly, if the poor need protection in the short term, why should they have to wait for the trickle down fairy to spread the wealth?

The invisible people in the higher education supply chain are the ones best suited to answer that question, but apparently nobody wants to listen to what they have to say.  It works the same way at Walmart.  Unfortunately, a Walmart-style education will still set students back thousands and thousands of dollars.

What do faculty and Walmart workers have in common?

6 12 2010

On Saturday, I heard Cary Nelson speak at the state AAUP’s annual meeting in Boulder. It was actually the same speech he gave at the shared governance meeting in Washington, D.C., but not exactly the same. Besides, like when you listen to your favorite albums enough, you sometimes hear little things you didn’t pick up the first time around.

What I picked up most this time around was a thought about the relationship between state aid at public universities and tuition. It’s obvious when you think about it: When state aid decreases, the costs of running a college are shifted to students in the form of higher tuition. From the typical administrator’s standpoint, it basically doesn’t matter. If you raise tuition too high, perhaps students will choose a cheaper alternative (like community colleges), but as long as enrollment continues unabated one source of money is as good as another.

The problem with this arrangement from the faculty perspective is that it sets students and faculty off against one another. Want a raise? Tuition is going to have to go up. Of course, there are many other expenses in running a university besides faculty salaries, but I’ve noticed a tendency among administrators everywhere to inflate the relative percentage of the cost of instruction compared to overall budgets and I think this is precisely the reason. Invoking the interests of students to their teachers is a much better argument than saying you can’t have a raise because they need to hire still more administrators or pay the football coach another million dollars per year.

This is what reminds me of Walmart. certainly everyone on the tenure track still has it better than the average Walmart worker, but I’ve been a Walmart blogger for a long, long time and I think I’m starting to see a parallel here. When Walmart is attacked for its poor wages, a certain class of Walmart defenders (many of them in economics departments), make an argument like this:

[Obama] has appointed the 37-year-old Jason Furman, one of Wal-Mart’s most prominent defenders, to head his economic team. On the campaign trail, Obama blasted Clinton for sitting on the Wal-Mart board and pledged: “I won’t shop there.” For Furman, however, Wal-Mart’s critics are the real threat: the “efforts to get Wal-Mart to raise its wages and benefits” are creating “collateral damage” that is “way too enormous and damaging to working people and the economy … for me to sit by idly and sing Kum Ba Ya in the interests of progressive harmony”.

That collateral damage is, of course, higher prices for cheap plastic crap. In our case, it’s higher tuition – probably for the same class of students that feel the need to shop at Walmart.

Obviously I’m sympathetic to people at the bottom of the power equation in both these relationships, but those in academia can at least take the argument in another direction by invoking the effect of budgetary decisions on the quality of instruction. As I put it after the first time I heard Cary Nelson give this speech:

Our first inclination is to thank our administrators for not furloughing us (and if we are furloughed, to thank them for not firing us) when we should be asking, “What can we do together to make sure that the education we’re providing doesn’t suffer?”

We work at universities, not Walmart. If the quality of instruction isn’t someone’s first priority, then that person might want to consider employment in Walmart’s management team rather than higher education administration.

It’s all about the stuff.

9 08 2010

I hope you’ve read the NYT article on materialism from yesterday by now. In case you haven’t, here’s a taste:

Thomas DeLeire, an associate professor of public affairs, population, health and economics at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, recently published research examining nine major categories of consumption. He discovered that the only category to be positively related to happiness was leisure: vacations, entertainment, sports and equipment like golf clubs and fishing poles.

Using data from a study by the National Institute on Aging, Professor DeLeire compared the happiness derived from different levels of spending to the happiness people get from being married. (Studies have shown that marriage increases happiness.)

“A $20,000 increase in spending on leisure was roughly equivalent to the happiness boost one gets from marriage,” he said, adding that spending on leisure activities appeared to make people less lonely and increased their interactions with others.

So doing something will make you happier than owning something? Gosh, I hope so as I’ve been aspiring to own less and do more lately. I’ve also been reading a book that dovetails nicely with this subject, No Impact Man, by Colin Beavan. He’s the guy who tried to live for a year without harming the environment. [They also made a movie about his efforts, which I’d describe as interesting but not exactly enthralling. His wife, who can drink three Starbucks coffees that look like milk shakes in one sitting, cracks me up, though.]

Beavan is a little whiny sometimes, but he is also quite eloquent on precisely this subject:

The trick to environmental living might not be choosing different products. Instead–at least for profligate citizens of the United States and Western Europe–it might be partly about choosing fewer products. It might not just be about using different resources. It might be about using fewer resources.

As the ancient Chinese Tao Te Ching says, “The man who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.”

When Walmart takes that line, I might then be able to take their greenwashing seriously. I won’t hold my breath.

To me as a historian, this all goes back to industrialization. Direct from my PowerPoint, here’s the slide I use to define industrialization (it took me like hours back in my early PowerPoint days to do this, so I’m glad it’s getting extra duty here):

If companies hadn’t been able to sell all the new stuff that industrialization produced, then there wouldn’t have been any advantage to industrializing. Indeed, I tend to teach much of late-nineteenth and twentieth century history as being about stuff (or lack thereof during the depression). Americans have never known exactly how much was enough so they have generally been motivated by getting as much as possible.

With the environment being the way it is lately, it’s nice to see a few people talking about getting off the treadmill.

Economists vs Historians: It’s not the numbers, it’s the morality.

20 04 2010

Thank you again to the fine folks at the Historical Society for continuing to send me their journal, Historically Speaking, for no apparent reason. I was excited to read their economic history forum when I first saw a preview of it on their blog and was not disappointed. [I can’t blame them for asking mostly economists to participate as most people in that sub-field are indeed economists.]

Deirdre McCloskey of Illinois – Chicago, summarizing Robert Whaples’ lead essay in the forum, writes:

“It’s very true, as he also says, that our numerical habits have repelled the history-historians, especially since they have in turn drifted further into non-quantitative studies of race, class, and gender (it is amusing that the young economic historian Whaples quotes gets the holy trinity slightly wrong, substituting ‘ethnicity,’ a very old historical interest, for ‘class,’ a reasonable new one; it is less amusing that historians believe they can adequately study race, class, and gender without ever using numbers, beyond pages 1,2,3).”

What’s amusing to me is that economists and economic historians think that numbers of any kind are somehow value neutral. Whaples’ piece is particularly damning in that regard:

Most economists have also concluded that market competition leads to desirable outcomes, while many historians are deeply suspicious of market outcomes. For example, 71% of economists I surveyed agreed that ‘a Wal-Mart store typically generates more benefits to society than costs.’ When I asked historians the same question, only 13% agreed.”

I can’t say I’m surprised by that outcome. If all you care about numbers, all you’ll see on one side are allegedly low prices. What historians see on the other: environmental damage, sprawl, anti-unionism (something which your average economist would probably see as an asset) can’t be quantified, and if it can’t be quantified it might as well be invisible to the economics profession and to me that’s the height of immorality.

My brother is an economist. He thinks I’m a socialist. So I found this line from Whaples particularly amusing:

It is impossible to prove whether or not people are rational. But when an economist who assumes that they are meets a historian who doesn’t, they often find it hard to communicate with each other and end up talking past each other.”

That’s precisely why he and I seldom talk shop. When we do, and I’m sick of listening to him talk like he’s more objective than I am, I just say “Assume a can opener…”.

I can’t win the argument this way, but it does make me feel better.

The face of industrialization today.

28 01 2009

Dangerous radical that I am, I’ve convinced some students groups and other donors to bring Charles Kernaghan of the National Labor Committee to our campus in April. After watching their introductory films, I wanted to share them. That’s when I discovered that they have their own YouTube channel. The following is a few years old now, but sadly it is not at all outdated.

Of course, I posted this over on our Walmart blog first, but I believe this video also has historical interest. What is today’s Bangladeshi sweatshop but a recreation of American sweatshops from a hundred years ago? Even then, there were groups that resembled today’s NLC that tried to bring awareness to the conditions created by unregulated industrial capitalism. Today, it’s completely out of sight, and therefore mostly out of mind. That’s why you should take the 34 minutes needed to watch this film.

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