Did anyone else waste their youth? I mean, does anyone else remember Mad Magazine’s Spy vs. Spy cartoons? Created by Antonio Prohias, these cartoons starred two sharp featured caricatures of spies, the black spy and the white spy. They were continually plotting against one another, trying to thwart ambitions, disrupt plans, and, in touch closer to clichés about anarchism than spies, blow each other up with lit bombs held behind their backs.
Spy vs. Spy was a lot more fun than Adjunct vs. Adjunct, which is a game I’ve recently found myself playing. You see, one of the schools I adjunct for has a graduate program. I shifted to teaching in it rather than teaching undergraduate classes in an attempt to escape the waste that accompanies education (excuses, plagiarism, etc.). Talk about naïve…but that’s another story.
What that means is, I sometimes find myself teaching a course in which one or more of the students is an adjunct faculty member. Sometimes they are adjuncts elsewhere, and have the explicitly stated desire of being a tenured faculty member somewhere. Sometimes they are adjuncts at the same school I teach on the graduate level for.
In both cases, I find myself straining to not, well, attack them. Fortunately, the desire is overt enough to be easy to detect and block, but it is alarming. This desire has two primary forms.
First, I find myself wanting to help (or make that “help”) the students in question by deflating their dreams. I want to explain how unlikely it is that they land such a position.
Second, I find myself particularly hard on their writing—and God save them if they teach English /composition. I find myself pouncing on every grammar error and every clumsy phrasing. There’s a kind of “How dare you aspire to a tenured position when you can only write like this” subtext to my parenthetical comments. Fortunately, I type these comments, rather than scribbling on actual paper, and that means most of them can be deleted, so that they only stain my soul, not theirs.
Because barely submerged under the desire to help is a particularly gnawing form of self-doubt. I didn’t get a tenure track position, and while I know the statistics I want to show on their heads about how the academic labor market is changing, part of it wonders if it is me.
Likewise, when I’m wondering if this adjunct’s writing is good enough, I’m actually critiquing my own.
Adjunct vs. Adjunct? Both sides are me.