Post-Modern Superhero: The Freeway Flyer


By Jenny Ortiz

As the Freeway Flyer, I’m realizing just how post-modern my life is—constantly  deconstructing, reconstructing, dissecting, and redeveloping the collage of life experiences to state to my Department Chairs that “I can do that,” and then repeating the same process in order to figure out if I can actually teach the course that I’ve just said I’m qualified to teach.  Then, I follow this up by teaching numerous different courses at different campuses, thus doffing a different hat at a different school, several times a day, each week throughout each semester.  Freeway Flyers are constantly “being” someone to somebody, existing in a fluctuating state. One moment Clark Kent. The next moment Superman.

The book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses points to the failures of the school system (and despite, the concerns about the book’s failures, the Shadow Scholar reveals other significant fractures in higher education).  The economic crisis speaks to the potential drastic changes in higher education.  The outcome of this stalemate may completely reorient the relationship between the educator, the administrator, and the student. The rise and popularity of for-profit schools  prompt questions and concerns for Freeway Flyers who work in traditional college classrooms.  We continually see the traditional format of learning being undermined, changed, or completely tossed out the window.  As the wise man sang, “The times they are a-changin’.”

But change and adaptation are the linchpins of the Freeway Flyer superhero.  We change classes, campuses, departments, and jobs with the speed and grace of Captain America and Wonder Woman.  In our hyper-connected fast-paced world, the Freeway Flyer is a post-modern figure recreating, redirecting, recreating, and redistributing himself or herself to adapt to the given context throughout the day, week, month, and year.  I think about this every time a form that asks me for “affiliation.”  They don’t allow room for all five of them; so who do I want to be this time?

Unless this country has a dramatic (and authentic) shift towards a socialist democracy along the lines of what we see in Europe, we’re on a course of continued and increased instability and uncertainty within higher education.  It does not look positive for the standard models of college, which also means that the stability of employment for tenured professors may change.  But change is the only constant for the Freeway Flyer.  Instability is the name of our game.  As the nature of college-teaching changes, the Freeway Flyers move with the times—they have to; it’s how they keep getting paid.

At the end of the day when I ask, “Who am I?”  I get lots of answers that tell me there is an innate “Lance” bounded to my body.  But when asked that by a Department Chair, the real answer is, “I am whomever you need me to be to teach this class.” And that tends to be a different superhero every time.

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