They tell me things, these people:
"I like your pamphlets. They're nice and short. I'm too lazy to read books." (Seriosly, fer realz, somebody said that.)
"What great, nicely organized little booklets. There's just 10 points to remember on every issue. Now that's something I can handle! Nice and simple."
"Those Occupy Wall Street wackos. Somebody should just send in a bunch of red necks to beat the snot out of them." (This morning, after some traffic disrupting protests last night that ended rather badly.)
"Higher education reform. Huh. I should read that one. It's like, education is all liberal and all and then the cost has gone up three times the rate of inflation. Damned liberals. Such hypocrites. They talk about equality, but they just want to take our money and spend it to indoctrinate our children." (No, not kidding, and I do hope that individual actually reads that particular pamphlet. Because, while. I disagree with a lot of Think Tank's ideas on education reform -- actually, not what my office even works on, anyway -- they're not as completely idiotic as this person. I mean, you could have an argument about policy differences. You wouldn't just be trying to refute uninformed nonsense. And there's even a bit of common ground, like the idea that there should be greater transparency concerning tuition and costs so that students would know that a great deal of their increasingly borrowed tuition is, increasingly, NOT funding instruction. Or that we should increase emphasis on instruction and reduce barriers to entry ... but I digress.)
"Oh, right, we've heard of Think Tank. The black person in our church gave us some of your materials." (Note use of the article "the," along with the fact that it was significant, apparently, to point this out to a perfect stranger. Did this person remember Think Tank because she read the materials or because they were handed to her by a black person? This event, like others I've blogged about, is overwhelmingly white. Despite the presence of Herman Cain, I can count on one hand the number of people of color who have passed by my table. Why? That is a rhetorical question. Perhaps Herman Cain would like to explain why his party has such low appeal among minorities. Does anyone know if he already has?)
"Global warming, what a hoax! Those scientists are ripping us off, taking all that grant money to study something that's so obviously false. And destroying business and jobs while they're at it! We need to shut that racket down now." (This after recent research further CONFIRMING climate change despite its Koch brothers funding.)
I could go on and on ...
So, yeah, there are days when I find myself questioning the integrity of working where I do, attending events such as these, even as the proverbial fly on the wall, when my complimentary morning bagel and coffee are provided courtesy of the Koch brothers' funding of an event that does much more to further their agenda than that, for them, ill-fated climate study.
* * * * *
But then, I go read a blog post over at Roxie's World, perhaps the best yet in their ongoing series Excellence Without Money, that describes the plight of adjuncts at their institution.
And I am reassured. At least here in Think Tank Land you know what people stand for. You may not agree with them. But at least you know what's what. At least when you're dealing with the Koch brothers and their ilk, you don't falsely believe you are dealing with Greenpeace.
And that's sort of how I feel about academe these days, that a culture (and people with power in it) valued me, I thought, for one set of things -- originality, passion, insight, creativity, contributions to the field -- and instead, as it turns out, my true value was as another -- as a warm body willing to show up and teach for cheap. See comment by Anonymous 1:27 here. (That was me, FYI. I've stopped commenting under my Blogger name there because a troll tracked me here and was harassing me by email.)
At least if you're going to be negotiating your position in the world against market forces, you ought to know how they operate. And I didn't. And a lot of graduate students still don't. And that the truth is willfully hidden from them through job market and professionalization rhetoric, even by well-meaning professors, is an egregious wrong.
I remain bitter, and the irony is not lost on me that I am now working for the very groups that, if they have their way, will further push universities down the path of adjunctification and for-profit-ization.
At least I know who I'm dealing with and where I stand.