Friday, October 19, 2007


"Life became nothing more than time management."

A kernel of wisdom from Dean Dad's musings on yet another American absurdity: the "controversial" nature of childcare.

What I don't understand (see the comments to his post) is why discussions about these kinds of issues (childcare, health care) so quickly deteriorate into a zero-sum game--I mean the idea that somehow, providing all children with decent, affordable health care, safe and stimulating day care, etc., is a radical infringement on the childless. I'm all for academia realizing, as an institution, that the youth and demographics of the entering professoriate mean that this is already a crisis in faculty retention. This does not mean there aren't other worthy crises--like my gay colleague, who cannot marry his non-citizen partner OR get him a work visa, and thus must commute hundreds of miles every weekend (or take a vow of celibacy, one assumes, in keeping with the vow of poverty we academics are supposed to take because of our deep, self-abnegating desire to tutor the unwashed, plugged-in masses). Or my single colleagues, who (like the parents among us) have no leave options short of unpaid absence when there is a family emergency. But why is addressing any one of these issues somehow an affront to the others?

Why are so many of our campuses seen as "hotbeds of liberalism" when, in fact, they are incredibly regressive in the policies toward the "labor." I understand the realities of shrinking budgets and declining public (tax) support. I mean, I understand that it exists, if not why. But I long for the days when at least some of the social justice impulse was directed at campus labor practices.

I, as a well-employed, relatively solvent (although that description may cause my sister to snort coffee out her nose) single parent, am certainly NOT one of the primary victims of the American public's lemming-like rush to "privatization" and "consumer 'choice'"(which, as far as I can tell, means "Now *you* have to pay, sucka"). But finding a broader, more responsible approach to the realities of working life--skyrocketing home prices, obscene health-care costs, ever-growing work-weeks, etc.--doesn't have to consist of us fighting over scraps.

And frankly, our universities (the place in which I have "career" experience) are getting far more work out of this new generation of faculty than they ever got from my own (most male) professors. "Student-centered teaching," with its incessant conferences, responses to drafts, informal "counseling" duties, and "process models" for every conceivable discipline, is clearly far more labor intensive--in "fact time," not necessarily in intellect--than the old "figure it out or flunk model." So it's relatively simple math to figure out that if you need two incomes to provide even a modest living, and one of them is a professorial income, childcare is going to be a big problem.

And one that demands an exclusively "private" solution, presumably, unless you take the time-honored American option: allow your child to get so far beyond the pale that s/he winds up with an all-expense-paid prison.



At 6:47 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

coffee? it was bourbon!

At 7:03 AM , Blogger Dorcasina said...

Of course it was...

At 6:58 PM , Blogger Julia said...

Wanting to see my husband and kid is why I got out of the race for research faculty track. To be fair, I was in an expensive field, expensive enough in fact that being anywhere but the big guys was career suicide. So I am trying the teaching and education research track now. I never did claim to be looking for an easy way.

At 3:01 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, so well said, as another one of my pay checks flies out of my bank to my child's daycare...

At 8:50 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lurker here; don't think I've ever commented. Perhaps this will be an interesting perspective or perhaps you'll wish I did not read your blog! Either way, here's my pointless two cents...

I am pretty much a Republican. I say pretty much, because I don't really like the A or B choice we have in this country. The truth is that I'm a Christian, and my votes/desires reflect my values. I'll easily vote for a Democrat (and did in our most recent local election) if I like what they have to say. I do pride myself on being open enough to realize it's about topics and not titles.

So, I know your post was directed quite a bit on your personal career, but I think it's something we are facing as a nation. Taxes go up, and yet it seems we get nothing for them. Recent statements made by Hilary Clinton regarding her desire and plan to resume heavy taxing on the upper middle class have honestly freaked me out. My husband and I are business owners. Last month, we made nearly $11,000. Clinton sees that as an opportunity to pounce. The reality? We saw $2,500 of it while every other penny was absorbed in the cost to run the business and the nearly 20% we pay in taxes. If she goes into office and enacts her plan of "the so-called 'rich' pay for the poor", we won't be able to afford our business.

It may been seen as radical, but I support the concept of a flat tax. I wish we all paid, in ratio, equal amounts. I also wish that health care, day care etc. was not necessarily state paid (I'm a third gen American; half my family is Irish Canadian, still living in Canada and apparently the reality of state health care is not as glorious as people here think it to be), but we desperately need programs that give people some relief.

The bottom line is that people in this nation are struggling to hold on. We can't afford day care, health care and a decent standard of living without constantly finding ourselves in debt. If, instead of politicians looking to who they can tax the most (HURT the most), they looked at ways to better utilize what they had (here's where I complain about Iraq), then perhaps we would be in a better situation.

I truly fear that a Democratic president will just tax people like my husband and myself even more, and we'll have to shut down our business, because we can't afford the taxes. On the same token, I fear a Republican president will dump more money into Iraq when we're not even making them learn independence from our resources. All of these things trickle down - the national budget affects my personal budget, and it's making me broke!


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