I come across this video while researching courses online and by the time it ends steam is coming out of my ears. What is wrong with this country when a woman who follows the path of education all the way to earning a PhD ends up on welfare? It makes education look like the biggest joke, but we’re all sold that lie. Get a degree and everything will be fine. Become a doctor and the sky is the limit.
Dr. Evans-Brewer became a professor; one of society’s noblest professions, and she’s paid minimum wage, while colleges and universities are making big bucks selling degrees hand-over-fist. And what is an adjunct anyway? I’d never even heard of a part-time professor, nor did I have any idea that they make up 60 percent of all professors in the country, yet have no benefits or job security. They don’t even have offices, so they might as well be temps. It’s a sad illustration of how higher education has been hijacked by big business, and moms like Dr. Wanda Evans-Brewer are the casualties.
A little later, I’m sitting in an Uber car, on my way to an appointment, trying to calm down from my earlier rant. I spot an empty yellow cab at the light, and make eye contact with the driver who looks at me like I’ve somehow betrayed him. It occurs to me that a few years ago I would have been sitting in his cab. Back then, uber didn’t exist and it was guys like him that we depended on. Now Uber is everywhere and he’s the one left scrambling. It might seem unfair, but the truth is uber is cheaper and a lot more convenient. Times change. Remember there used to be a person who delivered milk right to your door called a milkman? My brother used to have a paper route, and my uncle worked for a factory before it closed. Professions die and new ones sprout up all the time.
Man, it hits me that as unfair as it seems, the reason professors are being exploited is the result of changing times. The educational system, like so many things, is changing. There are more professors than are needed, especially in certain fields of study, so they can afford to pay them less. Call it supply and demand. And with online courses becoming more and more popular college campuses may not even exist 15 years from now. It’s our responsibility to recognize that shift. I came to terms with a changing reality when I was modeling. At one time I had a solid career that paid me in one day what took most people a month to earn. Not only was the economy good, I was at the top of my game. But eventually things changed. I became a mama bear in a profession made for cubs. What was I going to do? I had a few choices. I could hang in there and work less frequently for much less pay- hey, I’d still be doing what I loved. I could become an activist and sue the industry for age discrimination (good luck). Or I could move to another industry where, who knows, maybe my looks would be an asset. Imagine a model car mechanic.
Never one to stay too late to the party, I left, and became a writer.
If I could talk to Dr. Evers-Brewer, I’d tell her that I understand what she’s going through. She chose a career in education because she loves academia and society had her back. It made sense at the time. It’s funny though, because when the tide shifts we’re all left holding our own bag. We’re ultimately responsible for ourselves. Whatareyagoingtodo?
I’d tell her to do something crazy like ban together with some of those other uber educators with PhD’s and Masters and start their own school. They don’t need a college, they are a college. Imagine what they could create. Or maybe she should venture outside of academia where her intelligence would make her a rock star, like, in politics. There she could be needed. Even if she remains a professor, kudos to her for putting her story out there in an effort to bring about change. It would have been easy to stay in the shadows, hidden behind her PhD and the assumption that everything is just fine. Ultimately, I’m optimistic that she and professors everywhere will figure this out. They have to. Sometimes we just have to remember that from every changing tide springs a new beginning.
This article first appeared on Madamenoire 11/23/15