On Tuesday, members of the Broward College Board of Trustees met to discuss typical things like budgets and other college affairs. But they also took on a bigger subject: Why they, along with other college administrations around America, continue to redistribute wealth and power to a small class of business bureaucrats and away from the faculty and student populations they are supposed to serve.
The following is a set of very troubling points that run counter to the dominant PR line put out by Broward College to justify paying me and countless others poverty wages, while others in top support classes get salaries in the hundred-thousand-dollar range. I have requested a dialogue in front of the media, one in which I and my fellow adjuncts are not walking to a podium to plead our case but one that includes an open discussion about the purpose of higher education writ large.
Wages are not determined by education but by the political leverage of a worker within a labor market. Education is often cited, or I should say, repeated ad infinitum by education propagandists across America, as a means for workers to get ahead and earn higher wages. But the reality is that education as some sort of panacea for social inequality has been pitched for a very long time, and despite all the hype, inequality has grown. If the solution works, then why does the scoreboard show otherwise?
The answer is that there is really only one primary force that drives wages, and that is the dominant private employment market setting wages based on extorting those who need to seek out employment for survival. If an employer is allowed to reinvest in technology or use other means (and there are many other methods) to reduce the leverage of employees in the labor market, then wages will decline.
It has nothing to do with education and nothing to do with skills. Even if you can juggle and speak five languages and/or be a virtuoso on the French horn, you'll still be worth only minimum wage at the Taco Bell or the adjunct wage at Broward College (if you have the minimum requirements, of course) or whatever sector of the economy you're in.
So that's just to start. The typical edupropaganda line is to claim that it's training people for the job market. Here too, the BC admin used much of its time to repeat this conventional wisdom, supported by anecdotal evidence about the massive demand for skill positions in the economy.
But when you look at the actual BLS data for anticipated job growth for the next ten years, there's an entirely different picture. Of ten of the major job-growth sectors, only nursing is near or above the median income, and it requires only a two-year degree. The others in the top ten include home heath-care aides, retail salespersons, nursing assistants and janitors, etc. -- the kinds of jobs that are able to drive down the political leverage of the workforce by reducing the values of their skills, which, as noted above, drive the wages and value of the human beings in those sectors down. Not up.
If Broward College and other college administrations are serious about education as a path to equality, they would be pursuing an entirely different path, one that links aggregate job creation with education and matches and aligns student populations in an integrated way, rather than pretending that education is a simple path out of poverty.
There are only two forces that can create the massive number of high-quality jobs and standard of living for all: the dominant section of the population, i.e., the small minority that controls the market; and the labor movement, which worked antagonistically to build political leverage artificially by creating mechanisms to stop the normal course of extortion employed by employers.
Education is not one of these mechanisms. And since the labor movement has effectively been destroyed by unions that cooperate with employers, the only responsibility for creating high-quality jobs rests squarely on the backs of private actors.
What these private-sector actors fail to recognize is that property is really a political relationship. It is a privilege, not a right. And privileges come with responsibilities. If those who control the economy continue to find themselves failing to produce massive numbers of high-quality jobs, then what good are they to the rest of society? And why should we allow them to continue to be slotted in their privileged positions?
One thing is for sure: Education is not responsible for creating high-quality, high-paying jobs on a mass scale. And so we need to retool education to produce well-rounded and well-educated citizens, not simply participate in the job training charade. If the private sector seriously faces key shortages in a given area, there are better options for meeting that demand.