The week before the spring semester began, I found myself sitting at my kitchen table scrolling through Facebook. I saw several posts from right-wing friends and relatives celebrating the fact that their sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews avoided attending a four-year university because they were scared of the God-hating, America-hating, socialist scumbag professors.
On any other morning, I would have read those posts and lost my mind. But after four years of arguing with people who consume InfoWars and Sean Hannity as if they are the CBS Evening News and Walter Cronkite, these posts no longer upset me; they simply leave me frustrated and exhausted.
I cannot, in good conscience, allow these people to affect my day-to-day mental health. I know that I should care that they are spreading misinformation and that they are helping to make the world both a dumber and more dangerous place… But I don’t. All that concerns me is whether or not my coffee grinder works and if my students are learning in my classroom.
Then again, it is difficult for me to facilitate learning in the classroom when I have to edit my lectures to avoid offending my more conservative students., or to take great pains to ensure that what is said cannot be taken out of context to prove “liberal bias” in the classroom.
It is frustrating because I am not quite sure why I should care about someone getting upset by being exposed to a new perspective on a social phenomenon. Isn’t it all part of the college experience to discuss and debate different perspectives? Why should I protect the ideologies of my students? Why am I getting angry thinking about the time I have to waste taking this into account when preparing for the week ahead?
The answer is simple: I am an adjunct lecturer with no job security. If students withdraw from the class or the university and the ideas I teach are deemed the problem, there goes my paycheck. Due to this inconvenient aspect of the academic life I have to, in effect, censor my rhetoric; not because I promote falsehoods, but because a perspective that is not conservative may cost the university money. The professional lives and careers of tenured staff are less affected by the power of conservative parents and students. However, as conservative politicians and members of the Board of Regents continue to attack tenure, my concerns will soon be theirs.
The solutions are way too complicated to address in a six-hundred-word column. As a matter of fact, no problem involving money will ever be solved in six hundred words. But I will say this: we are wasting valuable time worrying about the sensibilities of students and their parents who expect us to teach according to an ideology.
That is not our job!
Our job is to get students to think critically about the world, to create problem-solvers, to prepare our students to be good citizens of their communities. We cannot do that if our universities and politicians insist make us look over our shoulders every two minutes for an offended Karen.
It is time to start demanding that college presidents, politicians and Boards of Regents protect our ability to do our job instead of forcing us to yield to the feelings and fears of parents.