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The Freelance Professors are Coming (clssy.com)
30 points by joeyczikk1 1757 days ago | hide | past | web | 6 comments | favorite

In the 19th century and before, this is actually, more or less, how professors made their livings, at least in the German system. They were paid on an individual basis by their students. Naturally, you had to teach classes that lots of people wanted to take if you wanted to make any bucks (or Deutschmarks or whatever). I don't think this is a system particularly worth returning to.

From the article, this pair of things is absolutely bats:

<em>“Most importantly, teacherpreneurship is not about promoting a free-market vision for the profit of a few—but rather how our society can invest substantially in teachers who can expertly serve millions of children and families who are not in the position to choose a better school somewhere else or find the most erudite online teacher anytime, anywhere. Teacherpreneurship is all about the public good, not private gain.” (15 October, 2010)

Freelance teachers can cut out the middle man by gaining their own client base, choosing how much they wish to charge and by having more freedom in choosing their most effective teaching methodology.</em>

Right, and where would these teacher-entrepreneurs (if anyone actually says "teacherpreneurs" I hope to god their jaw rots off) choose, predominantly, to peddle their wares? I'm going to go ahead and guess that it's in the areas where people <em>are</em> in a position to "choose a better school somewhere else", because that's where the money is. They will, probably, set their wages and gain their own client base in places where they can be assured of clients who want to pay (people beset by class anxiety or who want to ensure that their kids go to the right college (or are taught be the right freelance prof---this scheme could not possibly work if there weren't gradations of status on which to judge people; that's a large part of the role the contemporary college plays)) and who can pay.

Keathley's wonderment regarding the possibility of "earn[ing] annual incomes in the six-figure range instead of the average contingent faculty rate" is also kind of strange; that's already possible---just not for contingent faculty.

Thanks to the Internet, it seems like it won't be impossible for one teacher to both reach tens or hundreds of thousands of students, and effectively evaluate them.

Economically speaking, replacing a horde of mediocre professors with a few superstar professors and a horde of really cheap machines will save a ton of money. Some of the savings will likely go into inflating the salaries of said professors to the levels of other in-demand entertainers like professional athletes or movie stars.

But much of the benefits will be reaped by a much larger section of society: Lower -- and more accessible -- tuition for students (and others who help fund education like grants, scholarships and parents).

Some of the displaced professors whose teaching abilities don't rise to "superstar" level will inevitably face employment turmoil in the near term as the industry consolidates, but in the long term will likely find their talents redeployed to other tasks like research, tutoring or private-sector work.

Three weeks ago we blogged about sessional teachers, the often underpaid, overworked “Roads Scholars” who teach individual classes (sometimes through multiple universities). Most of them hope to accumulate enough teaching experience to become tenured at a university. Some critics condemn the way they are used and how little they are paid.

This phrasing seems a little deceptive. Certainly, most lecturers would hope to become tenured but in the way most fast food workers would hope to win the lottery. Lecturers teach the majority of classes in the modern university and effectively have no chance of becoming tenured. It's not even that new a situation but it has worsened over time.

Further, I'm sure how much "breakout" is possible through the web. Considering the web gives a potential student much wider options, it is hard to see it as a way for teachers to attain a high wage in the long run even if the "middle man" is cut out.

Seriously, no one becomes tenured at a university by teaching a lot of classes. Not only is that not the "track" to become tenured (the way to do that is to get a tenure-track gig, see how that works?), it will likely detract from your chances because:

1. the longer you do it the more tarnished you'll become; 2. the more you rack up teaching gig after teaching gig, the harder it is to establish a research record, for various reasons: if you're adjuncting, it takes tons of time; if you aren't (if you have lots of visiting assistant professorships, for instance) you still potentially have to deal with annual moves, lots of class prep (you won't have much say over what you teach so you won't necessarily get to repeat classes), and less institutional support than your tenure-track colleagues.

I sincerely hope none of the people who were blogged about actually harbors the hope attributed to them, because if they do they were badly misinformed.

They're here, they're called adjuncts.

Universities combine together some socially useful functions (performing blue-sky research, creating an informed populace) with some profitable functions (teaching vocational skills to young people, giving potential employers a way to filter the pool of applicants via credentials.) It may be that one day someone will figure out how to do the profitable things without doing the things that help society, which would be unfortunate. This is rather like how newspapers are suffering because the internet decoupled the profitable thing (advertising) from actually doing original journalism.

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