adjusted for inflation

Saturday October 18, 2014

I was reading a sad account of Mary Margaret Vojtko. She died “penniless and virtually homeless”, as Rachel Riederer put it. What made me nearly fell off my chair was the fact that Mary Margaret Vojtko was a professor, and a professor shouldn’t counting the days towards an end like that. Saddened by this story, the tone of the reading was gloomy along the way, and at the same time shedding some light.

And when the average graduate of the class of 2014 leaves school with over $30,000 of debt (nearly twice what the average was twenty years ago, adjusted for inflation), it’s an important consumer issue, too.

My focus was on this “adjusted for inflation” thingy. What meaning those number bear right now, the $30,000, if “adjusted for inflation” presents at the end of the data?

That’s the beauty of the higher-education machine. Teaching has become a supplementary rather than an essential part of college, because learning is no longer an essential part of college. The essential part of college for students is receiving a degree – which answers the “why go?” question. We go because we flatly need to; because while degrees are progressively becoming worth less and less, they are somehow required as a screening baseline for more and more fields that once did not require them. We go, in short, for the convenience of our potential future employers.

To my bewilderment, I was dumbfounded by the phrase that was generated by my conscious mind: “our college graduates are likely to earn Master degree in order to live within the range of middle-income class, adjusted for inflation if I were to compare data from years ago which would depict that Degree holders could sit loosely atop the rank as high-income earners.”

Yes, college-level teachers should make more than cashiers at McDonald’s. Not because they hold advanced degrees —to pay someone for merely holding a degree is naked credentialism; to believe you deserve more money because of your credential itself rather than what you do with it is to misunderstand the value of work— but because as a culture, we value the dissemination of knowledge more than the distribution of hamburgers. Or at least we say we do.

What a beauty expression by Rachel. We value the dissemination of knowledge more than the distribution of hamburgers, but the dilemma Rachel experienced was that teaching positions as adjuncts were severely underpaid compared to McD workers, which constitutes itself as an irony because distribution of hamburgers never have been as sacred as the dissemination of knowledge.


“Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions.”

I do not have enough capacity to explain the statement above, and I leave this to you.