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Cue student protests and a return to the good old days of the Trafalgar Square riots. Had we looked to America's mass higher education systems, we could have learned some sobering lessons. Professor X's In the Basement of the Ivory Tower details the dispiriting existence of an adjunct member of faculty teaching basic literacy and literature courses, an academic untouchable.

The adjunct is untenured, without health or other benefits, and paid a flat fee for each course taught. His tenured colleagues, by contrast, "are relaxed. They have paid sabbaticals and great parking spaces and guaranteed employment. Lecturing is no vocation for him and he longs to ask his adjunct colleague, "Why are you here?

Are you, too, under a house? Did you back your sensible Toyota out of the driveway and over a child? The dual themes of financial and intellectual bankruptcy are two sides of the same coin, and X demonstrates with verve and incision the damage wrought by the pig-headed commodification of knowledge: "the same societal urges that lowered the bar for home ownership have lowered the bar for higher education". Grade inflation, dumbing down and ingratiating geniality prompted by those capricious though all-powerful student evaluations are the unavoidable consequences of such a system.

The erosion of morale is intensified by a withering self-disgust: "The shit I was telling them was too easy; really, it would all be blazingly obvious to a dimwitted second grader. A study by Northwestern University showed that in the Boston area, as Professor X relates, "88 per cent of local students did not finish community college. Eighty-eight per cent! Go figure! The initiative was removed from the Healthcare Bill at the last minute, and those lucky enough to find insecure, underpaid work continue to look forward only to what Professor X calls "the relentless pulse of the stifling dead-end job".

This intelligently pessimistic book offers us the shape of things to come on both sides of the Atlantic: "There is at the moment no solution to student loan debt. It doesn't go away It can squeeze the very life out of a debtor, and we seem rather cavalierly to be encouraging more and more students to take it on for fewer and fewer rewards. Get a month's unlimited access to THE content online. Just register and complete your career summary. Registration is free and only takes a moment.

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In the Basement of the Ivory Tower: Confessions of an Accidental Academic

A pessimist's insights point to the future woes of the market-driven academy, Professor Y finds. December 8, Any international shipping and import charges are paid in part to Pitney Bowes Inc. Learn More - opens in a new window or tab International shipping and import charges paid to Pitney Bowes Inc. Learn More - opens in a new window or tab Any international shipping and import charges are paid in part to Pitney Bowes Inc.

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