Perhaps like me you’re afraid of the news. Not because it’s fake, but because it’s real. Then every once in a while curiosity gets the better of me and I uncover my eyes. Sometimes you can’t help but see. With the utter mess we’re in over here, it’s difficult to keep up with news from other countries we know. I’ve lived in the United Kingdom and I’ve worked for British companies. Needless to say, I wonder what’s going on over there from time to time. Lately I’ve been getting auto-replies to my emails to British colleagues stating that they’re on strike. I asked a friend in the UK about this. It used to be the professorate was treated with some regard in Her Majesty’s domain. Not being a financially minded person, I haven’t been aware of how deep or devastating our capitalism-induced recessions and depressions are. Apparently they’ve been bad enough to derail even British higher education.
Compensation for the professorate has been eroded away. Their pension plans have been depleted. Knowing the problems we have over here with professors refusing to retire, I was surprised to learn the UK has the opposite problem—professors unable to afford to retire. Now, lecturing isn’t physical labor, but class preparation (and committee work) take a considerable amount of effort. I could see not retiring if it meant lecturing only, but with everything else required, not retiring would be, well, exhausting. As over here the root of the problem is that higher education is the route into which many smart people are steered. You’d think it’d be a wonderful problem to have too many highly educated people. It’s not. With advanced study comes advanced debt. And limited employment prospects.
There are nations in the world where higher education is deeply valued. Where educated people are respected. Ironically, the nations enamored of capitalism aren’t those places. The only learning that’s required is how to get money from someone else. Beyond that, the rest is commentary. British higher education has fallen on hard times since I read for my Edinburgh doctorate. Schemes have been put in place to ensure faculty are being productive. Yes, there are some lazy ones. The majority, however, pull their weight and then some. And now they’re being told they must do so until the grave. No retired professor wants to spend her or his old age bagging groceries at Sainsbury’s. And so they’re going on strike. If only the world valued knowledge more than money there might be some news worth reading.