You’re Going to College in Your PJs While I’m Grading Your Papers in My Boxers
Adventures in Online Education — Dealing with the Management.
Having had more jobs than years I’ve been alive on this planet, I’ve dealt with a fair number of horrible bosses and/or the various levels of management operating on their behalf: the megalomaniacal, read too many “self-empowerment” books, power freak manager; the kick back, get the job done manager (my favorite); the neurotic, “Oh, my God, I’m going to lose my job!” take out a lifetime of psychosis on the workers manager; and the micro-managing, up your ass with a microscope, by the book, newbie manager. In my present job as an on-line educator, all of those types are operating at once at various levels of the corporate structure, and I get to read their many emails shot out to me on a daily basis, most of which being general mailers for everybody down the line with a few here and there actually directed at me. This morning, I got one directed at me that will cause me to waste needless time and writing energy to rectify and bring balance back to The Force or at least stop one level of emails coming at me from my immediate and obviously new to the game manager.
Said manager is my first level of contact with a structure that has about five levels that I can make out with another two to four operating at the top of the pyramid and incommunicado with us foot soldiers at the bottom other than marching orders barked out down the line. With this nine headed hydra of emails thrown at me, and the ability to gather that information in a more abstract framework of seeing how the different heads are nipping at one another, I can pretty much see all but the highest levels of the power structure at work, and the motivation of the people at the top isn’t that hard to figure out: it comes with a Bentley and servants. Hence, one of the more sadomasochistic joys of working for this for-profit education sector is being able to stand back in awe at this bureaucratic, Mongolian-cluster-fuck of a snake feeding on its own tail. At the top of the structure, the bottom line of massive profits for the corporation is the primary motivator. The students become mere clients with their education becoming nothing more than a product, dealt with the kind of care and oversight that is only one step up from the cheap, outsourced, plastic shit that fills our shelves at the big box stores.
The only reason there was any oversight at all is because most of the money “earned” for this for-profit sector was culled from the government via VA benefits or government backed student loans. In the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve seen quite the cross section of what Emma Lazarus referred to in her poem on the plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,”
In the beginning of my work for this company, this poem literally could apply to some of my students. They had boiler room operations filling out the paperwork for homeless people in shelters to take out massive loans to go college, and many of these folks were in no way ready for “higher education.” A GED at a local not for profit adult education school would be a good start for most of them. These first couple of years were the gravy years. Since then, Big Daddy Government had to call these for profit schools on the carpet in front of Congress to ‘esplain themselves. By then, they had gone public and had the near zombie-vampire like personhood protections affording to a corporation, so they weren’t going anywhere, but they did have to somewhat straighten up and fly right. Hence cometh the clusterfuck of bureaucratic, management doom.
There’s the old line that “Those who can’t do, teach.” Teachers added to this that “Those that can’t teach, administrate.” What happens when you take a few greed-heads at the top who are facing their money spigots being turned off, and you combine them with various professional education administrators with a lot of alphabet soup behind their names? You get the various middle managers who get themselves and their underlings (yours truly) mired down in inane complexities of either fixing what’s not broken and thereby breaking it and requiring another fix, or just people doing redundant busywork for the sake of looking like something proactive is getting done, when in reality nothing of any real value is being accomplished. (The whole TPS Report gag in “Office Space” really brings this to light.)
So, as I sit here channeling my anger writing this missive during what should have been two days off to pick my nose and read a good book, I have to follow up this screed with a reworking of several levels of posted materials that are just fine how they stand, have received no complaints from previous management, and have worked for a year or so since some genius decided to make us create them to help our students with their work, except some new, micro-managing nitwit who’s gonna’ change the world has decided otherwise. The hilarious thing is that virtually nobody really reads these mandatory posts, because if they did, I wouldn’t have to answer the stupid fucking questions they send me in emails every day. Hence, off I go to the salt-mine on my day off to keep The Beast happy.