Why Was I Fired?

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org &
Knatz.com / Teaching / Society /Social Order / HierCon / School Stories /

I’ve told part of this but here’s a new perspective with never before told details:

I taught English at Colby College, Waterville ME, from 1967 to 1969. The Chairman rehired me for a third year: then, too late for me to make other plans, fired me. There were twenty-one English teachers at that time, eleven were fired. One reason is familiar: schools take advantage of teachers because teachers want to teach, teaching has an honored tradition of low pay, martyrdom associations through disrespect: we are an anti-intellectual culture whatever our pretensions. Priests get spiritual credit for poverty, so do teachers. Modern education has perverted the medieval / Renaissance practice of “tenure.” Once upon a time if an instructor wasn’t silenced in his first half dozen or so years at a university, tradition had it that then the faculty couldn’t shut him up. The professors could railroad Galileo or Jesus in his first year, second year, third … but not in his seventh, eighth, ninth. Tenure had nothing to do with job security, neither did it relate to income. Professors in medieval universities were paid by their students, not by any central institution. Ah, but today Screw U pays the professors, has to start paying them an almost living wage after seven years … can’t fire them unless they also have cause to jail them … Thus, Colby was getting rid of young instructors before they qualified for tenure, before they required wages much beyond minimum.

first draft, I’ll edit

But there was something else afoot: all eleven fired instructors had aligned themselves with the anti-war movement by appearing in silent vigil on the steps of the chapel. None of the tenured faculty so appeared, more than half of the English Department so appeared, more than half of the English Department were fired: me after I’d been rehired: that is, in violation of my agreement with the Chairman.

The Chairman had asked me to stay a third year, had made it clear to me that there could be no fourth year for me at Colby no matter what, acting as though I would be doing him a favor, possibly contrary to my own best interests (which required me to finish my doctorate so I could get a real job and make a real salary). He told me that a colleague was taking his sabbaticals, he needed me to cover for him for the 1969-1970 year. When he fired me he just told me that the professor had changed his mind; now there was no room for me. (Though nooky my lawyer told the Dean, you hired him, now you have to pay: and the dean instantly agreed to my compromise offer and paid me the largest fellowship available at NYU, it being too late for me to apply for financial aid back to my own school. So, instead of the contracted $9,000, I got $2,500.

Meantime ten of my colleges were summarily fired, me making it eleven. The school newspaper published protest articles, accusing the college of political motives for the firings. (The administration simply denied the charges. No discussion took place in my hearing of the standard economics of mass firings of the less experienced. No mention was made of pk being fired: the paper reported on only ten of the eleven firings. My most loyal students continued to come to me to make plans for the following year. Among my colleagues, only the Chairman of Freshman English seemed to know what the Chairman of the English Department had known.)

Thus: we can speculate that my firing was also political, I had joined the protests. But here I’ll add other possible reasons. I’ve told all but one of these over the decades since. I write today to add the neglected possibility. What we can safely do is ignore the “reason” the chairman gave me when he dismissed me.

Thus further: I deny that I was fired because it proved inconvenient. I don’t doubt that part of the reason was political: the college was purging all voices of reason, of conscience, the fed having taken over more and more of academia via federal “aid” to “education.” (With federal aid, there is no more education than there can be ethical religion when the damned finance the church!)

A possible set of reasons is intellectual and cultural. I was teaching my students my thesis on Shakespeare’s sonnets. My thesis accuses our culture of misreading them, under-interpreting them for more than three hundred fifty years. People proud of their culture don’t like the implications of such a claim. The public at large never wants to be moved from a flat earth to a round earth, or from an earth at the center of the universe to an earth off in a corner, or from a Creation where man is the center to an evolving biosphere in which man is one among a number of creatures, or from an earth in which divine man knows what he’s talking about to a Freudian universe in which we don’t know what we are talking about. My thesis is subversive to human vanity.

Possibly more important: I taught ecology in my English classes. In my classes on rhetoric: standard freshman English, I assigned examples of rhetoric, including speeches by Adolf Hitler. (He persuaded a lot of people, no?) I also assigned an article from the NYT by Lamont C. Cole called “Can the Earth Be Saved?” Cole’s article accused civilization of ignorance, neglect, potential murder of our own biosphere. Cole mentioned the possibility of global warming. He didn’t say it was true, I didn’t say it was true, we said we need to watch what we were doing, we had to stop assuming that we could do anything we wanted to, that it was impossible for us to do harm. Oh, we can pollute the oceans, no harm can come from anything we do. Maybe I was fired because students complained that I doubted human destiny, human infallibility.

There was also the possibility that my mutual attraction with females was objected to. That was certainly the case. I saw a lot of sexual escapades between faculty and student body. None of the activists stayed around long. I had a one year contract, renewed for a second year, then a third: I didn’t worry about what kind of social impression I was making. I know a lot of fraternity boys didn’t like competition from faculty. There was a lot of jealousy. I know I in particular was hated. But I do not know that that’s why I was fired: it’s another possible reason. I’d had my hands on a lot of tush before I was fired, so maybe this is one of the weaker possible reasons.

But here’s the possible reason that I’d never mentioned to anyone till right here and now today (because I’d forgotten it!)

I read a US Army memorandum defining “white” and “black” from the immigration bureau!

People who believe that they are “racially” “white” have little idea how much that concept has changed just in the last two thirds of a century. People have little difficulty believing that Hitler’s Nazis declared that Jews were not white. Many are familiar with the imperial British calling Hindus or Arabs or almost anybody “wogs”: and wogs by an easy stretch are not white. But did you realize that Nazis declared Hungarians to be “black”? black meaning “not white.” Are you aware that US Immigration policy by 1963, when I took a copy of that document from the army recruiting station where I was assigned, was little different from Hitler’s?

Why was I fired? Because I don’t fit the official kleptocracy in any way!

typos, hard to edit, I be back

Impossible Harm
1967, 2013 Nearly a half century has passed, I have yet to meet one person who understands my argument about We Should Watch Where We’re Going to my face. Today though I read some moron Scientific American journalist write a bad version of it: Global warming: The folly of certainty, William Skaggs,

Hierarchy vs. Conviviality Stories

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
This entry was posted in Conviviality, pk Teaching, school. Bookmark the permalink.

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