The Way We Live Now: The Adjunct

Sarah Marshall, in The New Republic:

When I started teaching, I was 23 years old and had no weightier obligation than a masters thesis on Jane Eyre. I wasn’t married. I had no children. I had no pets. I didn’t even own a plant… I taught, and continue to teach, in a huge university that serves great numbers of “returning students”—that is, students who re-enroll in college after an absence ranging between a year and half a century—and I have never taught a class that did not contain several students who were older than me. All of them had and have more life experience in one way or another; it’s the kind of thing you accrue fairly easily, it turns out, when you aren’t sitting in a carrel reading Jane Eyre

Over the course of a ten-week class,I play the role of therapist, priest, mentor, and friend. In their writings, in our class time, and in their meetings with me, students tell me about their pasts, their aspirations, their medical and mental health emergencies; about family tragedies and abuses they have survived; about their sexualities, their identities, their relationships, and their fears. I do not ask them to tell me any of this, but they offer it freely, as if they have simply been waiting for someone to tell. I’ve had students write about fleeing from abusive husbands, about their children’s births, their children’s disabilities, and their children’s deaths. They have written about reaching moments of clarity while spending a night in jail or awaiting a prison sentence—and I can relate these stories without betraying their confidences, because I have heard them numerous times, from numerous students, and I’ve been teaching for less than three years. Some of them have dealt with pain I find unimaginable, and have survived in ways that give me hope for humanity. Telling them how to do an MLA citation seems beside the point…

111 replies
  1. 1
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Over the course of a ten-week class,I play the role of therapist, priest, mentor, and friend.

    No wonder I’m not a teacher. I suppose it helps if one actually cares.

  2. 2
  3. 3
    bago says:

    As we become more networked, starting with the sacred texts, jumping right into the profane on Gutenberg’s second work from his press, we’ve started realizing that we’re all as messed up as each other, and can learn to avoid hard earned mistakes. When all of the beings on this pale blue dot in the universe can properly share and store, we will accelerate our learning capacity.

  4. 4
    Baud says:


    Better a teacher than a bartender, I suppose.

  5. 5
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Baud: Hmmm… I don’t know. At least the drunks pass out.

  6. 6
    bago says:

    @bago: But, that’s just the view of someone who sees glyphs in matter, charges, and soon, spin states.

  7. 7
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Baud: Also not to mention, if you read @raven: article, bartenders are better paid too.

  8. 8
    Baud says:


    Don’t need an article to tell me that.

  9. 9
    Baud says:

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican strategy for the fall elections seemed set: hammer Democrats on the health care law and “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

    As Democrats show increasing confidence on those fronts, however, House Republicans are gambling that ramping up new inquiries into old controversies involving the Internal Revenue Service and Libya will energize conservative voters without turning off moderates.

  10. 10
    Tommy says:

    The year I taught, last year of my MA program was very rewarding. Also a lot, lot harder then I would have imagined. The only thing I didn’t like was grading papers. We didn’t have tests in my class. Only papers. I could never figure out why one paper might be an A, B, C or worse. I mean honestly what was the difference between an A or a B?

  11. 11
    Tommy says:

    @Baud: Well when you have this at TPM:

    Mitch McConnell says he’s definitely going to repeal Obamacare. But Kentucky’s extremely successful Obamacare health insurance exchange? McConnell now says that isn’t connected to Obamacare.

    I’d say they are in trouble on this one point.

  12. 12
    Baud says:

    Amanda is now the strongest May eastern Pacific hurricane on record with its strength close to that of a Category 5 hurricane.

  13. 13
    PurpleGirl says:

    I didn’t have many adjuncts back when. And the ones I did have were older teachers who didn’t have tenure. I mostly had tenured professors. But then “back when” was 1969 through 1976. (I took a few extra terms to finish my degree.)

  14. 14
    Tommy says:

    @Baud: I’ve been around a lot of bad weather and none of it worries me that much. Being in the middle of Hurricane Andrew was a terrifying experience. I mean I knew Mother Nature was powerful, I had no idea that powerful. I can’t even wrap my mind around what Katrina must have been like. I try even to this day to explain it to people that have never been in one and they can’t really seem to understand what it was like. They are often it is just wind and a lot of rain right. I am like yeah, but when was the last time a storm blew out your windows? Dumpsters the size of a small car are blowing down the streets? In what seems like minutes almost everything is underwater?

  15. 15

    This is what happens when you don’t value labor.
    snark It is Neoliberal economics FTW/. Thanks Milton Friedman./snark.

  16. 16
    Baud says:


    It’s interesting how the media has lost interest in Obamacare now that the GOP has.


    The power of nature is truly remarkable. I can understand how pre-science civilization created all kinds of myths in an attempt to fathom it.

  17. 17
    Tommy says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: I could rant on this topic for hours. Many teachers in my town make $60,000-$80,000 a year, which is a good living in my part of the country. People running the school more than $100,000. Funny thing, we have about the best schools in the state if not the country. Wonder if there might be a correlation there :). Heck I bring up my schools here all the time cause we are in fact PROUD of them.

  18. 18
    Tommy says:

    @Baud: I am always amazed how long Republicans can stay mad about this or that. With the failed launch of the site and bad early numbers my Republican friends and family members were all over me. It was like a shot in the arm. Now they have pretty much moved on, cause the best thing that happened was for ALL of them not a single thing changed about their health care plans. Not a single thing. Then when I explained I got a plan through the IL exchange and it is far better then I had and almost $100 less per month, well what can they really say?

  19. 19
    NotMax says:

    When I started teaching, I was 23 years old […] I have heard them numerous times, from numerous students, and I’ve been teaching for less than three years.

    So, heard it all by age 25?

    Pfeh. Someone still has much learning to do, and it isn’t any of the students.

    Telling them how to do an MLA citation seems beside the point

    Doing the job you’re hired to perform by providing what the students attend for is not beside the point.

    Noobs. Sheesh.

  20. 20
    Baud says:


    They stay mad at what they’re told to stay mad at.

  21. 21
    Tommy says:

    @NotMax: I am all in with doing your job and doing it well, but I think we can all agree there are parts of our jobs we don’t like and/or think isn’t worth our time to do, where the time could be better spent doing something else more productive.

  22. 22
    Botsplainer says:

    Well, got back safe. Went to the area of Cobden and Alto Pass, had a truly great artisan made bourbon barrel ale and wood oven pizza (tried to take a growler back – regrettably, it exploded in the trunk a third of the way home – all 32 ounces of it – messy and smelly don’t describe it well enough).

    Met my middle daughter’s fella’s mom (she lives next door, on the property) and his brother. Really super nice people.

  23. 23

    OT: Took the local train to my MIL’s place yesterday and lived to tell the tale.

  24. 24
  25. 25
    Tommy says:

    @Botsplainer: Just a hop, skip, and fall from my neck of the woods.

  26. 26
    NotMax says:


    Yes, but.

    Teaching the use and format of citations is fairly basic stuff. Academic basic training, as it were. Sloughing off on drilling the basics bodes ill for achieving satisfactory results.

  27. 27
    Ash Can says:

    @NotMax: Who pissed in your Cheerios?

    ETA: And what’s your evidence that she’s actually sloughing off?

  28. 28
    Tommy says:

    @NotMax: No I am totally with you there. Person should have found a better example, cause well learning how to footnote your work would seem like teaching 101 to me.

    Little story. My father self-published a book last year. About the history of the military high school he went to, that is no longer around but had a whole bunch of both famous and successful people walk through its doors. He footnoted everything, cause I guess that is what you do when you have a PhD in history :). The editor at the book company, when he got the first draft, sent him an email saying how happy it was to see it, cause well I guess in the “Age of the Internet” not many people do that anymore.

    Which is kind of sad really, because maybe citing your work now is more important then ever.

  29. 29
    NotMax says:


    Anyone watch Turn on Sunday?

    The AMC channel has been broken on the cable service all weekend long (still no video or audio as this is typed), so missed the episode.

    Anything vital occur? Spoilers welcome.

  30. 30
    Botsplainer says:


    Let me throw out a plug, then, if you haven’t been here:

    It was the 9 hour barleywine which adorned my trunk. Aside from the work, I was really sad – I looked real forward to having it today.

  31. 31
    Botsplainer says:


    Shit. I usually DVR them when I’m away (I missed it too). I might be able to pick it up on demand.

    Next week, I think AMC is marathoning them.

    The most interesting characters are the British officers.

  32. 32
    Tommy says:

    Totally off topic ….

    A few months ago I got rid of cable TV. I was sick of paying that huge bill each month, but until about 7 years ago (I am 43) I never had cable TV. I found I wasn’t you know reading. Playing video games I enjoy. Well not doing a lot of things cause it was so easy to just plop down in front of a TV and waste hours and hours of time.

    Not having cable most of my life, well there are a ton of “popular” shows I’ve never seen. Been watching those on Netflix, but honestly getting a little bored with it all.

    But the other day I found a section of Netflix I didn’t know existed, which is like every documentary ever produced (and I am a huge documentary fan) seems to be on there. I think last night I loaded up my account with at least a hundred hours of documentaries.

    Heck watch the Jack Abramoff one. Casino Jack and the United States of Money.

  33. 33
    NotMax says:

    @Ash Can

    The implication is there, if not an overt admission. Called it as I saw it.

    Perhaps more direct would be saying that the entire jejeune piece reeks.

  34. 34
    Tommy says:

    @Botsplainer: Plugs are always welcomed. Bookmarked. I grew up in this area, but lived in DC after college for almost two decades before moving back a few years ago.

    I hated living here as a kid. I’d often say nothing was going on. Now I love living here. So much to do. I also used to hate St. Louis, I mean I wanted to live in a “large’ city. Well now it is one of my favorite places. So much to do I can’t even explain it and I’ve only scratched the surface. I do miss DC. But I don’t miss the cost of living. Traffic. And well the fact most people I knew (including myself) never seemed to relax and live life. It was all work, work, work some more. Been there, done that and I don’t want to do it anymore :).

  35. 35
    Walker says:


    I am a CS faculty member, but I teach a course that satisfies our technical writing elective. This requires me to grade lots of papers — lots and lots of papers. And this is for students that are generally used to the “objective” grading in CS (which is a whole ‘nother story).

    One of the main issues with students is fairness. You can be brutally hard in your grading as long as the students believe that you are fair. In writing that means having a clear grading rubric that ensures you are consistent (because they will compare). In addition, it helps to allow a revision process for anything that is not a content issue (presentation, formatting, etc.). Of course coming up with a rubric is the hard part, but you should do it as part of creating the assignment. If you do not have the rubric before you write the assignment, then the assignment directions will typically be to be too vague and unclear.

  36. 36
    Tommy says:

    Let me post this again, since it got flagged.

    Totally off topic ….

    A few months ago I got rid of cable TV. I was sick of paying that huge bill each month, but until about 7 years ago (I am 43) I never had cable TV. I found I wasn’t you know reading. Playing video games I enjoy. Well not doing a lot of things cause it was so easy to just plop down in front of a TV and waste hours and hours of time.

    Not having cable most of my life, well there are a ton of “popular” shows I’ve never seen. Been watching those on Netflix, but honestly getting a little bored with it all.

    But the other day I found a section of Netflix I didn’t know existed, which is like every documentary ever produced (and I am a huge documentary fan) seems to be on there. I think last night I loaded up my account with at least a hundred hours of documentaries.

    Heck watching the Jack Abramoff one. Cas*^o (the word that got flagged I assume) Jack and the United States of Money. I mean I knew about how he was one of the College Republicans (like Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist no name just a few others) that eventually took over the party, but I had no idea how they did it exactly. It is kind of both sad and scary at the same time.

    I mean learning that in college, Grover Norquist would actually keep dossiers on HIS FRIENDS. I mean who the fuck does that kind of stuff?

  37. 37
    Keith G says:


    It’s interesting how the media has lost interest in Obamacare now that the GOP has.

    Not so fast. There is some important reporting being logged..
    This good article (NYT) points to serious issues caused by what is likely the ACA’s largest area of weakness.

  38. 38
    Tommy says:

    @Walker: Yeah I didn’t have that and nobody told me I should. But I’ve thought about my grading in hindsight, and came up with the concept you pretty much outlined. People often ask me how I got the grades I got in college. How I could have a double major and minor and then a MA.

    My plan I tell people is to buy the books for the course and read them. Never miss a class. Don’t sit in the front row, but the first few rows and the center so you have eye contact with the teacher, and if you have a question or don’t understand, raise your hand and politely ask questions. At least once visit the teacher during office hours and ask questions about grading and what is required to get the grade you want. The most important thing, take notes. And later in THAT day, rewrite them and add to them from the book and other course materials.

    Or really put another way, let the teacher know you care and you are trying. And again, freaking take notes!

    I found those that did those things, well I get they got better grades.

  39. 39
    Keith G says:


    I mean learning that in college, Grover Norquist would actually keep dossiers on HIS FRIENDS. I mean who the fuck does that kind of stuff?

    Sounds like that kid in Santa Barbara.

  40. 40
    Botsplainer says:

    @Keith G:

    You mean the vanity projects by which for profit healthcare providers can claim tax deductions simply by not applying their absurd markup to the uninsured might be curtailed?

    The horror!

  41. 41
    Tommy says:

    @Keith G: Bill Clinton was famous, going back to college, for keeping note cards on people he met. Their name of course. But just basic info about them. Wife’s name. Where they went to college. Birthday. Just basic stuff.

    I did something similar to that and honestly made an effort to stay in touch with the people I met, just in case I might need their help they would know me years or decades later (which worked BTW). But that was to network. It wasn’t said directly in the movie I mentioned above, but pretty sure Grover Norquist wanted dirt on somebody to later destroy them if required.

    That is messed up ….

  42. 42
    Baud says:

    @Keith G:

    I didn’t mean to suggest a media blackout, but the scale is much lower.

    That story seems like the type of transitional thing one encounters with just about any major reform.

  43. 43
    Baud says:


    As someone with a bad memory of people and names, I wish I had developed a habit of keeping notes and diaries about my encounters with people.

  44. 44
    Botsplainer says:

    @Keith G:

    Sounds like that kid in Santa Barbara.

    For some reason, I picture a younger Grover laying in bed, alone, maybe even crying about how girls don’t like him and he’s a “nice guy” and not an asshole.

    I cued into this a couple of years ago when my teen daughters were snickering over somebody having “nice guy syndrome”, meaning whiny, needy, socially awkward brat.

    I’m thinking sociopathy comes with that mix.

  45. 45
    Botsplainer says:


    I always remember faces. Names, not so much. When I meet somebody new, I slip in a statements couple of times to cement it.

  46. 46
    Tommy says:

    @Baud: That is somewhat hard to read. Sad to see Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis is mentioned. Barnes is a crown jewel for St. Louis. One of the best hospitals in the nation, if not the entire world. St. Louis is more of a “traditional” American city. Manufacturing and well, of course shipping (that Mississippi River thing). A lot of that is no longer around.

    If we have a “growth” industry here it isn’t high-tech start-ups exactly. It is biotech. Barnes being close to the center of it. I’ve got that story bookmarked and will have to head to the St. Louis Post Dispatch and Riverfront Times (the local independent newspaper) and see what else I can find out.

  47. 47
    Tommy says:

    @Baud: Oh I had to do it. I will NEVER forget your face. I forget the name of somebody before it is even fully out of your mouth. I do the use the name three times early on in conversation. That doesn’t even work for me.

  48. 48
    Baud says:


    Is Missouri one of the states that didn’t expand Medicaid?

  49. 49
    NotMax says:

    My, my, my.

    Spanish Village Votes to Change Name from ‘Camp Kill The Jews’

    Though its name derives from an unfortunately monickered Mexican general, perhaps Matamoros, Mexico (Kill the Moors) will take notice.

    Ditto for Matamoras, Pennsylvania, named after the Mexican town.

  50. 50
    Baud says:


    I’ve tried those memory tricks, although I probably could put more effort into it. It’s just one of those things that would take a lot of work for me to get decent at, and I haven’t been able to find the energy to pull it off yet.

  51. 51
    Keith G says:

    @Botsplainer: No, kiddo. Re read or read the article and get to the story about the woman suffering with lupus.

    I work with a community organization that helps those of modest income (including me) who deal with serious, chronic illness. ACA premiums might be somewhat affordable, but the lower premiums often come with increased payments of other sorts – like a premium of $350 per month that allows one to go to a doctor who prescribes medications that will cost more than $600 per month.

  52. 52
    Tommy says:

    @Baud: Yes under the ACA they didn’t. But it is complex and I will admit I don’t understand everything. Jay Nixon the Governor is a Democrat. The entire House/Senate is Republican. And honestly moved to the far, far right in recent times. I mean like Kansas right.

    Nixon has done a lot of things, with signing statements and other powers he has to attempt to help. He is currently being impeached because of this. Honestly it is all over the place.

    Generally speaking you have three liberal areas in the state. St. Louis. Kansas City. Columbia (where the University of MO is located). Outside of those places, about as far right as you can get. They are in the process of banning abortion, guns everywhere, all those bills you hear getting passed in Texas or Mississippi are getting passed in MO.

    It is a total cluster fuck. The state as a whole votes for a Democratic Governor or Claire, but locally we got no chance and they are going far, far, far, let me say far right again.

  53. 53
    Botsplainer says:


    Saw that story earlier and wondered aloud about the 19 voters that wanted to keep the name. The wife gave a one word response – tradition.

  54. 54
    Poopyman says:

    Well, Newsmax sez

    Rove: Jeb ‘Deepest Thinker on Our Side’

    I can’t tell whether that’s praise or an indictment.

  55. 55
    Tommy says:

    @Baud: The memory tricks don’t work for me either. You could be the most attractive women in the world, say recall my name in ten minutes and I’ll make your night. Rock your world. I’d forget the name :). It is strange cause in other areas I never forget anything. Stuff where you might think it creepy I recall that. But names, the most basic, I don’t.

  56. 56
    Baud says:


    Generally speaking you have three liberal areas in the state. St. Louis. Kansas City. Columbia (where the University of MO is located).

    Don’t forget OzarkHillbilly’s house!

  57. 57
    dmsilev says:

    @Poopyman: It’s a low bar to clear. I believe ‘damning with faint praise’ is the traditional phrase to use.

  58. 58
    Tommy says:

    @Baud: Touche. But unless he is working to rig an election, well not so much. He could explain this better then myself. I don’t know where you live in this nation, but the Ozarks are some of the most stunning places you’ll visit. I’ve visited most of this nation and I am still stunned by the sheer beauty. But the level of poverty is off the chart. I hear people talk about Appalachia. Come to the Ozarks and you will be like, “dude this is happening.”

  59. 59
    NotMax says:

    My, my my².

    The president of a South Carolina Bible college was charged last week with essentially treating foreign students as slaves by forcing them to perform work for little or no pay.

    According to The Sun News, federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against Cathedral Bible College President Reginald Wayne Miller, accusing him of forced labor. Source

  60. 60
    Baud says:


    I’ve never been to the Ozarks. One day, hopefully.


    I’d prefer a series of plagues on Pharaoh’s university, but I’ll settle for federal prosecution.

  61. 61
    Botsplainer says:


    The Mayberry Machiavellis strike again through the gerrymander. I haven’t looked at Missouri’s map, but know that in Texas, Austin is carved up into a radial pie – six districts running far, far from the city (one runs as far as DFW).

    The fairly blue dog Kentucky House has been all that prevents the carving of Louisville and the wreckage of progressive urbanism here (we supply everything, receiving back only about 55 cents on every dollar sent to Frankfort). I can see those assholes stripping out everything local government does regarding smoking bans, fairness ordinances, Sunday liquor sales, summer job and activity programs, etc. They could probably distribute the city population proper into 4 diluted congressional districts running to the Tennessee border.

  62. 62
    Tommy says:

    @Baud: I am joking here a little. But I get that the Mormons think the Garden of Eden was here. It is that beautiful of a place you can easily think only God could create this.

  63. 63

    @Poopyman:Damning with faint praise.

  64. 64
    catclub says:

    @Tommy: “I can’t even wrap my mind around what Katrina must have been like.”

    Andrew was MUCH more powerful than Katrina in terms of winds. Katrina had a 34 foot storm surge at the peak.
    New Orleans, with non-failing levees, survives Katrina much better than Miami survives Andrew.

  65. 65
    catclub says:

    @NotMax: The difference between that and the (US and privately run) Immigration Detention centers is that the Federal Government probably will NOT be charged with slavery violations of the 13th amendment.

  66. 66
    NotMax says:

    3:30 a.m. and no sign of sleep.

    The cosmos is telling me to make a martini.

    And shall comply.

  67. 67
    Marc says:

    @NotMax: Yes. Thank you.

    All the horror stories out there about adjuncts trying to support families, pay off debts, or just not die penniless, and the Atlantic manages to find a world-weary twenty-five-year-old who only knows how to talk about her privilege.

  68. 68
    Tommy says:

    This is why American fucking rocks. Just went to the local 7/11 like store a few blocks from my house. The owner is from India. Parents brought him here when he was 8. Dad a high school math teacher. Mom a high school English teacher. Both in public schools in my area. He own this store and two Subway shops. America has been good to him.

    I come up to the counter with my soda and candy bar, tells me to wait. Behind the counter he is stream India election results from the India Times on his computer. He is on the phone, giddy, saying something to somebody I can’t understand.

    I just find all this to be fucking awesome! Oh and other times, tried to explain Cricket to me :).

  69. 69
    Tommy says:

    @catclub: I recall the coming of Andrew. I was a “Yankee.” This lady that lived next to me was filling up her bathtub and every pot in her house with water, before going to New Orleans. I was the dude thinking, Hurricane party. She left me a key to her apartment. I needed that key. I didn’t have power for 11 days and no water for six. Without her I wouldn’t have died, don’t mean anything like that, but it made a terrible situation much better. Just with a bathtub of water I could drink from :).

  70. 70
    NotMax says:


    with my soda and candy bar

    Haven’t bought a candy bar in ages, but the last one I occasionally had a jones for was the Zagnut bar.

    Not a lot of places sold them.

    Taste for sweets has markedly declined as the decades rolled on by, but was tickled just now by the mention of candy, Maybe will seek out some Necco wafers when the stores open, as also always liked those.

  71. 71
    Three-nineteen says:

    @NotMax: AMC has a TURN recap show they air later in the week. Thursday or Friday I think.

  72. 72
    rikyrah says:


    I watch Turn.

    The most important thing that happened is that Abraham committed adultery, because Anna thinks her husband is dead, thanks to Robert Rogers, but he’s not dead. Rogers was thisclose to getting the Talmadges.

    I love Turn. It snuck up on me, and I really like it.

    If you don’t mind watching podcasts, AfterBuzz TV does a good Aftershow on Youtube:

  73. 73
    Botsplainer says:

    Holy shit – I was busy looking at the 55 gallon barrel of stupid reduced into a concentration suitable to fill a two gallon bucket known as Free Republic, and ran across a post which wasn’t dripping with mouth foaming lunacy.

    We don’t have a gun problem in this country. We have a brain problem. And it is going to get worse.

    After reading just some of this killer’s autobiography, only up to age 12, I am starting to believe that we need to STOP MAINSTREAMING kids with asperger’s or highly functioning autism.

    And I have a son with it, same age as this guy. His childhood parallels my son’s except: I DIDNT FORCE HIM INTO SCHOOL. By 4th grade he was homeschooled all the way through. You will not see my son in the news for killing people.

    First, the similarities: the frustrations that caused tantrums in this guy were like the same ones that did it for mine: things not going the way he thought they would, even small things. Very hard for step parents to understand, but moms make it a little easier, maximizing what they do like and eliminating or minimizing what they don’t. The same joys in athletic pursuits when they CAN keep up, and in Pokemon and video games, where there are not subtle cues to try to understand, just straight forward logic. Kids on the spectrum excel at these and engender admiration from the other kids.

    The difference: when he started to come to the age of logic, he saw himself as FAILING. He looked around him with that Aspie logic, saw that he was unable to be popular like the other boys (probably far less of those than he realized even were), and tried his hardest to copy them. But nothing he tried worked. He was missing all social skills, and sadly, he was the only one who couldn’t see or sense this. My son was not in a world where he had to see himself measured against “peers” who are really not peers at all. Inside, the world is very different for neurotypicals.

    Yet his parents, out of both ignorance of and disinterest in autism, kept shoving their little square peg boy into the round holes of school, public and private.

    About a tenth of the male population at his age and younger is on the autism spectrum. Most are shoved into public schools and may well feel similar to him. The bullying and even just social ignoring they are receiving could lead these guys to logically click off as this one and the Sandy hook guy did. People with autism can click off their emotions easier than the rest of us, especially when young.

    These kids need to be schooled with others with social deficits. Not the criminal guys on their way to Juvie, just other kids with spectrum or learning disorders who have trouble socially. This way, they can have friends and more understanding between them. Maybe even gender separation after fifth grade as well as intense coaching on social cues, and learning what the non-spectrum people can “sense” and how to make up for that lack.

    I see hope if we as a nation can actually do concrete things to help our young boys with autism understand reality. This boy did not. My heart aches for the misunderstood, mocked boy he once was, just like my son. But when I saw that my son’s description of his third grade “friends” didn’t match up with the sheer avoidance of him I saw in the school, I took him OUT OF SCHOOL. And it was a religious private school, too. Children are children. No one helped this boy early on. No one realized this was going to be a powderkeg situation.

    NOW WE KNOW. Kids with autism need to be in separate schools or classes, where they can honestly be taught about their differences, encouraged to have play dates with like mindeds, and believed in. THOSE WHO WERE MURDERED IN SANTA BARBARA WOULD BE ALIVE TODAY if this killer had been treated appropriately. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t have friends or girlfriends. He could have learned this at 12 instead of turning against the whole world.

    I have a couple of quibbles (we do have a gun problem), but see her analysis of his thought process and her public policy desire as pretty rational.

    Anecdotally, I can say that having children with moderate to severe cognitive or emotional problems leads to a high plurality of marital breakdowns. I get to be the one to deal with the fallout in these, so I see a lot of litigation over how the troubled child is educated and treated.

    She’s not wrong, at least as to those higher in the Aspergers/autism spectrum. Those lower can be taken on a case by case basis.

  74. 74
    NotMax says:


    Thank you very much. Fingers crossed the channel is restored by then. With the local cable provider being as it is, not a guarantee by any means.

  75. 75
    Botsplainer says:


    iTunes will have it available for $2.99 or something like that.

  76. 76
    rikyrah says:

    Bob Small: First Memorial Day Created By Blacks Here In Hampton Park

    Memorial Day may signal the beginning of the summer for many. A time for cook-outs and being with friends and family, but few know that the first widely publicized event, then called “Decoration Day”, was held in Charleston to honor the Union dead and was put together by many of the newly freed Black men and women. On May 1, 1865, more than 10,000 black freedmen and women including 3,000 children gathered at the old Race Track now known as Hampton Park track to honor dead Union soldiers who were buried there. They cleaned up the area and placed flowers on the graves of the unknown soldiers. The event was highly publicized and covered by a number of newspapers nationally. To many of the white citizens it was looked upon more as an Emancipation for the newly freed black men and women. Preachers and white northern missionaries gave speeches and thanks to those who had lost their lives in the Civil War. A war that claimed over 600,000 lives on both sides.

    Charleston had been a holding place for captured Union Soldiers and at least 257 soldiers died while in the custody of Confederate soldiers. They were buried in hastily dug unmarked graves around the race track as Confederates fled the city from advancing Union troops. Northern missionaries who helped organize the events for Decoration Day participated in songs and speeches. The response by the Black population was tremendous. Freedmen came from all over the state to participate. Many feeling that the Union soldiers had given their lives for their freedom rather than to bring the seceded states back into the Union. They cleaned up the burial grounds and erected an enclosure with an arch that read, “Martyrs of the Race Course.” Many of those in attendance brought flowers to lie on the graves. For the newly freed people it was their way of honoring those who had given their lives for their beliefs and the black population’s newfound freedom.


  77. 77
    NotMax says:


    And thank you as well. That helps.

    One of the things I do appreciate is the series’ conviction in depicting how readily one could just melt away, not as a plot device so much as a reality.

  78. 78
    NotMax says:


    And thank you, too. But ol’ Scrooge NotMax not about to pay twice for something. Figured that as was denied it, something important must have happened. :)

    Will catch it eventually. Have to remember to get around to checking some of the freebie sites, such as

    Meanwhile, have the 2nd episode of Penny Dreadful on a flash drive from a friend to savor.

  79. 79
    shelley says:

    My favorite NewsMax headline so far:

    “Rove: Jeb ‘Deepest Thinker on Our Side'”

    Oh, the irony.

  80. 80
    Elizabelle says:


    That is an insightful post.

    Again, autism is a spectrum, and some kids could be more successfully mainstreamed.

    But she does not seem to be wrong about the kids who so lack the ability to pick up on social cues, and what a prison and horrifying ordeal an ordinary public school could be for them. Heck, school can be tough on non-autistic kids too. Literature like Lord of the Flies and Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye did not come out of nowhere.

    Another factor: parents denying the extent of their childrens’ disability. We saw this with Adam Lanza’s family — the father says they clung to the Asperger’s diagnosis, when something more dangerous was hiding beneath it.

  81. 81
    GregB says:

    I also think it is far past time to use the rightwing framing about fascism when it comes to describing the NRA.

    They brook no dissent and attack anyone who doesn’t toe the party line.

    Plus they have guns.

  82. 82
    Steeplejack says:


    TV maven to the rescue! Last Sunday’s episode of Turn will be rerun at 5:01 a.m. Thursday, 11:00 p.m. Saturday and 9:02 a.m. Sunday.

  83. 83
    scav says:

    @rikyrah: Too funny! I just finished the Yale Open Course lecture (19) where he discusses exactly that. I so enjoy David Blight’s lectures almost just as cozy storytimes. The grim horror-filled stories of our extreme youth, granted, but the man has a voice.

  84. 84
    Botsplainer says:


    We also seem to have a national problem (here is my bit of hippy punching today) with fetishizing individuality and eccentricity to the point of enabling social/emotional disorders. This cultural predisposition runs so deep as to now be a bedrock chunk of law, and it is extremely difficult to get court orders to get help to someone who desperately needs it but refuses to voluntarily accept assistance.

    The line between harmless eccentricity and hopelessly debilitating emotional/social disorder worthy of intervention shouldn’t be nearly so high, nor so fine. It would take money (gasp – budgets and increased taxes, leading to unhappy conservatives), and mandatory team treatment, including enforcement via lockdown and financial conservatorship (unhappy hippies and unhappy conservatives and libertarians).

    Right now, we only have two tools – mental inquest with a really high bar to leap, and guardianship/conservatorship, also with a high bar. Those bars need to come down a few rungs on each.

  85. 85
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @NotMax: Bingo.

  86. 86
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    Very thoughtful post. Thank you for finding it. Our son is autistic. I don’t know how schools deal with autism spectrum students these days. When my son was in school mainstreaming was an either/or situation. Either he was fully mainstreamed or he was in special ed. That was a piss poor way to deal with him. He would have done very well in some classes; History, English. Social Studies. He would have fallen on his face in Math and PE. At the time, he either spent the day in special ed, a warehouse for any child with a learning disability, or he would take a full day of regular classes.

    The real horror began in Middle School and became even worse in High School. He became the butt of jokes and the target of every cruelty that his fellow students could dream up. We finally, after bringing a case, forced the High School to have him tutored off campus. The worst part of the Middle School/High School experience was the administrators’ flat denial that “their kids” would do anything wrong to our son. It was all in his imagination, even the cuts and bruises. It took everything my wife and I had within us to keep our son from withdrawing into himself or becoming permanently enraged. It took every bit of restraint I had to not beat the living hell out of the umpteenth Principle, Vice-Principle, Assistant to the Assistant Vice-Principle who told me that we were over reacting and that our son was a liar because “You know how these kids are.”

    I don’t condone or excuse Elliot Rodger’s terrible acts. I sure as hell can understand how he may have become what he became.

  87. 87
    Elizabelle says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:

    I am so saddened by what you and your family endured. Thank you for telling us.

    There is sometimes a silver lining out of tragedies like Newtown and the Isla Vista murders, and if it’s a fresh look at better handling mental illness and autism issues, I hope that will happen.

    And we must get some sensible gun regulations, even if that will take years upon years.

  88. 88
    Elizabelle says:


    I think you are right about the nexus of mental health and social isolation and guardianship issues, which have again come up against the prevalence of guns.

    Gun nuts will scream “it’s mental illness”, but it’s so much more.

    Mental health and privacy issues come to the fore here too.

    Think of the Creigh Deeds family tragedy in Virginia. (State senator’s son stabbed his father and then shot himself to death.) HIPAA regs made it difficult for the parents to learn of their son’s condition once he turned 21. And these parents were tuned in, and tried to help their beloved son.

    They were resourceful, committed, knew the law and the system, and it still failed them.

    In the Santa Barbara case, Rodger’s own family tipped off the police that their child was troubled. He conducted himself politely when 7 cops showed at his door, and wrote later of his fear they’d search his apartment and his plans would be interrupted.

    They did not do so. They say they had no probable cause. Nor was there any follow-up.

    I have nowhere seen it reported that the cops checked a registry of gun owners, and am wondering why that is not on the list in dealing with potentially troubled souls, particularly those reported by their families or associates. Elliot Rodger had legally purchased and registered three semi-automatic handguns and a large number of cartridges. Would that not show up, had they checked the records?

    Rodger’s family had no idea he was into guns. They found his videos disturbing enough to call the cops.

    There’s a fetish (great word) for individual privacy and freedom, but not much follow-through on situations that have begun to escalate.

    And this is happening more and more frequently, doesn’t it seem?

  89. 89
    Anoniminous says:


    Police are not psychologists, psychiatrists, or social workers. They do not have the training required to make mental health and mental stability assessments. Once the Rogers family knew their son was having severe problems they should have taken immediate and active steps to get their son the help he needed.

  90. 90
    Anoniminous says:

    Wondering at the connection between the destruction of Public Mental Health services and the Right’s insistence on “we are all rational actors in a rational world.” For the simple reason, once it is admitted some people are not rational actors Conservatism shatters.

  91. 91
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:


    I agree with your first point. Your second point, that Rodger’s parents should have tipped off the cops, is problematic. His parents may have been too busy, too distracted by other things, so guilt-ridden that they couldn’t even think about their son’s condition, or even in plain denial as to how troubled their son was. “It’s not that bad,” or “He has problems but our son would never hurt anyone,” goes a long way. It’s only a matter of typing to state what someone should do when you aren’t in their situation. It can be damned difficult to do the right thing when you’re dealing with a troubled child – or even buying a used Subaru.

  92. 92
    trollhattan says:

    IIRC Andrew was like a cleaver–very narrow and concentrated–and Katrina was like a steamroller–huge and inescapable. Andrew killed with wind, Katrina killed with water.

    We don’t pay much attention to typhoons compared to hurricanes, but their potential for devastation is far greater because of their targets’ vulnerabilities. A big class 5 storm hitting Bangladesh head on could kill a million.

  93. 93
    trollhattan says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:
    Am not in a position to parse the information that’s come out so far on the kid and his family. I’ll only observe that had his dad not emigrated to the States, the kid would have grown up in a country where he would not have been able to buy three pistols and countless magazines and boxes of ammo.

  94. 94
    catclub says:


    once it is admitted some people are not rational actors Conservatism shatters

    so does almost all of econ 101 economics.

  95. 95
    trollhattan says:

    You’ll be shocked, shocked to learn the dismantling of California’s mental health support structure began at the direction of one Governor Ronald Reagan.

    “Least restrictive environment.”

  96. 96
    trollhattan says:

    Guns v. butter did not anticipate the role of margarine!

  97. 97
    Botsplainer says:


    Once the Rogers family knew their son was having severe problems they should have taken immediate and active steps to get their son the help he needed.

    Reality is that the current set of legal standards, public policy, police procedure and predisposition favor the position of the mentally ill individual. They did what was available.

    The put it into context, when my middle daughter was having serious emotional issues and driving her life completely off the rails 18 months ago, my wife was furious with me for not being able to force the girl into treatment and medication (I’ve done guardian ad listen appointments for mentally disabled people for 25 years, dealt with countless people with severe emotional issues, know therapists, and theoretically even have favors to call). I called everybody in authority on campus, they were checking on her, but despite me making several counseling appointments for her within the restrictions of her schedule of classes she wasn’t bothering to attend AND ultimately giving her a map from her dorm room to the counseling center door, she didn’t go. Once she washed out and came home to stay up until dawn and sleep until 4 PM, I couldn’t even make an appointment for her with mental health professionals in the area.

    So no, as a parent of an adult, you can’t just “do something” and parent – you have few legal tools.

    Her situation is somewhat better now. She’ll probably never work (my guess is that her issue is a moderate to severe bipolar disorder that she successfully masked through high intelligence and retreats into music), but she’s found someone who is kind and is content to live simply, puttering in gardens. The simplicity will help to moderate the lows, and the highs can manifest themselves in digging and planting.

  98. 98
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:


    …the kid would have grown up in a country where he would not have been able to buy three pistols and countless magazines and boxes of ammo.

    And if he’d been born a frog he wouldn’t have been able to pull the trigger.

    We will have nuclear fusion before we have even moderately sensible gun regulations. Remember when Congress was considering renewing the assault weapons ban? Seventy percent of those polled were in favor of it yet the politicians voted NRA all the way. I’m not saying that we should give up. I am saying that until gun control is, for the foreseeable future, not going to happen no matter how many are killed or wounded.

  99. 99
    trollhattan says:

    In our own little corner of shooters’ paradise, I am feebly hopeful that the California Leg might take up more aggressive screening of gun buyers next session. This event should stiffen a spine or two, and if nothing else it’s an opportunity to watch Tim Donnelly’s head actually explode.

  100. 100
    cckids says:


    But the other day I found a section of Netflix I didn’t know existed, which is like every documentary ever produced (and I am a huge documentary fan) seems to be on there.

    THIS is why I subscribe to Netflix DVD service, not just streaming. While I was homeschooling my two younger ones, the DVDs we could get added so much to most any class we had. Just incredible & fun.

  101. 101
    cckids says:

    @Botsplainer: That is a powerful, hard to read, true in many ways post. I’ll just add; we are friends with 2 families who have kids with Aspergers, (one boy, one girl), and they benefited GREATLY from a class they took that, essentially, taught them how to read social cues.

    It is run by a special ed teacher, and there is a fairly minimal cost (around $50 per month), the kids, ages 12-17ish) get together 2 times a week. Lots of peer therapy. I don’t know all the inside details, but it involves role playing, pictures of expressions, descriptions that seem odd to us: “When you talk about (whatever), and the person’s face looks like this (show frown), that means they are confused or even angry.” Both families swear by it, and you would not know their kids have Aspergers.

  102. 102
    Mnemosyne says:


    I wonder if they offer classes like that for adults, too. There’s a poster in one of the other threads (I don’t want to call him out by name and possibly embarrass him) who’s an adult on the autism spectrum that could probably use some assistance along those lines.

    A lot of people don’t seem to realize that the inability of someone on the autism spectrum to read social cues or facial expressions is an impairment, not just a stubborn refusal on their part. I would say it was like accusing a deaf person of secretly being able to hear, but apparently there are people who do that.

  103. 103
    JoyfulA says:

    @Tommy: I’m publishing my mother’s genealogy book, and, with her high school education in the 1930s, she had full footnotes.

    I think it’s a matter of how careful a person is with facts.

  104. 104
    JoyfulA says:

    @NotMax: Ha! I was about to tell you that Matamoros, Pennsylvania, is an unincorporated village with maybe 100 people, and then I googled and found there’s an actual town by that name 150 or so miles away.

    Pennsylvania has about a million placenames, and it must have had a lot of vets returning from Mexico, too.

  105. 105
    Pogonip says:

    @cckids: Can you please tell me where this class is? My son’s autistic and he’d find it helpful.

  106. 106
    Mnemosyne (iPad Mini) says:


    If you have a research/teaching hospital nearby, they probably have them. I know they have them at UCLA Medical Center because I applied for an administrative job with the department that did the classes.

  107. 107
    Pogonip says:

    @Mnemosyne (iPad Mini): Thank you! I’ll be on the phone tomorrow!

  108. 108
    Mnemosyne says:


    Here’s what they call it at UCLA, if that helps you track it down locally.

  109. 109
    ulee says:

    Fortunate Son. My brother and his band played this song at an outdoor gig in the eighties. My brother told me a Vietnam vet came up to him afterwards, in tears, and thanked him for playing the song.

  110. 110
    ulee says:

    Whoops. Wrong thread, but worth telling anywhere.

  111. 111
    Pluky says:

    @Keith G: Elaine Chao, former Sec of Labor, and the current Mrs. Mitch McConnell. She kept notes on 3×5 cards of all her Harvard B-school classmates.

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