As the Adjunctiverse Turns

cheeky, no respect for academia

Three stories about where education is going

Bryan Alexander

Three different education stories have stuck in my mind this weekend.  They have nothing to do with each other directly – two are very different publications, and one is from me – yet combined they point to some ways higher education is developing.   Themes include class, finance, gender, and race.

1. Two young women strive to complete undergraduate degrees, in the face of poverty, homelessness, and exhaustion, in this California Sunday account.  It’s a deep dive into two lives, illustrating with examples a major segment of American higher education.  Note the role of the California State University system in teaching and supporting poor learners.

It’s classic Sara Goldrick-Rab (here’s our Forum discussion with her) material, too:

At Cal State Long Beach, Kersheral’s tuition and fees ran close to $6,500 a year, but they were covered. In fact, more than half of California college students don’t need…

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Shelley Lane’s broad-ranging look at incivility

Minding the Workplace

I’m delighted that Dr. Shelley Lane’s (U. Texas-Dallas) Understanding Everyday Incivility: Why Are They So Rude? (Rowan & Littlefield, 2017) has now been published. I was honored to write the Foreword, and I’d like to draw on it for this post.

Everyday Incivility is an informed, wide-ranging, and provocative examination of a topic that carries everyday significance. As Dr. Lane points out in the first chapter, this is not a volume about manners and etiquette. Rather, here we find civility and incivility observed and interpreted through the lens of a communications scholar and teacher who happens to be a thoughtful human being. The volume examines civility and incivility in multiple settings, including workplace tensions (naturally!), family disputes, road rage, online behavior, relationship issues, school dynamics, politics, community relations, and more — all framed by a communications perspective.

The book is neither a breezy self-help manual nor a heavy academic tome…

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Station identification: Bryan Alexander

Queen sacrifice and peak higher ed too in case that slipped your mind. An indispensable source for staying on top of changes heading our way.

Bryan Alexander

Time for a little station identification.

My name is Bryan Alexander, and I’m a futurist specializing in education.

To that end I write books and articles, publish a monthly trends analysis report, conduct a weekly open videoconference discussion, host an online book club, and write this very blog.  People support me on Patreon.

I also consult with colleges, universities, libraries, nonprofits, associations, and governments worldwide.

Bryan Alexander dot org(inspired by well-known monster Warren Ellis; photo by the European Space Agency)

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Feedspot tags MTW a top workplace and bullying blog

Minding the Workplace

Feedspot, a popular online content reader, has named Minding the Workplace a “Top 75 Workplace Blog” and a “Top 20 Bullying Blog.” MTW was listed 39th among the top 75 workplace blogs and websites and 9th among the top 20 bullying blogs and websites.

I’m very grateful to be included in both of these listings. This is my ninth year of writing this blog, and it remains one of the most rewarding parts of my work. Over the years I’ve received very positive feedback on many articles. I’m especially aware that MTW has helped many  targets of workplace bullying, mobbing, and abuse to understand their experiences and, when possible, develop strategies for responding.

I didn’t know what to expect when I began this blog, but the experience has been very meaningful. Of course, it all starts and ends with you, my readers, and I thank you…

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Welcome to College!: How High School Fails Students

why our interests and education activism should included all education and not be limited to higher education and adjunct labor

radical eyes for equity

From 1984 until 2002, I worked as a high school English teacher in rural upstate South Carolina, a relatively impoverished small town where I was born and also attended schools. For many of those years, I also coached (girls volleyball, boys golf, girls and boys soccer) and taught journalism along with sponsoring the school’s newspaper and literary magazine.

Teaching often meant long days from about 7:30 in the morning until 10:30 or 11 at night when I had away soccer matches and had to wait outside the school for every player to be picked up by their parents.

Over my career as a high school English teacher, I kept a record of my work assigning and responding to writing by my students; I averaged reading and responding to about 4000 formal essays (multiple-draft, extended writing) and 6000 journals (one-draft, shorter pieces) per year. Regardless of their level or year in…

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Peak higher education, 4 years later

Bryan Alexander

Four years ago  yes, way back in 2013 – I first wrote about the peak higher education concept.  Let’s see how it holds up.

peakTo refresh your memory: this idea began as a blog post where I laid out the possibility that enrollment in American higher ed might trend downwards in the wake of the already damaging 2008 financial crisis, with enormous implications for the supermajority of campuses.  This represented a major change after decades of growth.  I focused on student populations (starting to decline), admissions and recruitment challenges, financial pressures on both families and institutions,  adjunctification, and the general sense of academia in crisis.

Comments followed swiftly, with more than a dozen people weighing in on.  Some wondered about the interaction between a growing jobs market and higher ed enrollment, and questioned the accuracy of data. Several saw the digital world as offering a new world of learning…

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The future of libraries lies in younger, nonwhite people without college degrees

Could libraries become higher ed alternatives or beacons of heutagogy in sea of less affordable education options? Like email, their imminent demise is heralded regularly but never quite arrives. For those without internet or school/academic connection, the library is the connection of last resort, especially in rural areas with fewer if any hot spots.

Bryan Alexander

How will libraries change?  Who will use and support them?

A new update from Pew Research suggests that while most Americans value libraries, certain populations are more likely to support them than others, especially when it comes to learning from them.

First, there are clear generational differences in who values libraries.  Generally, the younger the American, the more positive they are; the older, the less.

generational attitudes towards libraries

A large majority of Millennials (87%) say the library helps them find information that is trustworthy and reliable, compared with 74% of Baby Boomers (ages 52 to 70) who say the same. More than eight-in-ten Millennials (85%) credit libraries with helping them learn new things, compared with 72% of Boomers. And just under two-thirds (63%) of Millennials say the library helps them get information that assists with decisions they have to make, compared with 55% of Boomers.

Presumably a key part of Millennial library positivity…

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Meanwhile, New America publishes an important education report

Bryan Alexander

While the New America organization is in the news for its troubling Google relationship, a different branch of the think tank just published an important study about American higher education.  Everyone in education should read it.

Here I’ll draw out the parts that struck me as most interesting.

New American Foundation logo(We have a fine Future Trends Forum discussion about it today, with the authors.  It should be up on YouTube next week.)

The first part of “Varying Degrees” (Manuela Ekowo, Rachel Fishman) explores what Americans think about higher education.  As such it goes well with the recent Pew survey on the same topic.

Overall, Americans value higher education, especially as the key to financial success.  “Three-quarters of Americans believe it is easier to be successful with a college degree than without.”

New American succeed in college chart

Most of us think it’s harder now to make our parents’ income level than it was back then.  But we…

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Activity: Choose the Best Source of the Top Google Results

An exercise in learning about and for teaching digital literacy because (irony alert) just hanging out on Facebook won’t do it. If you are not already following this blog, add it to your list.

Among other things, Michael Caulfield run the Digital Polarization Initiative, an cross-institutional initiative to improve civic discourse by developing web literacy skills in college undergraduates. Have a class that wants to join? Contact michael.caulfield at


Here’s a simple activity you can try in your class: Have students execute a Google search that is a question. Then have the students look at the top five results, and using lateral reading pick the source that is most likely to be authoritative and the source they think is least authoritative. Have them talk through their reasoning.

For example, take this set of results to “Can magnets cure cancer?”:


We might note the first page comes from a fringe site that sells “therapeutic” magnets, and is quoting from an out-of-print magazine from the 1980s called “Magnets in Your Future” (that’s the name of the magazine, not the article). A similar critique could be made of the MagnetiCare product site.

On the other hand the two results on the bottom make a good pair. The scientific paper is cited by 25 papers, and shows in some lab conditions magnetic therapy…

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Two new stories about the ongoing American higher ed crisis

While you’re in the neighborhood, check out the Bryan’s other “queen sacrifice” and “future of education” posts

Bryan Alexander

The financial crisis in American higher ed: I’ve been tracking this for more than a decade, and the thing keeps shambling on, without an end in sight.  I’ve been blogging, speaking, and writing about the causes and mechanisms, most of which are easy to grasp.  Awareness that academia is actually in crisis seems to be growing, at least.  But we’re still struggling mightily, and the implications reach throughout colleges and universities.

Let me update you on this crisis* through two stories.  Both are focused on the humanities.  Each exists on a different scale.

First, the larger story concerns the ongoing nightmare of humanities jobs.  Simply put, a long-term trend is continuing: research universities producing even more PhDs, while the number of available academic positions falls.  This is according to new American Academy of Arts and Sciences research.

It’s a question of supply and demand, really.  Here’s the demand side:

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