As the Adjunctiverse Turns

cheeky, no respect for academia

A dignity salon

Minding the Workplace

Group shot from December 2016 HumanDHS workshop in NYC

My association with Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies (HumanDHS), a global network of scholars, practitioners, students, artists, and activists committed to advancing human dignity and ending humiliating practices, has been a gratifying source of renewal, fellowship, and friendship. Until recently, however, my only opportunity to engage in face-to-face interactions with members of this remarkable community has been through HumanDHS’s annual December workshop in New York City. This wonderful event has always left me wanting for more.

Now, however, a smaller group of HumanDHS community members has started meeting on a regular basis in New York for open-ended conversations about ideas and projects on broad themes of shared interest.  I hopped on a Boston-to-NYC train to participate in the latest get-together on Saturday, and I’m very glad that I did. The planned three-hour gathering, with a dozen or so people meeting in…

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Maybe social media is good for us after all

Bryan Alexander

During last year’s American election many people became convinced that using social media warped users’ understanding.  Getting news from Twitter or Facebook helped slide us into comfortable bubbles, or heightened hateful rhetoric, or opened us wide to fake news, or maybe a mixture of all of these.

But perhaps the conventional wisdom is wrong.  Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab just released a new study looking at news consumers’ habits, and found the opposite: that the more social media one consumes, the greater the number and diversity of news sources one follows.  “[S]ocial media use is consistently associated with more, and more diverse, news diets“.

How did Richard Fletcher and Rasmus Kleis come to this unpopular conclusion?  They analyzed data from a Reuters/Oxford YouGov survey of users from several nations (Britain, the United States, Germany) looking for connections between users’ descriptions of their sources and social media usage.  “Social media” here…

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Trump(ets) of Doom: On Bringing der Fuehrer Back Home

Smoke and Mirrors

As a 60s teen who read Camus and Sartre and fancied himself an existentialist, I used to think that all serious moral-ethical-political challenges were in the past and all we could do now was ask ourselves what we would have done had we been German in the 30s or whether we would have gone to fight like Orwell in the Spanish Civil War.

Somehow growing long hair, dropping acid and protesting the Vietnam war, or getting kicked out of high-school for refusing to stand for the Lord’s Prayer (among other things), just didn’t quite reach the level of the political and ethical challenges to personal integrity that confronted so many in the 30s.

It never occurred to me then that hindsight (especially the hindsight embodied in a historical tendency to valorize “the left” in the literary world that I entered almost every time I opened a book) might have been creating…

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Several dark stories and trends for higher education this week

The general rule of thumb in globalization probably applies here as well: whatever group is at the bottom (most disposable) will take the worst hit.

Bryan Alexander

Over the past week I enjoyed numerous conversations with faculty and staff from more than one hundred colleges, universities, museums, and libraries, a good number from countries other than the US.  I also: facilitated several discussions, both online and in person; led a half-day workshop on automation and creativity; chatted with a Virtually Connecting group; gave three presentations, including one keynote.

Sinners_in_the_Hands_of_an_Angry_God_by_Jonathan_Edwards_1741 Image from my first slide. To set the mood.

By the end, I was suffused with a sense of… mingled outrage, frustration, and doom.  Despite my enthusiasm for educational possibilities and delight at learning from colleagues and friends, I nevertheless felt like a wrathful fire and brimstone preacher, one part Jonathan Edwards and one part Solomon Kane.

I didn’t feel much like Cassandra, since people were sometimes actually listening to me, and even followed up with me after each event, but I did have the sense of saying things…

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Reading _Lower Ed_: Credentials, Jobs, and the New Economy

ICYMI catch up with reading and discussing Tressie McMillan Cottom’s #LowcrEd with Bryan Alexander’s FTTE Book Club. Haven’t adjuncted at a for-profit (most likely online)? You still can’t miss sometimes disturbing parallels (and contrasts) with community colleges.

Bryan Alexander

We continue our reading of Tressie McMillan Cottom‘s Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy (publisher; Amazon). Here we’ll discuss Chapter 6, “Credentials, Jobs, and the New Economy.”

I’ll begin with a short summary, followed by questions.  As a quick reminder, you can find all posts in this reading right here.

Chapter 6, “Credentials, Jobs, and the New Economy.”

Lower Ed being heldHere Cottom continues to explore reasons why people would enroll in for-profit colleges, focusing on the context of a new labor market.

The author returns to her earlier theme: that for-profits target poor people, shown, for example, by the connection between government assistance programs and for-profits (157-8).  Poverty’s constraints on decision-making and choices further nudge people into lower ed (163).  The labor market’s demand that individuals, rather than companies, provide education further encourages such enrollment: “the expectation now is that workers will…

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Coming attraction: “Workplace Bullying and Mobbing in the United States”

Minding the Workplace

Scheduled for publication in December 2017 is Workplace Bullying and Mobbing in the United States (Praeger/ABC-CLIO), a two-volume, multidisciplinary book project, edited by Dr. Maureen Duffy and me, and featuring chapters authored by some twenty contributors.

Here are some highlights from the publishers’ book webpage (still in progress):

Workplace Bullying and Mobbing in the United States provides a comprehensive overview of the nature and scope of the problem of workplace bullying and mobbing. By tapping the knowledge of a breadth of subject experts and interpreting contemporary survey data, this resource examines the impact of bullying and mobbing on targets; identifies what constitutes effective prevention and intervention; surveys the legal landscape for addressing the problem, from both American and (for multinational employers) transnational perspectives; and provides an analysis of key employment sectors with practical recommendations for prevention and amelioration of these behaviors.

The contributors to this outstanding work include researchers, practitioners…

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More on White Men of Academia: Student and Self Evaluation Follies

‎A thorough and thoughtful post by @plthomasEdD on instructor evaluations

radical eyes for equity

“Higher education too can make a fetish out of ‘objectivity’ and ‘rationality,'” observes John Warner, confronting specifically The Pitfalls of “Objectivity” in teaching composition.

Warner’s argument is a subset, however, of the larger problem with the white men of academia, as I have examined recently: Concepts and terms such as “objectivity,” “scientific,” “valid,” “reliable,” and “rationality” prove to be extremely powerful in academia and scholarship, yet the great irony of that power is that these concepts and terms are veneer for maintaining white male power—inequity grounded in the racism and sexism that academics are prone to refute in their rhetoric while maintaining in their practices.

“Objectivity,” for example, frames a white male subjectivity as the norm (thus “objective”), rendering racialized (non-white) and genderized (non-male) subjectivity as the “other,” as lacking credibility.

Explore the history of what research paradigms count, and you confront the bias in favor of quantitative (experimental…

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Which majors are growing and which are shrinking: new data

Whither humanities in higher ed? (and, of course, work and professional implications for the adjuncts who teach them in entry level and lower division gen ed courses…)

Bryan Alexander

What are students getting undergraduate degrees in?

The latest data is out from Humanities Indicators, and many familiar trends continue therein.

The short version: engineering, the health and medical sciences, and the natural sciences are growing.  Humanities, education, and business are declining.

Let’s dive in:
degrees by major to 2015

The humanities continue their post-financial-collapse slide: “The 212,512 humanities degrees conferred in 2015 was 5% below the previous year and 9.5% below the recent high-water mark of 234,737 degrees in 2012…”  Put another way,

After 10 consecutive years of declines, the humanities’ share of all new bachelor’s degrees fell below 12% in 2015 for the first time since a complete accounting of humanities degree completions became possible in 1987…

Business is declining, but still remains the most popular major by far.

Health care continues to grow, although few discuss its full range (think allied health, med tech, hospital administration, etc.) and impact in higher…

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Technology trends for mid-2017: Mary Meeker’s latest

part of the future of higher ed and academic labor … whether you like it or not

Bryan Alexander

Mary Meeker has released her latest technology trends presentation.  As usual, it’s important and rich stuff.

I’ll pull out some highlights for the future of education and technology.

At a meta level, it’s fascinating to see how investors think about technology and society.  There’s an important political stratum that emerges.

The mobile revolution continues.  Americans spend more time on smartphones than with laptops and desktops, and mobile ad spending has reached parity with desktop.  Mobile even impacts enterprise software, as Meeker’s team sees enterprise users demanding interfaces and service as easy as those from mobile apps.  But smartphone growth is slowing down even further, and the number of phones shipped could plateau soon.

The move away from desktops and laptops continues to drive new interface development.  One piece of the mobile scene is rising interest in users interacting via pictures rather than text (search, image recognition, AR)…

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A devil’s dictionary of education keywords

contributions invited…

Bryan Alexander

Last year I wrote “A Devil’s Dictionary of Educational Technology”.  Inspired commentators joined in and helped build an expanded version.

Now I’d like to take a shot at applying Bierce’s satirical approach to educational terminology beyond technology.  May it entertain, and all be forgiven.

devil photo by elycefelizAdjunct, n.  1. Literally, the typical faculty member in American academia.  Etymologically, a small side dish supplemental to the main course.  2. The crowning delight awaiting a PhD in the 21st century.  3. Uber for higher education!  4. American English for the British expression “on the dole”.  (See Tuition) 

Athletics, n. pl.   A strategy for attempting to gain, and succeeding in losing: imagined glories, needed dollars, alumni adoration, and needful students – in that order of priority and sequence. (See Tuition)

Class, n.  The blinking horde that awaits us when we awaken.   (See Tuition) 

Communications, n.  An intellectual field with…

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