“Neoliberal policy makers who have advocated for increased privatization and market-based educational reforms have produced a system that has expanded opportunity for all.” – from Academically Adrift (The Read . . . #27)

The (excerpted) conclusions: both positive and negative outcomes result from applying a market framework/economics discourse to higher education.

The positives may be surprising, but some of the negative effects on student/faculty behaviors should not be – regardless of the reader’s political persuasion.

Who would grant that an economics (or populist) discourse can affect students/faculty?


“[R]ecent surveys of students and faculty have found that faculty are more likely than students to report that being well off financially is an essential or a very important goal to them.” – from Academically Adrift (The Read . . . #25)

In general at four-year institutions, faculty are not rewarded (very much) for focusing on undergraduate instruction but on research. However, to counter this orientation as well as the quoted survey result in the title of this post, the authors suggest that faculty embrace research to fulfill a “quasi-religious commitment” (see below).

This effectively shifts blame for the commercialization of higher education away from any faculty influenced by financial incentives and onto administration/industry/govt. (which lack a “moral imperative”).

The dichotomy is a bit precious: workers/laborers must often search for (and find) spiritual meaning in what they do. The problem is not that some faculty hear a “calling” but that this frame narrative – similar to the transhistorical/educator-centered discourse that informs Realist’s (et al.’s) writing – works to etherealize the faculty (and the “true” university), their financial concerns and, by extension, the financial concerns of their students. Etherealization does not radically confront commercialization: instead, it mostly maintains the status quo.

(A second consideration: one could suppose that the commercialization of research at four-year institutions is analogous to certain aspects of CCC’s Reinvention and ask if undergraduate instruction suffers of benefits from the application of a market framework/economics discourse. As it turns out, according to the authors, the answer is rather mixed.)

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The Title and Note(s) to “The Read . . . #24.5” stand. (The Read . . . #24.75, Interlude #7)

A recent string of comments provides an excellent opportunity to review several working definitions:

Propaganda – Deliberately providing misleading, distorted information. Propaganda can be countered (e.g., with fact-checking). Too often, charges of propaganda are made against one who simply holds an opposing point of view. (The word “propaganda” is not used on the Lounge.)

Pop-Jingo! – 12Keystrokes’ tag for certain aspects of Realist’s (et al.’s) writing; introduced in an effort to create more informative titles for individual posts.

Populism – An interpretive framework; a discourse (which is a set of assumptions that structure a discussion about a topic while the assumptions themselves go unexamined). Populism constructs identity though negation – in opposition to an “Other” – by taking aim at (allegedly) corrupt politicians/government/elite exploitative business interests (“Them”) and generally coming down to scapegoating. In all things, the “Other” is bad/evil.

Jingoism – An overzealous patriotic devotion, jingoistic writing beats the drums during wartime.

Red Herring – Actually, this definition mostly focuses on “invective,” which is strongly abusive language (e.g., cursing) found in many situations: an adolescent’s response to a curfew, a customer upset with a sales clerk, two drivers involved in a fender-bender. Each situation is not the same simply because invectives are present, and to say that they are is to commit a red herring (if not a category mistake). Pop-jingo invectives tilt toward apocalypse. Because everything is at stake – a way of life, souls – the discourse goes beyond mere name-calling to demonizing “Them”: stopping “Them” justifies suspending public debate (and misc. democratic principles). Denying this discursive/structural harm characterizes pop-jingoists.

Formulaic Speech/In-crowd Affirmation – No reasoned debate actually occurs because formulaic speech simply repeats what has already been said about a topic. It is about looking good to an in-crowd and cementing in-crowd credentials; ethos and belonging matter over evidence. It allows an individual to be sincere – even impassioned – while relying on groupthink and/or “stock language” (e.g., slogans, maxims). Argument closes down. The pop-jingoist can only do “good”; dissenting opinions are “bad.” “We” are “Us.” (Note: The need to belong is powerful. It can be a matter of consent as well as coercion/survival.)


Realist (et al.) is doing something: on that, everyone agrees. But without introducing some logic – some textual evidence, theory, or research – to examine exactly what Realist (et al.) is up to, defenders and critics alike will only engage in pop-jingo (invective) or (only) name-calling.

The title and note(s) to “The Read . . . #24.5” stand.

It always comes down to one’s “caricature”: conceding to the use of invective-filled speech acts but denying any harm is characteristic of populists-jingoists/harassers. (The Read . . . #24.5)


12Keystrokes teaches that the aim of argument is communication, not confrontation. (In contrast, quarreling tends to be about “winning” – whatever that might mean to the quarrelers.)

It is not productive to argue over personal preferences (like “best” ice cream flavors or candies).

As they progress in their academic and professional careers and engage with an ever-widening public sphere, students will need to know how to write in (more) formal situations.

It’s all quite standard, really.

12Keystrokes’ position (thus far) remains as follows:

  • We (re)present ourselves textually;
  • Realist (et al.) engages in black-or-white thinking and populist/jingoist/“educator-centered” discourses that rely on an in-crowd’s over-identification with academic degrees/critical thinking (and a curious construction of students’ SES);
  • Realist (et al.) responds to opposing viewpoints with harassment, snipey comments, fallacious reasoning, double-standards (i.e., a flagrant unwillingness to honor the presuppositions that structure reasoned debate) – all of which characterizes populism/jingoism;
  • This list is not complete.

Clearly, Sketches works through the above bullet statements.

Your comment is deceitful. Your assertion that 12Keystrokes is engaged in unwarranted criticism is profoundy unfortunate.  Realist claims anonymity enables a focus on the message, not the messenger.  You focus on anonymity (or “caricature”) to filter the message (and to deflect 12Keystrokes’ focus on the rhetoric of the message).  “Obviously” is an intensifier that asserts epistemic certainty and reinforces assumptions (silences) within a particular community or situation (contexts).  To take something as “given” requires no evidence; thus, your comment is wholly personal (arguing over preferences).  You write Realist is a caricature, a faculty member, a “he” or “she” and – with this layering of selves and unclear pronoun antecedents in place – go on to claim that Realist can be “illogical” or (harmlessly) “annoying” but a “frequent stimulator of productive conversation.”  That last rhetorical ploy simultaneously seeks to establish Realist’s character while directing the reader to place any faults on a caricature (that is, a purely abstract literary device that has somehow animated itself), surely prompting at least one colloquial retort of “How stupid do you think I am?”

An exchange between PhiloDave and 12Keystrokes that took place roughly halfway through Sketches’ four-month run (there were no posts in May) already addresses your other complaints. (Conspicuously, pedantry goes unmentioned, though your concern for that occurs elsewhere.)**

Finally, 12Keystrokes urges no rush to judge the Deen controversy that Realist dangles and pairs so emptily with unresolved Blackhawks comments; instead, 12Keystrokes invites you to consider 1) the CLA performance task, 2) Realist’s puzzlement that inappropriate language is tolerated in one context and not another,  and 3) the fact that Fish’s explanation regarding speech and context was already provided.

This suggests the following:

  • Realist does not read/write carefully enough (or with enough understanding);
  • Realist (instructor at HWC) rushes to distance herself/himself from Deen (celebrity chef);
  • Realist mistakes the simple decision to reject/mute Deen/MTV.com for complex reasoning (which would require some analysis of the limit of “free speech”);
  • Transfer has not occurred.

Exactly what does this “caricature” wish to satirize?

Page’s “Paula Deen’s Menu: Foot in Mouth” jibes with Fish, and both men are correct: thanks to Deen and Realist, there are healthy conversations to be had that have little to do with bicycles. Have those conversations, Kamran.

Or don’t.

*12Keystrokes is not engaged in mere name calling. Quite unexpectedly, this reply made for an excellent summary of Sketches thus far, so the decision was made to contribute it as a separate post.

**Your concerns over pedantry suggest that you have been criticized for it.

Academically Adrift analyzes the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) – a direct (albeit general/“generic”) assessment of critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing – as well as other assessment tools to report that four-year college students are not learning very much, especially during their first two years. Academic degrees may not always be that academic. (The Read . . . #24)


See “The Read . . . #23” for a video re: the book’s findings. Find excerpts from the video/book in “The Read . . . #25.” Click on the following links for reviews/criticism of Academically Adrift.


One can certainly locate Academically Adrift within a long line of similar studies that bemoan the loss of academic rigor in American education, but one cannot easily dismiss the study as yet another rightwing piece in a (policy) narrative that seeks to commodify education: Academically Adrift slants to the political Left. Besides, some readers remember the release of A Nation at Risk (1982) – and the “culture wars” that gave us Closing of the American Mind by A. Bloom and The Western Canon by H. Bloom – so they know at a glance that Academically Adrift does not fit that narrative.

Many educators now entertain the notion that the loss of academic rigor in American education has been ongoing for at least a few decades: arguably, that decline is manifest in Realist’s writing. Consider the sample CLA performance task/snapshots below and the links in https://haroldlounge.com/2013/06/01/pop-jingo-framing-the-stakeholders-goals-and-problems-related-to-reinvention-so-broadly-allows-realist-to-recast-reinvention-as-a-colonization-effort-a-corporate-takeover-and-even-a-civil-war/.

Correction re: “The Read . . . #23”: The video is titled “Learning During Unsettled Times” and presents a talk by one of the authors of Academically Adrift.
cla export one jpeg
CLA export two jpeg

Once again, a post by Realist relies on rhetorical questions to express “concern” for “our students” and their (academic) degrees, but then the post itself demonstrates no identifiable discipline-specific expertise and no critical thinking. Who is served (by that)?* (The Read . . . #23)

A rhetorical question is one that is not answered because the individual posing the question either believes the answer to be self-evident or seeks to provoke an emotional response. No answer is desired. At times, an author can use rhetorical questions to facilitate further discussion. (“Hypophora” is when a question is asked and then answered.)

Many students and a few HWC/CCC faculty and staff answered SFTB’s question. However, the students’ responses did not lead to any kind of sustained discussion facilitated by SFTB, the students’ instructor (who may not have been SFTB), or Lounge authors ( https://haroldlounge.com/2013/04/25/the-read-from-this-side-of-suite-711-20/).  This suggests that the question was rhetorical.

SFTB’s question invokes economic/social class issues but then does not go on to engage those issues. 12Keystrokes has chosen to consider the invocation of those issues by unpacking SFTB’s question, beginning with the concept academic/academic degree. (In later posts, “who is served?” will be considered.)

Academically Adrift/the video above (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGjzmP2rpGo) examines a broad range of 24 diverse four-year institutions but is still applicable to the discussion at hand. It’s also relevant to a discussion about the utility of semester-by-semester program maps.

*Occasional minor errors owing to the casualness of the Lounge or the bustle of work and home do not concern 12Keystrokes. However, 12Keystrokes believes that if one repeatedly invokes the value of academic skill sets, one should demonstrate those skill sets.

It’s perfectly fine for an opinion community to champion writing that stirs the pot, makes “political hay” or performs for an in-crowd, but that community should acknowledge that there isn’t anything particularly academic about the writing. To this plain end, the Sketches have thus far identified two straw men – 1) free speech, and 2) the caveat re: correlation and causation in social science research.

There is a harm caused by Realist’s (et al.’s) writing.