Thank you to my fellow PhD student, Rostati Rostati, for her critical eye, discussions and support!

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Haas, E. & Fischman, G. (2010). Nostalgia, entrepreneurship, and redemption: Understanding prototypes in higher education. American Educational     
          Research Journal 47(3): 532-562.

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Rationale:  As opinion texts generally reproduce accepted representations of social realities and ideologies, editorials provide a deeper reflection on matters of public concern and are an effective medium for understanding prototypes in higher education. Op-eds are a significant source of information that abound in ideas and trends
in higher-ed public policy debates.

Theoretical Framework: Provide insight by identifying and describing prototypes related to institutions of higher education for the purpose of overcoming limitations in comprehension, thus improving its relevance regarding public support for specific higher education policies presented in editorials and opinion articles. Aim to bridge prototype analysis, as understood in cognitive linguistics and critical discourse analysis in a direct empirical application. Using this theoretical lens, authors sought how the op-ed authors in the 3 selected newspapers conceived:
what a university or college is and should be like—what is and should be taught;
how students are and should be admitted and graduated;
how institutions of higher education are and should be funded;
and the actual and desired purpose of higher education

Research Design: Social constructionist approach utilizing Rosch’s and Lakoff’s notions of prototypes (conceptual categories) and Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis as the main tools for understanding the prototypes for the conceptual category institutions of higher education.

Data Collection: Data for this study was derived from higher education editorials and opinion articles (1,053 pieces) published from 1980-2005 in three influential U.S. newspapers - New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post. The op-eds were gathered predominantly through a keyword search of the Lexis-Nexis database. False positives were removed.

Method*: Consistent with grounded theory, open coding/recoding objective-descriptive patterns and close text analysis of written documents (editorial and opinion articles) were employed to draw meaningful conclusions related to understanding social prototypes in higher education. Recursive method of constant comparison was used looking for correlational clusters with the goal of bridging prototype analysis directly to practical application.  Looked for correlational clusters as opposed to counting approach with values all characteristics equally (as in classic category theory).
*NViro8 qualitative software was utilized for multilevel coding.

Analysis according to Haas  and Fischman ( 2010, p. 539-540):

1) Conducted coding on objective–descriptive patterns of all 3,894 education op-eds, which provided some descriptive context to the news population writing the op-eds and to the sociopolitical events that triggered the pieces.

2) Conducted a series of iterative close text analyses of a randomly selected subset (n5249, 23.6%) of the op-eds coded as higher education (n5 1,053). We used an open-coding constant comparative methodology consistent with grounded theory (Glaser, 1978; Glaser & Strauss, 1967) to describe discourse patterns (Fairclough, 1995a) that formed the basis for the identification of the prototypes for the concept higher education

3) Read articles numerous times, openly coding and recoding

4) Collected the codes into groups until categories were internally homogeneous and heterogeneous across groups - two basic types: first, the larger sociopolitical context as discussed in the op-ed and, second, the elements of the op-ed argument.

5) Reviewed and recoded, as necessary, the entire selected sample of op-eds for these categories. At this level, our approach was similar to that of other textual analyses, including discourse and critical discourse analyses. One or more of the four policy tensions were present in 88.4% of the higher education op-eds (n 5 220 of 249). The remaining op-eds (11.6%, n 5 29) concerned sports, foreign institutions of higher education, and personal anecdotes about higher education. These tensions—especially, the tension between access and quality—are consistent with other analyses of higher education policy debates (Fischman, Igo, & Rhoten, in press).

From this analysis, the following patterns emerged concerning the higher education discourse in these op-eds.

News Filters
(Sociopolitical Triggers, Topic Types, Author Characteristics, Arena)
Policy Tensions
(Access–Quality, Private interest–Public interest)
Higher Education Op-Ed Publication and Content

6) Last round of analysis: Examined the op-eds’ presentation of how the institutions were structured to manage the quality–access, public–private tensions as a whole: the underlying beliefs about higher education, the larger societal values, and the institutional means to achieve the proposed goals. Continuing the recursive method of constant comparison, we looked for a related set of characteristics that formed a gestalt institutional structure, or prototype.

Reliability (confidence of measuring tool) & Validity (trustworthiness of what is being measured): The question of reliability in critical discourse analysis concerns whether different researchers would interpret the text in similar ways. Critical analysis involves an investigation and interpretation of what is said; a critical study attempts to also examine what is not there and the power relations inherent to the subject of the discourse. Many possible interpretations/focus for researchers -highly dependent in how researcher reveals meaning - subjective.

Haas  and Fischman ( 2010, p. 558) address validity of textual analysis and inherent subjective interpretation... "Critics of this method of textual analysis point out that all language analysis involves interpretation (e.g., Widdowson, 1995). We do not attempt to eliminate interpretation but rather provide transparency on our research methods, as combined with data examples, to support our findings and conclusions such that the reader can reexperience the analytic process ".

Potential Bias: Authors were predominately male (when possible to determine - 85% annual average; annual percentage range - 76% to 92%). Other media was not included (.e. online) - particulalry concerning the recent decline in newspaper circulation. The three metro newspapers examined were on the East and West Coast - there is a potential for different findings if newspapers were more representative of the US  - i.e. inclusion of rural, mid-West or Southern tier publications in analysis. Authors note that all media has bias - i.e. liberal (early 90s)/conservative (late 90s)

Ethics: Human subjects were not utilized in the scope of this study.

Findings: 6 foundational purposes of higher education: "1. Affirmative action or targeted group education initiatives; 2. Individual and societal economic development; 3. Individual and societal democratic development 4. Meritocratic sorting; 5. Classic Western liberal arts curriculum in the form of cultural enlightenment; 6. The profit-making component of higher education institutions" (Haas & Fischman, 2010, p. 541).

 Emergence of 3 Prototypes


3 Prototypes Emerged

Prototype Elements

Four Patterns
Access to higher education
Maintaining excellence in higher education
Private benefit to individuals
Public benefit to society
(AN) Academic nostalgia (original structure/universal). Prototype present but not dominant.

ANP1.  The learning and teaching of timeless, great, and universal truths though delivery from teach to student.
ANP2. Production of knowledge is for its own sake- includes knowledge that fosters students that are well rounded regardless of direct economic advantage
ANP3. The improvement of society, stressing the production of community leaders
ANS1. state supported
ANS2. autonomous with its own processes and culture dependent on but "equal to" other sociocultural institutions
Equal opportunity is assumed
Quality is a given
Understand one's obligation to serve society
Graduates  must spread the benefit of their knowledge to society
(EE) Educational entrepreneurship (competition=quality; presumes equal opportunity buy leaves many behind; higher ed is viewed as a currently failiing business- solution is privatization).  Dominant prototype- positive & negative/most controversial.
EEP1. The delivery of  of knowledge to students who in turn use them to improve their own economic position.
EEP2. Production of skilled entrepreneurs and workers, research knowledge...Higher education is critical US societal prosperity
EES1. Financially self supporting utilizing a corporate or business model
EES2. Production of objective knowledge and then selling it to students and research clients as economic advantage
EES3. Objective and measurable criteria of academic achievement for demonstrating quality criteria and student admission
EES4. The promotion of competition, which is essential to student improvement for admission and among higher education institutions

Presumed level playing field; Academic merit is measured fairly; Individuals are responsible/accountable for access
Market competition (universities compete for best students, faculty & staff) = best educational product
Privatizing public supported institutions to run as a business and improve quality & individual prosperity.

Society benefits from what all private institutions produce.
mentary---> .

(REC) Redemptive educational–consumerism ( blend of AN and EE but more consistent with EE). Education is a commodity and universities as commercial enterprise.Social programs can achieve equality. Emerging prototype to reach a middle ground -i.e. responds to elimination of affirmative action/ inherent bias in entrance exams...Access must be expanded to compete globally.
RECP1. Goal of higher education is to increase reach and open accessibility  to all students as they meritorious.
RECP2. Higher education's  goal is the pursuit of the highest forms of knowledge to train a multicultural and diverse student body in an academic environment that is well rounded but also containing entrepreneurial components.
RECP3. Higher education's role and obligation is improving society through its students, business, students' families, and government.
RECS1. Admission to  contingent upon merit, involving measurement of educational achievement denoted by standardized tests and grades; however, merit should not be reduced to just such measures. Being considered meritorious should include such things as student character and the ability to rise above diversity; diverse in terms of the ability to contribute to academic life, and personal traits such as gender, class, race ...
RECS2. Competition is a key component, as noted by EE, to improving fairness and efficiency; however, competition can be compensated with some targeted support initially to develop a "sense of a level playing field" (Haas & Fischman, 2010, p. 550).
RECS3. The roles between private and state/public institutions have a complementary component.
Expand access due to global competition -students meet required standards/society ensures opportunity
Accessibility by all benefits individual & society.  (cons: costs/academic preparedness)
Market competition
(universities compete for best students, faculty & staff) = best educational product
Education is a scarce good (due to costs) and a valuable individual asset with redeeming qualities.

 In a global knowledge-based economy,
higher education is seen as the institution with the greatest redemptive
potential—that is, it cures social and individual problems.
Conclusion - Identified findings (Haas & Fischman, 2010, p. 555)

"Finding 1: We identified three higher education prototypes—AN, EE, REC—and all three were present during the entire 26-year period".
(gestalt constructions were constant)

"Finding 2: Of the three prototypes, the EE prototype was the most frequent and the most controversial".
Educational meritocracy, elite (often private) higher education institutions, individual academic achievement and high-performance competition = U.S. education system. Although few people experience these elite schools directly, secondary sources present elite universities as the model of higher education.

"Finding 3: Last, the REC prototype blends aspects of the AN and EE prototypes, but it is more consistent with EE".
Created from AAN& EE,  REC views education as a commodity and universities as commercial enterprises whereas social programs contribute to achieving access equality.

Future Research:
Extend methodology to online sources, combined with ongoing political changes and economic challenges in the U.S., may result in the emergence of different prototypes in addition to those revealed. Female population may be better represented  in online media as  compared to the annual percentages range of  76% -92% in male authorship in this study Emergence of 3 Prototypes . Also, public responses  to blog type forums could be a basis for research in determining prototypes through critical discourse analysis. Surveys, interviews or blended research may also confirm or reveal alternative/additional conclusions.


Prototypes : Mental constructions -conceptual categories (i.e. bird) constructed from experiences (i.e. sparrow as a prototype). Experience contributing to construct can be direct or secondary (media, friends...) Protype prevalence combines conscious and unconscious and are often overlooked. Social prototypes in media, such as public discourse & debates as presented in op-eds, help us to better understand policies. Author tends to shape reports based on what he/she believes the audience to already know. Gestalt - unified - the whole is greater than the sum of all parts. We use prototypes, mostly unconsciously, as a whole in our thinking (Lakoff, 2002). ‘‘We experience them as a gestalt; that is the complex of [component] properties occurring together is more basic to our experience than their separate occurrence’’ (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980/2003, p. 71).

Cognitive Linguistics: Examines the relation of language structure to things outside language. Cognitive Linguistics broadens former focus on grammar/ syntax and semantics to include mental images, metaphors, prototypes..

Critical Discourse: Deconstructive reading and interpretation...study of language as a form of social practice and focuses on the ways social and political domination are visible in text and talk- language and power are entirely linked.

Close Text Analysis: Close readings are strongly inductive and speculative in nature. Critical discourse analysis presents one set of tools for approaching close-text analysis. Meaning clusters are established (words and phrases used to express thoughts; interrelated meanings- may appear in some texts and not others).

Open-coding Constant Comparative Methodology: Breaking down, examining, comparing, conceptualizing, and categorizing data. These are compared as  more data is coded, and merged into new concepts, and eventually renamed and modified. In Grounded Theory, the researcher goes back and forth while comparing data, constantly modifying, and sharpening the growing theory.

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