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“You get pushed back”: The strategic rhetoric of educational success and failure in higher education
Communication Education (2004)
  • Deanna L. Fassett, San Jose State University
  • John T. Warren, Bowling Green State University
We explored Nakayama and Krizek's (1995) notion of strategic rhetorics—i.e., the persuasive discourses that function hegemonically to continually re-secure the power of institutions by permeating the mundane talk of individuals—in relation to a series of focus group interviews with university undergraduates and instructors about the nature of success and failure in education. Our analysis revealed three strategic rhetorics: (1) individualism, or the notion that it is only, or primarily, through individual action or choice that one might succeed or fail in schools; (2) victimization, the abjection of individualism, which suggests that one is at the mercy of social systems for assessments of success or failure; and (3) authenticity, in which students and teachers gauge success or failure by how one's intentions measure up to some idealized other. Although students and teachers both expressed frustration with aspects of the educational system, we found that these strategic rhetorics functioned to reassert the dominance of existing educational practices, eliding the role language plays in re-imagining possibilities of educational change.
  • strategic rhetorics,
  • critical pedagogy,
  • educational hegemony
Publication Date
January, 2004
Publisher Statement
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Citation Information
Deanna L. Fassett and John T. Warren. "“You get pushed back”: The strategic rhetoric of educational success and failure in higher education" Communication Education Vol. 53 Iss. 1 (2004) p. 21 - 39 ISSN: 0363-4523
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