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AAC&U Bingo

Dean, School of Humanites & Social Sciences, Stevenson University

On the last day of AAC&U's Centennial Meeting, one of my colleagues on the ACAD board (American Conference of Academic Deans) told me that someone was joking about creating an AAC&U Bingo game. You know how these things work. Every time someone says a certain phrase printed on your bingo card, you mark the card until you get to yell "bingo!" Our students could (and certainly do) organize similar games around professors’ pet phrases, only theirs are more likely to involve tequila shots. The evening plenary version for AAC&U would involve, perhaps, sips of wine.

Imagine that every time a speaker said “transformative” or “learning outcomes” or “student-centered” or “global citizens,” the players in the room marked their cards and nipped their wine. If you get bingo, you win a bottle.

While the innovative (bingo!) AAC&U Bingo proposal was no doubt a harmless joke, its lightheartedness veils a cynical yet accurate observation. I will admit that few things could be as much fun or as engaging (bingo!) as a room full of tipsy academic leaders (bingo!), but what does it say about our beloved organization that its rhetoric is so predictable, so repetitive? Does it suggest just the opposite of what AAC&U preaches about good teaching practices (bingo!) and avoiding lecturing and rote memorization? Repetition saps words of their impact (bingo!), even their very meaning. They become cant phrases and jargon, and their deployment suggests a failure of creativity (bingo!) and imagination, or worse, a mindless insincerity.

But let's step back a bit for a fuller and more generous assessment (bingo!). Frankly, the only reason we can all play the game is because we are such dedicated attendees of AAC&U meetings. We are voracious consumers of AAC&U publications. We are indefatigable participants in AAC&U workshops. In short, the words and phrases we hear at AAC&U are familiar because they are woven into the principles (bingo!) that guide AAC&U and that guide many, even most of us, to be more reflexive (bingo!) and intentional (bingo!) educators. The very fact that you are reading this blog suggests that you are a devotee of AAC&U or are, at the least, profoundly AAC&U-curious.

And, therein lies the positive outcome (bingo!) of AAC&U Bingo. The phrases that form the basis of the game also form our common language, a language we hope to induce the academic and wider world to respect, a language we hope will inform the practice (bingo!) of liberal learning (bingo!) well into the future.

At the closing plenary, Brian Murphy of De Anza College (one of the four excellent speakers tapped to fill in for the ailing Freeman Hrabowski) stated that the goal of his ad hoc panel was to have the very large audience leave the packed room and return to our campuses to convey and commend AAC&U’s agenda to our colleagues. While he earned a chuckle for his humorous delivery of the line, he was quite sincere. Many of us, maybe most, could easily fill our AAC&U Bingo cards again and again, and that is a good thing—maybe even a wonderful thing.

We know the principles (bingo!) and agenda of AAC&U, and we have pretty good ideas for implementing (bingo!) them. That is our imperative: to move words into action. Bingo!