Last week Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote an op-ed for the Huffington Post called Campus Protests Should Remind Us All of College’s Value. The piece itself — mostly a call for passage of student loan reform — wasn’t particularly remarkable, but Duncan’s embrace of the current wave of student protest was striking.

There’s quite a bit of that going around right now. The California protests of the fall boosted student activism’s profile dramatically, and March 4 raised it a lot more.

But the weirdest example of the trend I’ve seen is an ad I caught on television late last night for the for-profit university chain Kaplan University. In it, a young female student stands behind a podium on a campus quad and passionately intones these words:

“There’s a movement afoot in this country. A student-led revolution. A rallying cry for change in an otherwise unchanged educational system.”

It goes on in that vein, in language that slithers from stirring-but-vague activist rhetoric to stirring-but-contentless corporatespeak and back again. (You can see the ad at this page on the Kaplan U site. It’s called “People Like Me.”)

Of course Kaplan University, which was created ten years ago with the purchase of an old correspondence school by the Stanley Kaplan test prep company, is obviously anything but “a student-led revolution” in higher ed.

By coincidence, in fact, yesterday’s New York Times featured a front-page article on how for-profit universities deliver “dubious benefits to students” by “exploit[ing] the recession as a lucrative recruiting device” and “harvesting growing federal student aid dollars, including Pell grants awarded to low-income students.”

(It took me about fifteen minutes of Googling and clicking to find Kaplan’s tuition rates, but it looks like they run about $16,000 per year. That’s $2,000 more than the national average for for-profit colleges, and $11,000 a year more than in-state tuition for full-time online enrollment in New York’s state university system.)