Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jargon File

So I'm doing a thing at EduCon Saturday, session 2, 12:30 - 2:30:

With each wave of school reform, a new batch of jargon is deposited on our shores. Take a critical look at the new wave of business model reform language, from "Race to the Top," to "non-negotiables," including our new "higher, clearer, and fewer" "internationally-benchmarked" "college- and career-ready" "Common Core" standards.

The purpose here to help people not be disempowered by this bullshit. As far as I can tell, the only thing that can go wrong in this conversation is if we have a collective brainlock and run out of juicy jargon, so if you'd like to nominate some of your favorites, particularly business-speak, please do so in comments.


Ted S said...

A few years ago, while at a conference, a group of us went to a bar every night to listen to a band and have a few drinks. Each night a different band was advertised, and each night the same guitarist/vocalist came up with a different group. One night after he introduced a song, one of his bandmates said he didn't know that one, the guitarist turned around and told him "Same tune, different words".
This is how I feel about education jargon and the "reforms" that come around every few years, same tune different words.

Leroy's Mom said...

I'll reccommend the following:

From Business School:

1. No excuses (yeah I know it's obvious, but that's why it deserves a place).

2. Courageous conversations (which at a site I worked at was a wonderful excuse for verbal bullying)

From Ed types:

1. Direct Kinesthetic Commands (telling kids, "get in a straight line, with your hands at your side," instead of saying something vague like, "line up nicely");

2. Backwards mapping of the standards which is a really fancy way of saying, "teaching to the test questions"

Tom Hoffman said...

"No excuses" is good because I still have no idea what it is supposed to mean. "Non-negotiable" is good too. Perhaps that's what you talk about in a courageous conversation.

Tom Hoffman said...

"All children can learn" is an oldie but a goodie, as an example of something whose meaning seems entirely based on one's role.

Leroy's Mom said...

No excuses is a great tool for the fascistically inclined. Use it with the kids to bully them, "You will meet our standards, there are no excuses."
If that doesn't work, use it with the teachers. "All children can learn, so there are NO EXCUSES for you having kids failing in your class."
When all else fails, use it with parents, "There is no excuse for you allowing your child to fail."

Repeat daily, and you could get through a two-year tenure as an administrator. If you get lucky, you get a new, better job in a new district based on your "no excuses" approach. If you get REALLY lucky, they do a movie about your "inspirational leadership, blah, blah, blah."

Daniel Hickey said...

On one hand I resent the way that education is the one profession where new ideas routinenly get dismissed as "jargon". I recently read a list of new "edubuzz" by a conservative columnist that include the term "formative assessment." When I go to dinner parties I have to pretend that some guy who listens to Rush Limbaugh and who went to school spout off about how all the things that my colleauges and I study (like formative assessment) are just fads, but I have to bit my tounge when I want to warn him that investing in companies that sell dogfood or tires over the web is just a "fad". This really happened to me.

On the other hand I love the jagon watch too. Here is the best one that I guarantee you will be hearing: Resetting. When Indiana's Republican governor tried to gut the teaching requirements so that anybody with a degree could become a teacher (or even a superintendent), he described it as "resetting". Now they are resetting budgets too:

Tom Hoffman said...


Yes, I agree with you that the dismissal of professional educational terminology as "jargon," as if teachers' work is so simple they shouldn't need any specific terminology to describe it.

Daniel Hickey said...

Good point. I was thinking of it mostly from a researchers point of view, but that feeling must be even more acute from a teacher's point of view