One hell of a job

One hell of a job


I don’t get it: How are we, as a society, supposed to generate data-driven learning across content areas in our mastery-focused school communities, let alone decouple local and state test data while at the same time disaggregating assessment-driven professional schemas, unless we engage meaning-centered goals throughout multiple modalities? And how can administrators be expected to facilitate visionary curriculum integration for 21st century learners without recontextualizing methodologies in a developmentally appropriate engagement structure, huh?

I mean, that’d be like trying to simultaneously empower and operationalize rigorous process-based enrichment using mission-critical best practices within a child-centered core curriculum while simultaneously scaffolding to the new paradigm, but without first prioritizing a bottom-up benchmark for synergistic effects. I know, right?

Forget it! As the First Commandment goes, if you can’t dazzle ‘em with brilliance, then baffle ‘em with BS. Unfortunately, the unmitigated gobbledygook above (most of it courtesy of a jargon generator that can be found at is only one or two clicks poopier than a lot of the gibberish that’s released at regular intervals by the folks who run education in this country, not excluding U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor.

Which is to say (as Colin McEnroe demonstrated recently in a brilliant column in the Hartford Courant) that the people in charge of teaching English in this country don’t speak English — preferring instead to use jargon, and the more highfalutin it is, the better. These same educrats, it should be noted, are also in charge of teaching everything else that gets taught in our schools.

Is there a field or profession that’s more enamored of fads (excuse me: more based on the latest research) than education? If, as Erma Bombeck tells us, agriculture is the second-oldest profession, then surely teaching must come third — and yet, somehow, after several millennia, pedagogy has to be reinvented every few years by American schools of education. Why? The value of pedagogical wallpaper (this “absolutely staggering nonsense,” as University of North Carolina sociologist Martin Kozloff calls it) such as that in the first two paragraphs of this little tirade is that it “allows teachers and administrators to insulate themselves from scrutiny and maintain a grip on power.”

Never mind the kids, who will graduate without being able to make change, find Florida on a map or write a cogent sentence in their own language.

Every vocation has its own shop talk, of course, and substituting blather (this “unmatched twaddle” — Kozloff again) for plain English seems to work particularly well in the world of education: it impresses employers — governors, say, and even presidents, not to mention boards of education; and colleagues dig it, too (“Gosh, Bob certainly has mastered the latest mumbo-jumbo, eh?); but its primary value must be as a weapon with which to silence the peasants — I mean parents — who might occasionally have the nerve to question some new educational fad.

What parent, after all (unless she has at least a couple of postgraduate degrees) is going to stand up to a wall of multisyllabic flak and esoteric acronyms, the basic message of which is: “Shut up, I’m the educator here!”?

Priests used to use Latin to mystify the masses and hold on to their jobs. Lawyers still do. But the education industry had to build its own abstruse and impenetrable lingo, from scratch.

They’ve done one hell of a job.

Reach Glenn Richter at

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