Why Education Reporting Is So Boring


Reported from the Atlantic:

One easy way to “amaze” your education colleagues, according to this jargon generator, is as simple as clicking a button at the top of the page. I click that button often—daily, even. Like a slot machine, every result involves some combination of symbols. In this case, those symbols are words that an algorithm arbitrarily strings together into a sentence. On a recent afternoon I clicked the button and got “We will empower research-based relationships throughout multiple modalities.” Ooh. That had a nice ring to it, but in the pursuit of more amazingness, I clicked again: “We will recontextualize holistic mastery learning with a laser-like focus.” Double ooh; I was hooked. Again, again! “We will utilize flipped inquiry through the experiential-based learning process.”

Edu-speak – the incomprehensible babble used to describe what are often relatively straightforward teaching methods, learning styles, and classroom designs – is plaguing the country’s schools. Intended to help people understand education reform, edu-speak often ends up doing the exact opposite: It muddles those reform strategies and, left unchecked, it could end up making positive change a lot more difficult to achieve. As Liz Willen, the editor of The Hechinger Report, wrote in 2013, it all adds up to a “communication breakdown that hampers education reform.” Just like its cousins in the corporate or legal worlds—synergy! Ex parte!—such jargon only adds confusion to already-confusing things.

Parents get status reports on their kids and are baffled as to what half of the words mean. Teachers are ordered to alter their instruction but left unsure of what they’re actually being ordered to do. Kids are told to take random tests with weird names and remain unconvinced they’re doing anything productive. Journalists like me transcribe soliloquies at school board meetings and legislative hearings, dreading all the translation that we’ll have to do later. The jargon-generating website is meant to underscore how absurd this linguistic shorthand actually is. I do visit it regularly, though just to have a good chuckle (and remind myself not to go to the dark side). Hopefully it will also knock some sense into the people who think such language makes their ideas sound smart.

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