Each weekday I spend a few hours reading 150-200 education articles from RSS feeds in Google Reader (well, I throw in FireJoeMorgan, Curt Schilling’s 38Pitches and Mark Cuban, too). I tag some of the better articles to my del.icio.us and bookmark others I’d like to write about. There are currently 100+ bookmarked articles that may or may not see attention; there’s an ebb and flow, but I just can’t seem to pare down the list quickly enough.
The point of this post? In addition to some great stuff, I read a ton of garbage-writing about education. Sometimes it’s badly flawed in terms of logic or facts; other times the language used is utter nonsense. I wish this tripe confined itself to the internet, but last night an educational architect told me that new windows in a classroom are “scientifically proven to give a double-digit increase in education.” I forgot to give him my e-mail address so he could send me a message as soon as he could explain what a “double-digit increase in education” was (and link me to the research).
But at least I’m not alone. I found solace in two recent posts that lamented jargon, gobbledygook and nonsense in academics.
- Mark Montgomery of Textbook Evaluator – a blog I increasingly pay attention to, as readers of this blog have noticed – challenges the meaning of the phrase “critical thinking.” We see it in grading rubrics, syllabi, lesson plans, everywhere in education – and you’d get a blank stare from 99 out of 100 educators if you asked them what it meant. Then you’d get 100 different answers. Mr. Montgomery says:
To me, the phrase â€œcritical thinkingâ€ is empty. Letâ€™s give it some shape or toss it in the lexical garbage can.
Read his pithy treatment to find out why. Sometimes all it takes is a few sentences.
- Right Wing Nation, another favorite, points us to a National Review article about the prevalence of intellectual tripe in higher education. Jonah Goldberg hits the nail on the head and does so with refreshing, uncommon wit. If you want to read a few of Goldberg’s best quotes, check out RWN’s prime selections. Or you can check out the whole thing. Here’s an example of what you’ll find:
The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.
Judith Butler, a gender theorist at UC Berkeley, is proud to own that one. What’s the reason for all this?
Today’s intellectual elite â€” the stars of Harvard and Berkeley â€” speak in such gibberish precisely because if they spoke plainly, clearing the smoke from their ideas, we’d learn that their views cover the spectrum from boringly unoriginal to sand-poundingly stupid.
Goldberg might be on to something. But be careful, Jonah; they might appear crazy, but like Cosmo Kramer, maybe they’re so sane that they blow our minds.
- And finally, there’s ScienceGeek’s Educational Jargon Generator. I love this one – all you have to do is click “Generate Jargon” and you’ll see a verb/adjective/noun combination reminiscent of what you see and hear… well, everywhere in education. Here are my first three tries:
- “engage metacognitive functionalities”
- “morph thematic processes”
- “benchmark site-based styles”
What are your favorite/most deeply-rued pseudo-edu-witticisms? Your gripes on nonsense? Those overused terms that just don’t seem to mean anything?
C’mon, don’t be shy.
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