Bruno: Resolve To Avoid These 5 Meaningless Education Phrases
#meaninglesseducationphrases With 2012 coming to a close it's time to start thinking about our resolutions for the new year. I propose that we collectively resolve to remove from our education discussions terms and phrases that are so vague as to be useless.
Identifying such phrases can be tricky. It's not enough that you think that they are "wrong" per se; meaningless phrases are too unclear to be wrong. Rather, meaningless education phrases are phrases that sound so good - but mean so little - that both sides in a debate would feel comfortable using them to defend their positions.
Below the fold are five of what I consider to be the worst offenders in education. Feel free to add your own.
1. High expectations - As I've said before, while people may disagree about what standards for students are most appropriate, nobody actually supports "low standards". If you believe that a particular standard to which we hold students is inappropriate, feel free to explain why it should be different but describing it as "too high" or "too low" is just a way of moralizing the issue without illuminating it.
2. Student-centered - It has become fashionable to describe one's favorite instructional methods as "student-centered", but I have yet to meet an any educator who opposes keeping students at the metaphorical center of instruction. The real disagreement isn't over whether teaching and learning should be student-centered, but over what strategies best take student needs into account.
3. Data-driven - Every individual involved in education supports using data of some kind to drive instruction and policy-making. What distinguishes your outlook from mine, then, isn't that you prefer to use data, it is that you prefer different sorts of data.
4. Innovative - Every once in a great while somebody will come up with an idea that is clever and new in education - flipped classrooms, maybe? - but in the vast majority of cases educational policies and practices described as "innovative" are anything but. The term gets used to describe everything from KIPP schools to project-based learning, neither of which involves much that hasn't been in use for decades. When people describe an educational practice as "innovative" what they usually seem to mean is that it is a practice they endorse and believe is underutilized. If everyone's favorite educational practices can be considered innovative, however, the word has probably ceased to mean anything. (h/t to Ken Libby for the suggestion)
5. Professionalize - No matter which side of the teacher quality debate somebody is on, they are usually confident that their agenda is the one that will best serve to "professionalize" the teaching profession. Tenure protections, seniority rules, and test-based accountability are all issues that - depending on which side you are on - are either essential to protecting the professionalism of teachers or standing in the way of real professionalization. The only way both sides can be right is if "professionalization" means completely different things to different people. Or nothing at all.
These are all phrases our edu-discussions would be better without. Leave your own suggestions in the comments, or tweet them out with the hashtag #meaninglesseducationphrases. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)