Wednesday, March 2, 2011

“Cat” is NOT a Cat. “Reform” is NOT a Reform.

"The symbol is NOT the thing symbolized; the word is NOT the thing; … -– S.I. Hayakawa (1949)

We live in a society where a “Going Out of Business Sale” sign on a store probably doesn’t mean that the store is going out of business after the sale is over. “Reality” shows on TV are far from reality, the confections of TV writers and producers. Brand names, too, are not infrequently assurances of quality that is non-existent.

Even our schools promote their own form of BS -- think only of the all-too-vagrant usage of such words as “challenged,” “basics,” “excellence,” “diversity,” “needs,” and “standards.” Unfortunately, BS, like other forms of S, can be infectious: it can produce a mind-set that borders on pathology.

Sean Cavanagh in an article, “In War of Words, 'Reform' a Potent Weapon,” (Education Week, 3/2/11) writes
A set of stock phrases, sound bites, and buzzwords has come to dominate the public discourse on education, summoned reflexively, it often seems, by elected officials and advocates who speak a shared, accepted language.
In other words, Big-Wig BS: on such rests the fate of our school populations.

To propose what you call a “reform” is to do two things:
a. it is to propose a change; and
b. it is to recommend that change as desirable.
Here is where the fight begins.

Not every possible change will be seen as a change for the better. Death is a change. It is not a reform. It is because people disagree on what is desirable that the controversy about school reform exists.

To examine these issues further, see The Need for and Possibilities of Educational Reform

--- EGR

No comments:

Post a Comment