If you’ve followed the traditional route of learning, then you’ve more than likely taken numerous courses, classes, and possibly an internship or two that have helped cement certain vocabulary within your cortex that allows you to function competently and professionally when you embark on your career. While your head may be filled with intellectual thought and theoretical buzzwords, many newcomers to any profession, including teaching, often don’t have a good idea of the practical vernacular that you quickly pick up on, or how certain terminology is twisted, thus taking on new meanings or even euphemistic trappings that are used to signify something that you’d rather not say.
Take for example, the “F-bomb”. Tossed out liberally at many sporting events, the mainstay of one of George Carlin’s most infamous comedy bits, and generally a “nice” way of describing someone’s language that was laced with obscenities, this euphemism is particularly effective at painting a very vivid aural experience of what a conversation might have been like. However, despite its ability to be used with a much wider audience than the actual term it refers to would allow, it’s still a heavily charged euphemism.
Which is where I think the educational world (both professionals and edu-industry) is much more devious than it is often given credit for. We use euphemisms such as “assessment”, which has long been stripped of many of its definitions in most educational settings, and instead is used heavily as a veil for “high stakes testing”. When I hear the word “assessment” at school, more likely than not it’s being used to describe our annual state standardized test that relies almost exclusively on testing the most basic and lowest level of learning and critical thought. Why can’t we just use the word “testing” to describe such tests? Let’s stop tossing out that “f-bomb” of a euphemism, and toss it in the proverbial garbage can, leaving the word assessment for ways in which we assess the quality of a students understanding, and leave the word “testing” for the quantity of how much a student has learned.
RTI (Response to Intervention) is another term that I’ve seen used both honestly and effectively as well as in an “f-bomb” like way. Developed as a means to identify and respond to students who struggle to meet benchmark levels, I’ve seen many vendors and schools simply toss out the term “RTI” to refer to the fancy new computer program that they plunk their students down in front of for 30 minutes a day. That’s not to say the application isn’t doing what it’s supposed to, but when you understand that RTI has at it’s core an entire systemic model for educating students effectively, it becomes to be a farce when you hear a vendor tell you that their amazing new program is a perfect turn-key way to implement RTI in your school. In that case, an RTI program can be an “f-bomb” that’s understood as “just sit the kid down in front of a computer screen for an hour a day or so”. Why not toss out that terminology and simply use the word “help”?
Perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, I’m being a bit too naive, and displaying my proclivity for trying to oversimplify a problem. I understand that euphemisms in all professions will exist, and that when we become overly comfortable with one term, another will come to take it’s place; help becomes assistance, which becomes remediation, which becomes RTI, which will in turn become something else. There are just certain “f-bombs” in the educational world that I would rather do without, or at least relieve a bit of the charged emotions and thoughts behind them.
If you could, what “educational f-bombs” that are tossed out each day in your school would you love to toss in the trash?