Friday, 14 October 2011

A Devils' Dictionary of Education

One of the projects I will occasionally pursue with this blog is a Devil's Dictionary of Education: an attempt at a series of corrective discussions of words and phrases used commonly in the world of education that need unpacking, either because they are misleading, or have had their meanings forcibly changed by policymakers.  Why Devil's Dictionary - well, because one of my favourite books is Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary, compiled about 1890, which is addressed to 'enlightened souls who prefer dry wines to sweet, sense to sentiment, wit to humour.'  In it, for example, Education is defined as 'that which discloses to the wise and disguises to the foolish their lack of understanding'. 

Having conceived this plan, but before I had done anything about it, I came across John T Spencer's blog Ditch that Word (see address to the right), which has a related, but perhaps more pessimistic purpose: he discusses words and phrases whose meanings have become so corrupted he believes we should stop using them altogether. 

A good example from the world of education in England is perhaps 'satisfactory'.  This word is used as a technical term by OFSTED, the Inspection Agency for schools and colleges, to mean 'unsatisfactory'.  Ambrose would have loved that....

John Spencer gives a long list of words and phrases he plans to discuss.  Here are some of the ones I will try to get round to in the fullness of time:
Intervention, Delivery, Learning Styles, Outcomes, Individual Learning Plans, League tables, Lesson plans, Quality standards, Consistency, Fairness, Differentiation, Well-being, Self-esteem.

New suggestions and any contributions to the dictionary will be very welcome!

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