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Schoolteacher Wants ‘Just the Facts,' Not Edubabble

by Donna Smith

Ever wonder how those in the higher echelons of the educational system plan to dupe John Q. into supporting their outlandish proposals?

As someone who has taught for 23 years, served on local and state educational committees, edited an associational newsletter, and who now serves on a local school board, I have discovered their plan. These espousers of global citizenry, national testing, federal-school-business partnerships, and reduction of traditional American values are conning JQ with polibaloney edubabble.

My first experience with this verbiage garbage was a presentation to the local school board by its then newly-hired superintendent. After hearing the language-glorified proposal read to the by then cross-eyed audience, the board president called for an action.

Immediately, the diminutive blonde member batted her baby-blues and said, "I didn't understand everything you said, but what you said sounded so good, I vote we accept your proposal."

That proposal brought the district to unprecedented financial disaster and decayed morale among the faculty and staff.

Year after year, inservice after inservice, and cutting edge after cutting edge, the "sound good" terminology that, in most cases, doesn't mean diddley-squat, has motivated seasonal attempts at reform. Billions have been spent training teachers for nationally touted programs, from which the ashes birthed another and another and another -- only to die in flight.

More recently, however, I reviewed a new publication for the Association of Professional Oklahoma Educators, and my spirits were renewed. The book, A New Vision for Staff Development, by Dennis Sparks and Stephanie Hirsch, published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, may solve John Q.'s dilemma and sound the proverbial "wake-up call" to professional educators.

After the first page, I noticed certain repetitious, multi-syllabic words and phrases -- without definition or illustration -- completely obscuring the content. Out of curiosity, I made a list of those most repeated, rearranged a few, and created a professorial paraphrase of pathetic prose:

"Facilitators today, implementing innovations for educational reform, review authentic assessment and validate manipulatives and triangular data as indicators of theoretical schemata for facilitating cross-curricula integration. Also, community stakeholders, as members of various cadres, collaborating in the decision-making process for site-based management, prioritize learning outcomes, essential concepts, and diversity appreciation to engender a comprehensive, content- driven vision for job-imbedded learning. Such scenarios are first articulated as integral design phases prior to three powerful ideas currently shaping school reform: results-driven education, constructivism, and systems thinking.

"Input as well as feedback from such colloquia facilitates teacher empowerment, resulting in a circular causality, which, in turn, decentralizes cognitive hypotheses and, instead, engenders an inclusive -- rather than a fragmented -- outcome-driven curriculum.

"Both facilitators and stakeholders agree innovations implemented through action-research curriculum development, independent inquiry, and group meetings will ultimately improve student achievement. When this happens, true educational reform will have been accomplished."

Obviously, this selection can be rearranged and interpreted a trillion zillion ways and used to any advantage: submission to a professional journal, a parent-teacher conference, an IEP session, a board meeting presentation, an administrative memo.... But what does it say?

Publications such as this should encourage real educators to hope again for quality education. For through such material, polibaloney edubabblers may have let their own blood. Surely, professional educators will rise and demand a return to traditional, back-to-basics education, expressed in understandable, logical language.

Surely, professional educators will send "facilitators," "stakeholders," "colloquia," and "cadres" on the next flight to Mars and give Johnny the preparation he needs for any future: "Just the facts, ma'am, just the facts."

A two-time Altus Public Schools Teacher of the Year, Donna Smith retired this year after 23 years in the classroom teaching literature and composition to high-school students. She has been a program presenter and speaker at numerous educational meetings and conferences, including annual meetings of the Oklahoma Council for Teachers of English and the Oklahoma Education Association. Mrs. Smith serves on the board of directors of the Association of Professional Oklahoma Educators, and also writes for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, Inc. (www.ocpathink.org).