Monday, August 16, 2010

Words, words, words...

My dear friend Cathy Walker, of the uber-innovative initiative MUVE Market, has often expressed an opinion just this side of disdain for the blogger or tweeter who only parrots what he's heard in the dialog, creating online presence completely based on others' thoughts. I personally think there's a place to that but I also value the extra input generated by those who contribute to the viral discussion. So much information is flowing by that the more a brilliant thought is repeated the more likely it is that I won't miss it altogether.

I hope, though, that this characterization is not applicable to me. That said, I'm parroting here.

I discovered Sam Chaltain's blog yesterday evening on Facebook, his "We Need a New Set of Words, Words, Words" post called to my attention by a share out statussed by Bonnie Brace Sutton, an educator I've never met in person but whose train of thought I get to glimpse occasionally through our connection on Facebook. Her post was basically a snippet of Chaltain's Shakespeare-fueled musings about the way our efforts in educational reform (there's another word that needs replacing) are crippled by our established lexicon, especially those old standby jargon staples "data, testing, and accountability." It was enough of a snack to make me want more, so I hopped on over to the original post.

I want to offer a couple of snacks here, then to hope that you'll do the same. How about:
"... it’s unquestionable that the words we use are somehow divorced from the essence of what schooling is all about — helping children unlock the mystery of who they are by acquiring the skills and self-confidence they need to be seen and heard (at college, in their careers, and as citizens in a democracy) in meaningful, responsible ways.

Why is the significance and power of this goal so absent from the most common vocabulary of the current reform movement? The optimistic side of me says it’s simply because we haven’t thought about it enough. The pessimistic side wonders if it’s because we’re so blinded by the current charade of labeling schools (or reform efforts) as successful or unsuccessful based on a single measure of success that we’ve come of believe our own press clippings: if the scores go up, we really are closing the achievement gap. If the scores stay stagnant or go down, we’ve made no progress whatsoever.
or chew on:
"Every time you want to talk about testing, talk about learning instead. Tests will always be a component of our education system. But take a moment to reflect back on your most powerful personal learning experience, and I can guarantee you it did not involve a test."
or, finally, and then you need to read the source, which will likely spur you to get your hands on a copy of Chaltain's book, American Schools: The Art of Creating a Democratic Learning Community:
" case you think this is flowery progressivism at its worst, you should know that I’m partially basing this notion on the insights of renown business guru Jim Collins, who says the best organizations create environments where employees need no motivation, and leaders trip up when they destroy that drive."
There you go. I've done my best. If I haven't spurred you to go read Chaltain's stellar post in its entirety, perhaps I've served by parroting some of the best bits...Cheers!


Sam Chaltain said...

Hey Scott! Thanks for the shout out, and for the close read. I hope you'll sign for the RSS feed of my blog and share your reactions. And please -- once you've had a chance to check out American Schools, let me know what you think -- good, bad or ugly.

Scott said...

Thanks for noticing, Sam. I'm ordering your book and can't wait to read it! I love the way you crafted that post. My mother-in-law is Ann Calhoun Cook, a Shakespeare scholar and author of several wonderful books about the Bard, and your arguments hooked me from the get-go.