The Devil Made Me Say It

Today I offer entries from The Didact’s Dictionary, with apologies to Ambrose Bierce.

Baby Einstein®: The name of a series of proprietary videos by the Walt Disney Company, a corporation with a profitable record in education. We may worry when  Baby Einstein products and MOOCs start to resemble each other.

balonist (bə-lōn΄-ist) n.: one who offers or requires baloney. Not to be confused with a balloonist, whose hot air is confined to his balloon. Cf. “Baloney Bingo”; Richard van de Lagemaat offers a workshop in “Baloney Detection across the Curriculum,” but not at schools of education (q.v.).

brand n.: 1. a proprietary mark burned into the hides of livestock to identify their herds and to distinguish them from members of other herds. 2. a proprietary name given to a product to distinguish it from other similar products. v. 1. (standard) to apply such a mark, which is permanent 2. (non-standard): to use the services of a balonist, often called a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), help people pretend that a leopard has changed its spots. Sometimes applied to schools’ efforts to position (q.v.) themselves.

education, school of n. 1. any of a number of imaginary institutions that impart sound principles and practices of teaching to their students with a minimum of baloney. 2. any of a number of real institutions that do not.

education for the 22nd Century: Is it too soon to brand a century? CMOs and balonists of the future think not.

mission n.: a statement, not necessarily accurate or intelligible, by a school of its reason for existing, usually by imparting vaguely described super powers to its graduates. Example: “Our graduates will demonstrate appropriate critical thinking behaviors in a global context for a variety of self-actualizing purposes in keeping with the aims of personal fulfillment and good world citizenship.” Often considered important in branding and positioning (qq.v.).

position: n. (used with “assume the”): a stance often adopted by a teacher in the ordinary course of work. v. (non-standard, usually used of shape-shifting by organizations) to play make-believe about oneself or one’s product with respect to similar products and to brand accordingly, as with Baby Einstein,® or a school or university that sees education as a product.

standard (stănd΄-ərd) n.: 1. something set up and established by authority as a rule for the measure of quantity, weight, extent, value, or quality. 2. (educ.)a. a statement of a particular thing the graduate of a school can do. b. a claim made by a balonist of what the graduate of a school or university will be able to do, but what the graduate will not actually be able to do. adj.: well established by usage in the speech and writing of the educated and widely recognized as acceptable. (ant.: non-standard)

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