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More from the Didact’s Dictionary

cutting edge n. [used with “on the”] or adj. [with hyphen] A cliché used to describe an educational movement, technology or technique whose uselessness, waste, or harm has not yet been proven by experience in classrooms. Examples from the past: open classrooms, new math, whole language, and mobile computer labs.

Edspeak n. The skein of bad language tangled around the field of education, sometimes praised by its users as “professional.” Its characteristic vices are vagueness, feigned objectivity, love of cliché, baloney, regressive sentimentality, euphemism, faddism, and scientism–sometimes all in one sentence, though no prizes are given.

essay [Fr. essai, try] n. [archaic] A composition in which the author tries to present or discuss a point with economy, skill, intelligence, rhetorical art, and respect for the reader.  Some schools have replaced it with the I-search paper and FAQs (qq.v.).

FAQs n. A composition in which all the reader’s needs are anticipated except those that are ignored. (Cf. “classic prose[1],” whose motives are not need but curiosity, delight, and respect.)

Gloucester, Duke of n. A British aristocrat who described The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire to its author as “another damned, thick, square book.” His type was to have been made obsolete by the Jeffersonian ideal and by public institutions of learning like the University of Virginia, which he (Jefferson, not Gloucester) founded.

I-search paper n. [a nonce word that has outlasted the nonce] A kind of non-fictional composition that makes a virtue of absorption in one’s own world, just what high-school students need.

index n. The search engine of a book. It is read when Google is offline by research grunts needing quotations unimpaired by explanatory and connecting ideas.

multitasking n. [non-standard] claiming to divide the attention into an undiminished quotient, as in 3 ÷ 3 = 3.

peer editing n. editorial homeopathy, in which like cures like.

threaded discussion n. [non-standard] an artificial typed conversation. It simulates talk the way molasses simulates quick­silver but without being able to leave a good taste in the mouth.

!?! An end mark used by writers whose skill is not as great as their indignation.


[1] Francis-Noël Thomas and Mark Turner, Clear and Simple as the Truth, passim.

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