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Omnium Gatherum

Entries from the Didact’s Dictionary, compiled from past postings:

branding irony: a description or name chosen for its public relations value; the opposite of what is actually the case with the thing named, as No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Value Added Learning

Baby Einstein®: The name of a series of MOOCs for babies by the Walt Disney Company, a corporation with a profitable line of products that simulate education. Disney is in the vanguard of such companies, having admitted that its product does not work as advertised.

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 or departments of education (qq. v.).

brand n.: 1. a proprietary mark burned into the hides of animals to identify their herds and to distinguish them from members of other herds. 2. a proprietary name given to a product to distinguish it artificially from other products. v.  (non-standard): to use the services of a balonist, often called a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), to promote falsehood. Sometimes applied to schools’ efforts to position (q.v.) themselves.

bumfalo, n. [from British bumf, short for bum-fodder: useless administrative paperwork]: a factual monster endemic to educationist ecologies. Its usual habitat is administrative offices and five-star hotels, but never classrooms. Its chief prey is teachers, whom it attacks by force-feeding them data and paperwork until they perish from explosion or inanition (e.g., sightings are attested of bumfalos requiring teachers to spend twelve hours on a single lesson plan and then rejecting it). It sometimes paralyzes its prey before killing it by displaying PowerPoint presentations and pie charts[1]. Like the parrot and mockingbird it has a variety of calls: “robust”, “alignment”, and “hard data” among others are attested. The US government is in the process of granting it ‘protected species’ status even though the government has not yet declared the teacher an ‘endangered species’.

cutting edge n. [used with “on the”] or adj. [with hyphen] Applied to 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. Example from the present: value-added metrics.

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.

education for the 22nd Century: Baloney of the future.

Education, Department of n. The name of a fiction.

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.

era (n): 1. a brief period of time. a. in education, the time between the introduction of a great new reform like value-added learning and the point when it is cast off as unworkable. 2. (obsolete) any long period of time seen in light of a unifying factor

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.).

eternity (n.): in a school’s faculty room, the period before everything works as well and looks as nice as it does in the administrative offices.

failure (n): [obsolete in education] a key to success. ‘The idea of building grit and building self-control … you get … through failure, and in most highly academic environments in the United States, no one fails anything.’—Dominic Randolph, Headmaster, Riverdale Country School, New York. ‘Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential’—J. K. Rowling in her commencement address at Harvard.

FAQs n. A composition in which all the reader’s needs are anticipated except those that are ignored.

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 ideals of his contemporary Thomas Jefferson 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. [archaic] The search engine of a book.

mission n.: a statement, not necessarily accurate or intelligible, by a school of its reason for existing, usually to impart 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.).

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

peer editing n. a kind of editorial homeopathy.

position: n. (used with “assume the”): a stance often adopted by a teacher in the ordinary course of work. v. (non-standard) to practice verbal shape-shifting in order to make one’s product more attractive in a market.

profit (n): a tangible or intangible gain. non-profit education: teaching for the benefit of students. for-profit education: the simulation of teaching for the benefit of investors.

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. (Edspeak) 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.

[1] “The only thing worse than a pie chart is more than one pie chart.”—Edward R. Tufte, author of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.

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