Friday, November 7, 2014

Life, Death, and the Dictionary

Educational buzzwords come and go. I am here today to take a stand against the newest darling of the ed reform crowd. "Rigor." Every day I see tweets from individual schools within the Howard County Schools (and well beyond) about increasing rigor for students.

Back up the truck. Hold the phone. We have a problem.

Let's go to the dictionary. *

Stop. Just stop. You want us to get all excited about a concept that has its roots in the stiffness of death? Adversity, inflexibility, cruelty... What about that says "learning" to you?

Now, maybe they were thinking "vigor"?

Okay, I am all on board for vigor, which has its roots in liveliness--a healthy life force, well-balanced growth, enthusiasm , mental strength. But thinking that we need to go in and increase "rigor" for our kids and that will just snap 'em into shape? I don't buy it.

The work our kids need is meaningful work, meaningful to them, and meaningful challenges where they can stretch themselves, not stiffen. There is no inherent benefit in struggling just for struggling's sake. And I am not willing to let corporate ed reform people sell me a bill of goods when they can't even use a dictionary properly. Words have power; they mean something--look at the implications of what you are saying!


My mother, a perfectionist when it came to writing, checked all my papers when I was in school and she wouldn't let me get away with shoddy and improper word usage. "You can't just make that word mean what you want it to mean," she would say, sending me back to make it right.

I don't suppose there is any realistic way to make people stop using this ridiculous buzzword, but we certainly can look anyone in the eye who tries to use it with us and let them know what we think about it. Compare both words above. Rigor or vigor. What do you want for your children?

What will serve them better in school and in life?

*please forgive shameless cutting and pasting for the definitions. My formatting abilities in this app. are limited, and I want the reader to see both words side-by-side.


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