Educational gobbledegook


Gobbledegook: It was the first word that came to mind when I learned of the International Summit on the Teaching Profession to be held in New York City in March. I wasn't really sure if gobbledegook was a word so I looked up the definition: "language characterized by circumlocution and jargon, usually hard to understand: the gobbledegook of government reports. Synonym: gibberish, doubletalk, bosh, mumbo jumbo." According to dictionary.com, gobbledegook originated somewhere between 1940 and 1945 and it's based on the sound of "the throaty cry of the male turkey."

Participants in this teaching summit include U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and leaders representing the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and Education International (EI). Also represented will be the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the Asia Society, and public broadcaster WNET. The purpose of the summit is "to identify best practices worldwide that effectively strengthen the teaching profession in ways designed to enhance student achievement." Sounds fair enough. Doesn't sound like gobbledegook, does it? Or does it?

Would you include unions at a summit to improve teaching? And is it really necessary to include OECD and the CCSSO? Moreover, why aren't representatives from private schools included? Certainly, there are great examples of best practices from that sector. But maybe gobbledegook isn't a fair representation of what will take place at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession. There are certainly good intentions here.

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But wait, there's more. According to the U.S. Department of Education's website, "Participants will also engage in a discussion on the vital role teachers'[sic] play in advancing progressive, sustainable education reform. 'The summit represents a unique opportunity for teachers and their unions globally to consider the future of their profession as equal partners with governments,' said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen."

Yep, that's gobbledegook.

Lee Wishing
Lee Wishing

Lee is the administrative director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.


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