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Monthly Archives: September 2010

Last night I watched an episode of Detroit 187 (which is exactly 137 better than Hawaii 5-0). One of the sub-characters, a shady club owner, called himself GOAT. In his one scene before he is killed, he tells the cops that GOAT is an acronym for Greatest of All Time. I’m not the hippest guy in the world, but it turns out that the original GOAT was LL Cool J, Ladies Love Cool James, who had a studio album and a song called “The GOAT”. In that song the Greatest of All Time seems to be defined as a guy who gets all the dough and all the hos. By that standard, I am certainly not a GOAT. I have some cash and one wife. I’m a SCOW. You can’t write a hip-hop song or a modern American crime drama about a scow, that just ain’t ll cool j….fer real

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Forgive the rudeness in the title, a juvenile reference to The Great Outdoors with the Great John Candy. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll remember the contents of a hot dog: lips and assholes. If you haven’t seen it, take a look:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=001dtJ0srBI

Well, in the never-ending corporate quest for dumb buzz acronyms, Sears has come up with LPS (“our Lowest Prices of the Season”). The actual acronym accounts for only three of the six words in the phrase, which gives it a 50% letter accountability rate (percentage of letters in a phrase actually used for the acronym). If they had changed the phrase to Our Lowest Damned Prices Of The Season, they could have had OLD POTS as the acronym which would have a 100% letter accountability rate and about the same level of relevance.

I know this is an irrelevant question, but if you are having a sale, doesn’t the word “sale” indicate that the price you are getting is lower than usual? How often does a price fluctuate in a season anyway? Doesn’t a consumer get more information from a tag like “50% off” or a comparison between the sale price and the regular price (both of which Sears offers on their flyers, by the way)? LPS is a flagrant act of gratuitous acronym usage — the point of it seems solely to include a set of buzz letters in their marketing material regardless of their usefulness…..Never mind… When considering acronyms and hot dogs, its better not to ask what went into making them…

I was reading The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie after reading an article about the author, Muriel Spark, in The Atlantic. It is a very funny, though ultimately tragic, book and I will send the passage below to the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat for their consideration:

“I am summoned to see the headmistress at morning break on Monday,’ said Miss Brodie. ‘I have no doubt Miss Mackay wishes to question my methods of instruction. It has happened before. It will happen again. Meanwhile, I follow my principles of education and give of my best in my prime. The word ‘education’ comes from the root ‘e’ from ‘ex’, out, and ‘duco’, I lead. It means a leading out. To me education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil’s soul. To Miss Mackay it is a putting in of something that is not there, and that is not what I call education, it is intrusion, from the Latin root prefix ‘in’ and the stem ‘trudo’, I thrust. Miss Mackay’s method is to thrust a lot of information into the pupil’s head; mine is a leading out of knowledge, and that is true education as is proved by the root meaning.”

I like how this is put, especially in an age of ‘backward design’ and teaching to the standardized test and curriculum, where we seem to be setting up artificial boundaries for what can and should be learned. A safe, fenced in playground instead of a voyage into uncharted seas. Unfortunately, in the novel, Jean Brodie turns out to be a manipulative egomaniac and a fascist sympathizer, who celebrates Mussolini’s “organizational skills” (would she give them an E, for excellent, in the skills section of an Ontario report card?). She also refers to her select students as ‘la creme de la creme’ which is more annoying for it’s French pretension and redundant phrasing than as an expression of country club superiority complex. Still, Miss Brodie, like her namesake novel, leads us out into uncomfortable and dark territories that stir and terrify the soul — and it is on these adventures that real education happens.

Glad to see that the new school year has brought new acronymic initiatives from the Ministry of Education (MoE, the smartest of the three stooges). It is the all-encompassing K-12 School Effectiveness Framework, which in my initial read is an encyclopedic synthesis of a decade’s worth of educational jargon. You want “accountability”, “evidence-based direction”, “building capacity”, “systems thinking” or “job-embedded and inquiry based professional learning”. It’s all there in the de-motivational tool of the new millennium. It ensures that the last drop of poetry or magic has been wrung out of the language we use to describe education and lays us down in a desert where management theory words blow about us like properly annotated and categorized tumbleweeds. I dare you to find one inspirational word in it anywhere. Here is the link:

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/framework.html

Personally, I will be using this document to talk dirty to my wife. “Hey baby, are my ┬átimely and tiered interventions responding to your individual student learning needs? Because I’ve gathered a variety of valid and reliable assessment data that is informing my instruction and assessment and determining my next steps. Or would you prefer to be supported by a collaborative team approach. Oh baby!”