“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” — The Princess Bride
I attended a meeting at the school today for one of the management committees that sees parents and teachers working together to come up with specific details to implement long term strategic plans. All of the long term goals and the details are memorialized in a document that was remarkable for its generous use of passive voice and all education jargon. There is, of course, no reason why I should understand education jargon, because I’m not an educator. Nevertheless, to the extent I was supposed to vote on the document, it seemed to me that I had an obligation to try to understand what it was talking about.
So, I zeroed in on one phrase and asked “What does this mean?” There was a moment of complete silence. Then, one of the teachers said, “I’ve always understood it to mean…” and embarked on a laborious explanation that didn’t mean anything. Another teacher jumped to her aid with more words, less meaning. I thanked them.
Another phrase, another question: “What does this mean?” More silence. One of the teachers said, “Well, that’s something we learned when we got our degrees.” Oh. “Thank you,” I said, completely unelucidated.
Another phrase and, again, I sought a lay person’s definition. “Oh, we understand that.” “Good,” I thought, but I asked myself, “Do you really?”
I asked myself that last question again when everyone in the room assured me (no doubt to stop my questions) that, while parents and teachers collaborated on the plan, it’s purpose was to serve the teachers, and they, in fact, understood it just fine. But as my questions revealed, the four teachers in the room did not understand at least three terms of art in the document.
The whole thing left me feeling that there is a lot of good will at these meetings, both on the part of educators and parents, but not very much clarity. I’m with Dennis Prager, in that I prefer clarity to agreement — and I’ve often found that, when people achieve clarity, they do find that they agree, at least about some things. To me, this meeting was rather pointless, because I didn’t understand what was going on, and I left wondering if anyone else in the room did either.