Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Note to Self:

When you describe critical thinking, use the word "critical thinking."  When you describe challenging work, use the word "difficult" or "challenging."  I get it.  Sometimes you have to use the trendy edu-word, but this word is trendy in all the wrong ways.  It's the Lady Gaga of educational nomenclature.  What does it mean anyway? Is it more work?  Is it more difficult work?  The truth is that you're not after work at all.  You want to see learning.  Screw the rigor.  If it's meaningful, it will be challenging.  If it helps kids think better about life, it's enduring.  And ultimately enduring, meaningful and interesting will always be more valuable than rigorous.



  1. I attended an edcampnyc session this past weekend that talked about rigor. We did a 'chalk talk' in which we brainstormed different ideas about what rigor means. It was amazing to see the disparity: some people (like me) saw it is a positive thing (challenging, engaging curriculum) but most viewed the word as a negative, something which means testing kids to death. I guess I never had a bad experience with the word rigorous as it wasn't a buzzword anywhere I taught. You are right that once something's a buzzword, the meaning becomes distorted. Have you read the book "Rigor is Not a 4 Letter Word"? Thoughts on that?

  2. Interesting. I've never read that book.

    What you describe is the real problem with the term. Does it mean challenging? Does it mean critical thinking? If so, I'm up for it. If it means "accountability" and testing, I'm not crazy about it.

  3. Wow! What a fool I am! I didn't even realize I was using a buzz word all the time. It's funny how it just seeps into everyday life. What does it mean? Interesting that we may not be sure...

  4. I was discussing the 3/5 Rule in the Constitution with my 8th graders and I referenced that line from the first Harry Potter book about always calling something by its real name. (In his case, Voldemort) I mentioned that one of my deep disappointments with the Founding Fathers is their reference to slaves as "all other people". I understand that maybe (MAYBE) it wasn't possible for them to do anything about slavery at the time, but for the most eloquent group of men living at the time to not even call it by name is a little soul-crushing.

    Thanks for reminding me of the dignity and respect inherent in using plain, straightforward words.




    Yours, as always,