In Montgomery County this fall, teachers were urged in a staff bulletin to avoid terms like "marginal underachiever" when discussing a student's progress with parents. "They'd know better what you meant if you said the child was a little slow," the bulletin said.
In Virginia Beach, School Supt. E.E. Brickell directed that parents "will not be told their kids are in structured learning environments." That only means "teachers will tell students what to do," the superintendent said.
In California this fall, State School Supt. Wilson Riles denounced the use of such educational terms as "crossage tutoring."
"When I taught in a one-room schoolhouse in Pistol Creek, Ariz., we used to call if having the older kids help the younger ones," Riles told a group of educators.
All three examples are among the opening rounds in a volley of criticism from eductaors themselves against the excesses of educational jargon.
For the last few years, parents - dismayed by the use of such phrases as "resource person" for supervisor, "interact" for recess or playtime and "media center" for library - have complained that they can't understand what the educators are saying.
A publication of the national School Public Relations Association reported this fall that a group of Texas parents reacted with total bafflement when they received the following communication from their school principal:
"Our school's cross-graded, multiethnic individualized learning program is designed to enhance the concept of an open-ended learning program with emphasis on a continuum of multi-ethnic, academically enriched learning."
Recently, educators themselves have begun to join ranks with the general public in condemning the use of educational jargon.
"I think education is in enough trouble already. It doesn't need that," said Leroy Goodman, assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
"The people who talked like that tend to induce ridicule, and that's a shame because education is not ridiculous."
Goodman, who says he declared war on educational jargon after working in the Office of Education "and listening to all that crappy talk," has a stock antijargon speech that he delivers to meetings of educators around the nation.
It begins with a parody of "educationese":
"More and more, however, and particularly in the field of education, research is showing us how to maximize mental and perhaps symbiotic lines. We are called up to fill an unmet need, the need, not only of postulating exemplary and innovative models but of articulating them in modes and methodologies that will serve paradigmatic purposes in a seminal, pivotal and extrinsically relevant fashion, thus carrying forth the bassal thrusts both of cognitive and effective implementation."
At this point, it has usually begun to sink in that the speech is a parody of educational jargon and Goodman goes on to say that since education is a public business, "educators have an obligation to let people know what they're talking about."
Both students and parents, says Goodman, have a right to know that "peer groups" are really playmates, "conflict situations" are fights and the "atypical pupil" is different.
In recent months, says Goodman, educators have been more and more receptive to his speech including one recent appearance on the West Coast where it was met with sustained applause. He composed his parody, Goodman said, by "thinking of all the stupid words I'd heard and then stringing them together in a speech."
Virginia Beach Supt. Brickell took a stand against jargon "because I have a healthy respect for the English language" and because some educators fall into the jargon pattern "so fast they may not realize it."
Banned from use by Brickell in the Virginia Beach school system are such phrases as "teachable moments and learning experiences, whatever they are," and the words "maximize, minimize, finalize and structurize, words that I hate."
Staff members were ordered to "speak plain English and avoid educationese" when dealing with parents and students.
Montgomety County's antijargon bulletin was published after a staff member, writing under the pseudonym of "Curmudgeon," criticized Supt. Charles M. Bernardo for excessive educational jargon.
Bernado, who brought such terms as "Learner Centered management Support Systems" and "continuum education" to Montgomery County, has promised to reform.
The bulletin urged Montgomery school employees to use simple words over complicated ones and never to use two words when one would be sufficinet. "Assistance means help . . . innovative means new . . . and in the near future means soon," the bulletin said.