Sunday, May 18, 2014

How to say absolutely nothing in as many words as possible .... The Elephant

Politicians on the campaign trail are infamous for making speeches that contain little, if any information. They're not the only people who do that.

A May 14, 2014 article in the Standard-Times (reprinted in the NBEA weblog) illustrates the hollow nature of Pia Durkin's turnaround plan. The overabundance of slogans and buzzwords is worthy of a Dilbert satire.

"a new beginning, one that would ensure excellence for every child in every school."
"the people of New Bedford"
"outcry for dramatic change"
"bold steps"
"countless parents, teachers, students, and leaders from business, nonprofit and higher education institutions"
"rare opportunity"
"ambitious District Accelerated Improvement Plan"
"A bright future"
"strong turnaround plan"
"dynamic administrative team"
"redesign team"
"emphasize a safe, positive school culture"
"extensive professional development"
"emphasize strong core instruction"
"jumpstart their acceleration toward achievement gains"
"refuse to be discouraged by setbacks and skeptics"
"institute significant reforms"
"inform and engage"
"involve the school communities"
"important to engage the teachers"
"amplify their voices"
"diverse cohort of teachers"
"provide the support they need"

This isn't all of them. It's just a good representative sample of really exciting but ultimately meaningless slogans, sound bites, and chunks of rhetoric.

One of the lessons I've tried to teach my own children is that the bulk of ordinary people don't think a whole lot. People make decisions, sometimes very critical decisions based solely upon how they feel. People vote for the political candidate who is most charming, best looking, or tells the funniest jokes without knowing anything about their record. As one very slow speaking Palin supporter put it, "She's got the hooooly spirit in her." Sure Jethro, let's put her in charge.

People see a beautiful model advertising a particular brand of clothing, automobile, or liquor and somehow get the idea that they'll become more beautiful, more successful, and more popular if they simply buy the product.

People don't think, and those who craft political speeches, commercial advertisements, and Pia Durkin's Standard-Times article all attempt to take advantage of this human weakness.

Read her article and try to nail down exactly what she's going to do and how it will significantly improve the academic performance of New Bedford's students. I bet you can't even come close.

Durkin's "strong turnaround plan" will no doubt produce some useful and impressive numbers for her to crow about, but it won't precipitate any permanent change in the local culture. Student performance isn't poor because of bad teachers. Student performance is poor because academically gifted people are not respected by their peers. Go into any high school in America and ask some of those "countless students" who the most popular kids are. The school brain rarely makes the list. In fact, being a good student in some communities is a good way to get beaten up every day after school for making everyone else look bad. Strangely, Durkin doesn't mention that problem in her article.

Pia Durkin has demonstrated how to say absolutely nothing in as many words as possible.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Other important credos in writing are to stick to subject and not to alienate readers. I find your Sarah Palin comment insulting and off topic. There are those who are not "Jethros" who may have a different world view than you.

Anonymous said...

False advertisement. Does she come with a warrantee because she is broken or defective? Is there a money back guarantee? Let's trade her in for a new model. We are dissatisfied customers, and the customer is always right.

Anonymous said...

Durkin is the most hated superintendent to date.

Anonymous said...

Did Durkin copy and paste her rhetoric? Sounds scripted and reeks of BS...especially "countless parents". We'll give her that much: She can lie!

Anonymous said...

Propaganda Techniques and Devices

Propaganda makes use of a collection of devices and tricks intended to influence your thinking. Learning to recognize these techniques can go a long way toward immunizing yourself from the effects of propaganda.

Disinformation: This technique is simply the release or planting of incorrect information for the specific purpose of deceiving the audience. Disinformation can contain elements of truth, but the payload is the lies.

Divide and Conquer: This tactic is a devious attempt to label the propaganda user as a reasonable and moderate entity between competing groups. The tactic can be extremely sneaky and use a lot of misinformation, distortion and outright lies.

Division: A logical fallacy in which an assertion is made about the whole which is not true for all of the parts.

Doublespeak: This is the use of language and words carefully constructed to conceal the actual meaning. For example, "drastic change and bold actions" actually means torture.

Anonymous said...

Here are my thoughts:

Once Durkin smelled blood emanating from a vulnerable district, she and her henchmen came crawling out of the woodwork like roaches. Mitchell Chester is using this to his advantage.

Anonymous said...

Amazingly, al of the propaganda terms begin with the letter "D"... And so does the superintendent's name!! Coincidence?

Anonymous said...

Please do not bring Sarah Palin into this, stay on subject please!

Anonymous said...

Hey Credos, do not insult the Elephant. Remember, if you do not agree with this blog, you can gladly exit!

Anonymous said...

Hey you Jethro lover---you are off topic!!

Anonymous said...

Pia can see Russia from her doorstep

Anonymous said...

Durkin certainly had "countless parents" at her meeting. So few showed up that you didn't have "to count!" Just looking at the total amount of fingers on your hands would give you the answer! She's honest about that!

Anonymous said...

Faux-pas Pia.

Anonymous said...

According to durkin, their are many applicants (35) for each position posted. She has the pick of the litter to replace us.

Anonymous said...

She'll get runts and rejects.

Gen Eric said...

I won't be apologizing for my Sarah Palin comment or my reference to the fictional character Jethro from The Beverly Hillbillies television show.

I've been out of school for 35 years and not a damned thing has changed. If you're good looking, socially adept, or athletic it's always been perfectly acceptable to crow about how much better you are than that kid. But if you're intelligent enough to notice the fact that most people are dumber than a box of donuts you're a stuck up know-it-all who should be ostracized or beaten up after school.

Pia Durkin and her peanut gallery of supporters will get away with blaming the results of parental incompetence on teachers because the public is full of people who make most of their decisions on how they feel, not what they think.

"Dumb and Dumber" didn't have a "different world view." They were just Dumb and Dumber.

Anonymous said...

The comments made by Durkin would not get her many points on an MCAS open response question. She doesn't site evidence, example: she said when introducing Jason Defalco, "he has a proven track record". Not sure what that means. Look at Sullivan Middle School in Worcester where he is the principal, in 2013 it was in the 10th percentile, and in 2012 it was in the 11th percentile. That's the bottom 10/11. What proven track record is that? It's called, at the bottom.