Educational Buzz Words

By David Engelsma

Along with the goal of "improving education in our nation’s public schools, has come a host of educational buzz words. As schools attempt reform and restructuring away from traditional modes of educating children, their communications to inform parents about what is going on in their classrooms are often loaded with words which parents only half understand. Christian schools also increasingly must deal with this new vocabulary as it appears increasingly in textbooks, professional periodicals and teacher training seminars and workshops. Unfortunately, many of these terms have no clear indisputable definition and may mean different things to different educators. Here are our definitions of some words frequently used in today’s schools.

  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD) - The inability of some children to maintain the attention and concentration on tasks appropriate for their mental and chronological age. ADD children display impulsivity, inattention, and sometimes hyperactivity.
  • Brainstorming - An activity in which students offer all kinds of ideas or suggestions for problems or gather ideas for a writing project. It involves the free-flowing expression of ideas.
  • Cooperative learning - Students are placed in small groups so that they can work together to achieve certain learning objectives in the classroom.
  • High-order thinking skills - Students are asked to do more than just remember facts. They are analyzing and evaluating facts.
  • Learning disability - A disorder in children of average or above average intelligence who are achieving significantly below expectation in one or more academic areas and whose test results suggest a neurological basis for this performance. The term does not include children who have learning problems which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps; of mental retardation or of cultural or economic disadvantage.
  • Manipulatives - Real objects designed to help young children develop skill in the use of their hands. Older students use physical objects to learn the significance of measurement and geometry or use three dimensional models to more easily grasp difficult concepts in various fields of science.
  • Portfolio - A collection of children’s schoolwork including their own opinions of their work and progress used by some schools as an alternative to or in conjunction with report cards for verifying and reporting on student achievement.
  • Multiculturism - An attempt to develop student aware- ness of the contributions of previously neglected cultures as well as an understanding of the differences that exist within a particular culture.
  • Strategies - Systematic plans for achieving special goals or results.
  • Standardized tests - Published tests which usually are given to a wide group of students. They frequently are used to compare a student’s academic growth over time.
  • Outcome based education (OBE) - A catch phrase for programs that vary in the degree to which they depart from traditional education, but share certain key features: All classroorn instruction is geared toward learner outcomes established by state education officials or in some cases, local districts. Each student is believed to be capable of achieving the learner outcomes, but it is expected that some will not learn as quickly or in the same ways as others. Therefore, individual students are given whatever time and supplemental instruction educators believe they need to meet the outcomes. The learner outcomes de-emphasize proficiency in traditional subjects such as math, science and literature. Instead, OBE incorporates studies in these traditional subjects into outcomes such as "problem-solving," "effective communication" and "appreciating others." Tests of subject matter and the recall of information fade into the background as primary measures of student success.

It is important for parents to be familiar with this new terminology for it is indicative of the drastic shift being attempted in many schools away from basic academic skills which can be used under any circumstances to those which are less academic, dealing with political correctness, self- worth, attitudes, feelings, and emotions. While we know that change is sure in its presence, recent history has proven that it is unsteady in its gifts to us. Too often the "benefits" of change have been paid for by the erosion of certitude of spiritual and moral values. To truly "improve or reform" education we must first know what good education is. True education teaches us about God’s World and how we are to live in it. There is only one way to understand either of these correctly. Without God and His Word all education is deceitful. It may seem to tell the truth but it never does unless it honors God. Without the Lord Jesus who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life there is no truth-in our public schools or anywhere else.

May we with gratitude, acknowledge the Lord for our Christian schools and for the truths of His Word in our classrooms. May our gratitude be coupled with petitions for divine protection and guidance for the unknown future. Above all, let us pray for the salvation of our students by and through Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.