Defending Public Schools

By Nora Carr

Speaking in sound bites is not something most school board members and superintendents have mastered. Subject matter knowledge is partly to blame.

Education is, at its heart, a human enterprise. As such, it is inherently complex. Since complexity and nuance are the antithesis of most memorable sound bites, it’s not surprising that many school officials struggle with this essential political skill.

School officials understand how difficult the work is, and that makes it tough to put years of accumulated knowledge and experience into a few choice words. Simplifying feels like a betrayal.

Educators, like most professionals, also are fond of jargon. To members of the club, jargon serves as a form of shorthand for key concepts. To outsiders, jargon and lofty rhetoric are off-putting.

Americans like smart leaders, but not too smart. When the public hears stuffy language, eyes start to roll. Worse, people begin to wonder if their leaders really know what they’re doing, or if they’re using flowery words to cover up problems.

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