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Words, April 30



Reformer, reform thyself:

Mike Watts, an associate professor in the accounting department at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, writes:

“In the April 19 Democrat, there's an opinion piece by Robert Maranto, who is identified as ‘with the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.' In the piece, he says that he received a report ‘telling my wife and I' about the academic performance of his son's school. Maybe we need a report on the academic performance of those involved in ‘Education Reform'? (You also have to wonder where the editor was.)”

Professor Watts is criticizing — gently and constructively, to be sure — the grammar used by Professor Maranto, who ought to have written “telling my wife and me.”

Pronouns aside, there's considerable disagreement, often heated, in the field of education reform. A layman needs help even to understand the terminology, much less the substance of the various proposals. I found assistance in an article titled “The Education Wars” in the April issue of The American Prospect magazine:

“She [the leader of a teachers union] also came out in support of school-wide differentiated pay. While ‘merit pay' is a code word for evaluating teachers based upon their students' test scores — and is roundly rejected by both major teachers' unions — ‘differentiated pay' awards salary bonuses to every teacher when the school's overall academic performance improves, or offers extra pay for teaching hard-to-staff subjects, working in rough schools, or taking on responsibilities such as mentoring new teachers.”

Coincidentally, teaching hard-to-staff subjects, working in rough schools, and taking on responsibilities such as mentoring new teachers are a few of my favorite things. Looks like I should have been a teacher. Instead, I drifted into the newspaper business, where “diminished pay” has become the fashion.


Yet another academic, Kelley Bass, asks whether “free rein” or “free reign” is correct. Good heavens, what are they teaching in grad school these days? The phrase that means “unrestricted liberty of action or decision” is free rein. The allusion is to horses, not kings. 


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