Just before many of us broke for holidays, Ontario announced changes to the frequency and content of elementary school report cards.

Some might wonder if parents will feel less-informed when they start receiving two instead of three written report cards per year. However, the Ministry of Education is making moves to ensure that what does make it into the teacher comments is more meaningful for parents.

In York Region, where I have a five-year-old, the spokesperson said that the Board will “encourage teachers to move away from jargon and emphasize personalized, plain language.” He added that the “‘canned comments’ currently in use are frustrating and a missed opportunity for communication between home and school.

Well hallelujah, say I.

Eduspeak, or the road to he** paved with good intentions…

When I studied Adult Education and worked in literacy, I often became annoyed by the highfalutin’ language I noticed many of us (me included) using to talk about our work. Here we had chosen these fields with the intention of helping other adults improve their lives through expanding their knowledge and access to information – yet we were still using words that were inaccessibly to many of the people we were there to help.

Jargon does have its place between people in the same profession, but we all have to remember our audience once we start using it with people from outside that orbit. And this is not lost on the recipients of information. The above-linked article  points out that there’s been a growing call for more than ‘indecipherable edu-speak’ in student reports.

Not sure what people mean by eduspeak?

Good old Google turned up a couple sites I’d recommend for anyone wanting to better understand this phenomenon. I will note up-front that all of these are biased against this kind of language:

  • Writer’s Block, Summer 2004: The Roots and Perils of Eduspeak – The Language of Pretense and Evasion. This longish piece by NIVA Corporation gives you an in-depth overview, with references.
  • Eduspeak, the Dictionary. This was developed by someone advocating for home schooling, in protest against the language that aims to leave “us mere ‘lay’ parents” out of the loop. Note that I do not advocate for home schooling – I just like this reference.
  • Eduspeak Jargon Generator. This tool pokes fun at the mangled sentences this type of language produces, by offering you a way to instantly create your very own eduspeak.