4.0524 "Educationist"? (1/99)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Tue, 25 Sep 90 22:42:06 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0524. Tuesday, 25 Sep 1990.

Date: Sat, 22 Sep 90 6:45:45 EDT
From: rhutchin@pilot.njin.net (Roland Hutchinson)
Subject: Re: 4.0511 Words: Plurals and Borrowing; Perfect Weaving

Tom Vickery writes:

I guess I am more curious about Roland Hutchinson's word
"educationist" than I am about the demise of "curricula." What a
god-awful word "educationist" is. According to my Webster's New
World, 2nd College Edition, the "-ist" ending would mean (1) someone
who does, makes, or practices education, (2) a person skilled in or
occupied with; an expert in education, and/or (3) an adherent of,
believer in education. That would fit quite a few people, including
but certainly not limited to professors in colleges of education and
common school educators.

Roland, what in the world do you mean by that atrocity?

Well, I deliberately used an atrocious neologism to refer to the
people who run and make policy for America's schools and the people
who train them, because that's the kind of word (and worse) that they
themselves seem to like using. I thought it rather a nice rhetorical
ornament to exemplify the very vice that I was condemning (disregard of
the standard lexicon), but I quite forgot that the conventions of
electronic rhetoric demand that all such flourishes be flagged with a
smiley. :-) [Even on Humanist??? --Yes, alas, even on Humanist.]

What has provoked me to make uncomplimentary generalizations about
educationalistic prose? I'm glad you asked. As a relatively new
member of a college music department, I have been trying to read up on
education and educational research, since many of my undergraduate and
graduate students are majoring in music education. And I am a great
admirer of good teachers and of gifted teachers of teachers--among
whose number I count the director of the music education program in
our department. I am also considerably amused to consider (while
surrounded daily by prospective high school and elementary teachers)
that while my M.A. in music is sufficient qualification to teach
teachers, I would have to study something called "education" for at
least three years in order to be considered qualified to teach in the
public schools myself. And having looked at some length at the
materials that education students are expected to read and regurgitate
on exams, I honestly do not think that I could do it even if I wanted to.

Now, as a musicologist I admit to membership in a profession that has
generated its share of turgid and self-important prose. But the field
of education seems actually to value poor writing as a distinguishing
mark of serious scholarship. Anecdotal evidence on this point: at
last week's meeting of a glorified music bibliography course that my
department calls "Seminar in Historical Research," one of my graduate
students, a credentialed (or as we say in New Jersey, certificated)
teacher, spontaneously offered the following reaction to Barzun and
Graff's THE MODERN RESEARCHER: "This book is really very clearly
written. You can tell what they're getting at. I didn't expect that
it would be that way. Is that a new trend, to write research in plain

This really happened. My student had clearly learned to associate
professionalism with unintelligible prose. Unintelligible textbooks
were all that she was asked to read as an undergraduate! And I am
beginning to suspect that education textbooks are models of clarity
compared to journal articles on education research--at least the
textbooks are more likely to have received the attention of a skillful
copy editor. I speak of course in generalities here. Thank goodness
for the all-too-rare exceptions that demonstrate that education can be
written about in thoughtful, well-crafted prose.

To resume my attempt at a direct answer to Tom's question: Aside from
its intended load of sarcasm, I find no virtue in the word
"educationist." So I propose a query: what, O fellow Humanists, is a
suitable (neutral, non-judgmental) term for people who study the
theory and practice of K-12 education, but do not customarily teach
below the college level themselves? Surely they are not simply
"educators"--we are all educators, are we not? (At least we ought to
be!) "The analogy of "humanist" was probably in the back of my mind
as I lighted upon "educationist," clearly a barbarism. The analogy of
"musicologist" (a word itself at one time decried by linguistic
purists) suggests "pedagogiologist," which is the best I can mangage
at this hour of the night. It is by now quite clear that I have
absolutely no talent in the line of wordsmithing and had better get
out while I can...

Roland Hutchinson

P.S. Just to clarify my position on English plurals (or, as we say in
EduSpeak, my philosophy of pluralization): I quite agree with Robin
that speakers (and writers) of the language own the language and are
quite entitled to whatever plural forms they collectively choose to
agree on. (Let us not enter here into polemics on the right of each
individual to preserve her or his particular idiolect in print.) I
myself use words like "concertos," "melismas," and "octopuses" on a
daily basis. Well, maybe not _daily_ "octopuses"! But I _do_ say or
write "violas da gamba" several times on a typical day.

The dispute with my landlady concerns one word only. The points in
question are two: (1) whether there exists among educated
English-speaking Americans a consensus or at least a majority
sentiment favoring the form "curricula" and (2) if that is the case,
whether it is prudent for educators to have settled on the form
"curriculums" as a standard. (It is a friendly dispute, presupposing
as it does our mutual assent to the proposition that there must surely
be _something_ wrong with a profession that feels it cannot get along
without the verb "to certificate.")