Paul Greenberg

Counselor and Senator Luker noted that he got his law degree from the University of Arkansas in 1966, adding: "I've been accused of being ignorant, but I've never been accused of not having a degree."

The savvy senator seems quite aware that having a degree is no guarantee of being educated. Sir Thomas More, statesman and saint in that ascending order, said it: "Many are schooled, but few are educated."

Whenever the all too obvious shortcomings of American education -- higher, lower or in between -- are pointed out, the most predictable response from the defenders of the educational establishment tends to be delivered in pure educanto, a lingo designed to obscure rather than clarify meaning.

In that sense, educanto is much like the newspeak of George Orwell's "1984," the purpose of which was not only to provide a medium of expression for the party elite but also to make all other modes of thought impossible, language would have become so muddled.

Educantists realize there is no greater threat to their domination of American education than clear thought rendered in clear language. No wonder they abhor plain English and try to avoid it at all costs, lest they say something meaningful and give the game away.

The use of verbal fog to disguise, confuse and generally fend off any salient criticism is scarcely new. Specialized jargon has long been the first and last resort of those in any field who would like their views to appear well grounded when they're just hot air. Daniel Defoe spotted the same lamentable trend as long ago as 1702, when he wrote:

"We have seen many great Scholars, meer Learned Men, and Graduates in the last Degree of Study, whose English has been far from Polite, full of Stiffness and Affectation, hard Words, and long unusual Coupling of Syllables and Sentences, which sound harsh and untuneable to the Ear, and shock the Reader both in Expression and Understanding."

Daniel Defoe may have been writing at the dawn of the 18th century, but he could have been describing any textbook written in the best and most current educanto, with references to Normative Generalization Reference Cues and Situation Response Relationship Reinforcement. All of it sounds like something poorly translated from the original German.

This is not a new problem, but one that has metastasized with the expansion of bureaucracy in education and just about everywhere else. Its surest symptom: language that's more pretentious than meaningful.

Conclusion: Whatever sage exclaimed, "Oh, Justice! What crimes are committed in thy name!" may not have considered all those committed in education's.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.