Words and Things (and Assumptions)

An excerpt from the book “And What Do YOU Mean by Learning?” by Seymour Sarason:

Two people may say they are patriotic [or any other concept] only to find that when they pursue what they mean – what the concept includes or excludes, what actions it supports or indicts  – they come to a parting of ways.

In this section of his book Dr. Sarason discusses the difference between conceptual words like culture, research, patriotism, bureaucracy, neurosis, philosophy, and words or things like sun, milk, horse, moon, shoe to make his point that people can have differing interpretations and definitions of the conceptual words and thus appear to disagree when they are merely thinking differently.

The world of educational transformation (née reform) is fraught with such conceptual disagreements. Living in that world and working with my passionate colleagues in Mosaic I wonder if we will ever move past making assumptions about each other’s drive and purpose (i.e., conceptual beliefs). For, until we do, we are hardly adiabatic and thus waste considerable energy and momentum, which will ultimately digest our program – our collective efforts – from the inside-out.

If this happens amongst a dozen or so educators, how does it work with hundreds or thousands?

If, when I say the word transformational, you and I are thinking of two vastly different concepts, how do we bridge this difference and learn from one another?

I’m afraid at this time I have more questions than answers.