Education & Industry: Divided by the Same Language

England and America are two countries separated by the same language. GEORGE BERNARD SHAW
For some time now, there’s been a strong push for education and industry to collaborate more closely to improve the caliber of US education.

Why? The most basic measure of education effectiveness is whether or not graduates are capable of entering society as productive, contributing young adults. Collaborating to accomplish this goal makes sense.

So, what’s the problem? To paraphrase Shaw, educators and industry are two groups of smart people divided by the same language.

Every sector has an insider lingo that includes specialized terms, acronyms, shorthand phrases, jargon and stylistic quirks. STAT, for example, is medical shorthand for “urgent” or “rush.” It’s derived from the Latin word “statim,” which means immediately or without delay.

Insider terms speed up internal communications and slow down external communications. In an urgent situation, saying “STAT” to someone unfamiliar with the term prompts puzzled looks and protracted explanations, not speedy action.

Some people use specialized terms to highlight their status, knowledge or sense of belonging. It’s the multisyllabic version of “nyah-nyah-nyah.”

Others use them just because they’re so familiar. Which brings us back to our point.

More than one business person has confessed they don’t understand educators when they talk. Pedagogy. PreK-n-K (they hear it as one word). Primary. Secondary. Postsecondary. Curriculum. Curricula. Baccalaureate. Colloquium. Cohort. Corequisite. Monograph. Pedant. Pedantic. Practicum. I could go on.

Savvy, successful business people, masters of their own jargon, are frustrated and confused by these terms. By the time they’ve figured out what pedagogy means, they’ve lost the gist of the discussion.

As more than one has said, why don’t educators just say "teaching?"

The answer, of course, is educators have their own lingo, too. It’s comfortable and familiar to them, but alien to outsiders. While they enthusiastically describe improvement strategies, their audience is struggling to decipher the meaning of “pedagogically sound PLEs.” (Loosely translated, the phrase means using sound teaching practices to create personalized learning environments.)

Business and industry want and need educators to do a good job. That’s why they’re at the table. Educators want and need sound advice and real-world input, so they can deliver effective, relevant courses that help students succeed. That’s why they’re at the table.

In theory, they all speak English, and in practice, they're collaborating to improve outcomes, which is a worthwhile. The motivations are pure, the results could be stupendous.

Too often, however, education and industry appear to be united by a common goal and separated by the same language.

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