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Rick Hess Straight Up

Education policy maven Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute think tank offers straight talk on matters of policy, politics, research, and reform. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

"[Dis]ableing the Race to the Top": Say What Now?

By Rick Hess — August 11, 2010 1 min read

In a new Teachers College Record commentary, Penn State professors Kathleen M. Collins and Joseph Valente make an impressive contribution to the ranks of incomprehensible edu-babble. The abstract of "[Dis]ableing the Race to the Top” is all you really need (or may want) to read. It begins, “The authors present the notion of [dis]ableing as way of making visible the presence and limiting effects of ability-normative thinking.” It concludes, “In this commentary they briefly introduce [dis]ableing and demonstrate its usefulness in uncovering the influences of ability-normative thinking through a snapshot analysis of discourses pertaining to the Race to the Top.”

I’ll admit it: Collins and Valente made me feel old school and behind the curve. I really can’t believe all I’ve written about RTT without ever noting the import of “ability-normative thinking.” I’ll try to do better going forward.

That said, “A snapshot analysis of discourses pertaining” to RTT is just a stunningly awful phrase for someone summarizing a commentary on RTT. It reminds me why it’s so funny when ed professors complain that nobody listens to them in policy debates. And, like I told my staff, this kind of self-indulgent nonsense should be called out every once in a while--partly on principle and partly because academics hide behind such language to avoid having to take stands that look pedestrian and transparently ideological.

On the bright side, the title did remind me of one of my favorite not-yet-used paper titles: "(Dis)course... or ‘Dat Course.” Richard Colvin, Tom Loveless, Laura LoGerfo, and I settled on that one years ago during a particularly gleeful night at AERA. A few others came to mind while reading Collins and Valente. They included: "(Dis)qualified: A National Study of Teacher Credentialing,” "(Dis)courage, or Is THIS Courage: Why ED Wants States to Spend All of Their ARRA Money as Fast as Possible,” and "(Dis)mal or Dios Mio: Comparative Literacy and the Use of Parentheses.”

I know. I’m an awful person. And I’m looking forward to the irate e-mails from my ed school pals. Meantime, would welcome any good paper titles that leap to mind.

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.