Pirate Talk: A New Requirement in High Schools?

By Catherine Gewertz — September 16, 2014 1 min read
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When you cover the Common Core State Standards day in and day out, it’s not surprising to hear some eyebrow-raising—and totally groundless—claims made in the debate. (Remember the one about eyeball-tracking technology?) So you could be forgiven if you wondered—for one teensy little second—whether this missive, which landed in inboxes this week, was for real.

A “leaked U.S. Department of Education memo,” the email said, will recommend that high schools in all common-core states adopt a new curriculum: “Pirate as a Second Language.” It said the memo had been signed by John Easton, the director of the Education Department’s Institute of Education Sciences.

“The Common Core debate is fierce, and this will surely add fuel to the fire,” the email said.

Of course, the email was a stunt. It went on to say that the curriculum shift would support “Talk Like A Pirate Day,” which happens to be this Friday. (Did you know that? I did not know that.) It included links that purported to be a message from Easton or to show documented increases in the use of “pirate and pirate-related language” online, but that actually led readers to a video of goofy guys dancing around in pirate gear and offering tips on how to talk like a pirate. (They’re the Flavor Savers, a silliness troupe from Chicago.)

This bit of fluffery was the brainchild of Elasticity, a St. Louis-based public-relations and social-media firm that is representing Café Press, which makes customizable products such as mugs and T-shirts. They’re hoping to capitalize on “Talk Like A Pirate Day” to sell items emblazoned with, well, pirate images.

“Café Press likes to do these stunts,” said Taylor Lutkewitte, the Elasticity representative who sent out the email and signed it, “public relations strategist & Grammar Police Commissioner. “They like to take issues and turn them on their head to give people a chuckle. Common core was in the news, so we said, ‘Why don’t we go ahead and make a spoof?’”

Why don’t we, indeed? From one of those who slogs daily through the non-spoof version: Thanks for the moment of levity.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.