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Beware The Jargon Factory

Beware The Jargon Factory

Dear Francesca,

I liked your story about the woman whom you called "The Meta-Lady" who arrived to do a workshop with the teachers at your school last month. I gather she's been hired by the city to do workshops like this in a number of the elementary schools.

When the time reserved for "teacher input" came, you said you started telling her about a story that Shaniqua wrote about her grandma and the way the other children at her table had connected this to funny things that happened to their own grandmothers. You said the woman interrupted you at this point to inform you that you'd struck upon "a shrewd perception" that was more important than you seemed to understand.

She said you had unwittingly arrived at what she called a "meta-concept." What the children at that table had been doing, as she put it, was to make "a text-to-self connection."

I think you were justified in saying later that you thought that this was "gibberish." She had taken an ordinary reflex of the children — someone writes a story and the other children liken it to stories of their own — and had given it a big-time label which enabled her to slot it in a package of cognition theory that she seemed to think was more sophisticated than the way you had described it.

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