Tag Archives: professional development

Term of Art: Taboo

“Taboo: The term taboo derives from the Tongan ‘tabu,’ meaning ‘sacred” or ‘inviolable.’ However, its contemporary use is broader, most generally meaning a social and often sacred prohibition put upon certain things, people, or acts, which render them untouchable or unmentionable. The most famous taboo is the near-universal incest taboo, prohibiting sexual or marriage relations between particular categories of kin. According  to both Sigmund Freud (Totem and Taboo, 1938) and Claude Levi-Strauss (The Elementary Structures of Kinship, 1969), society itself originated with the incest taboo. Other authors have stressed the function performed by taboos in society. Raymond Firth (in Symbols Public and Private, 1973) interpreted taboo as a mechanism of social control. In Purity and Danger (1966), Mary Douglas drew attention to the way in which taboo serves as a social marker, creating and maintaining social classifications.”

Excerpted from: Marshall, Gordon, ed. Oxford Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Term of Art: Pacing Chart

“pacing chart: A graphic representation of time on task that describes what students and teachers will be doing during a course of study. The pacing chart is a customized guide that some teachers use to plan instruction in each subject and to ensure that they teach the essential skills and knowledge of each topic within a specified period of time while meeting the requirements of state standards.”

Excerpted from: Ravitch, Diane. EdSpeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2007.

One Way to Think about Teaching Social Studies

“Social scientific research is and always will be tentative and imperfect. It does not claim to transform economics, sociology, and history into exact sciences. But by patiently searching for facts and patterns and calmly analyzing the economic, social, and political mechanisms that might explain them, it can inform democratic debate and focus attention on the right questions. It can help to redefine the terms of debate and focus attention on the right questions. It can help to redefine the terms of debate, unmask certain preconceived or fraudulent notions, and subject all positions to critical scrutiny. In my view, this is the role that intellectuals, including social scientists, should play as citizens like any other but with the good fortune to have more time than others to devote themselves to study (and even to be paid for it—a signal privilege).”

Piketty, Thomas. Trans. Arthur Goldhammer. Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2014.

Review Essay: A Lesson Plan on Ghoti and Its Others

The amount of research on reading is voluminous. Even after reading what I consider and exhaustive (and occasionally exhausting) amount of this material across a period of 15 years, I still barely scratched the surface of this body of literature. At the classroom level, however, teaching practice demands keen attention to two things: decoding–i.e. recognizing the correspondence between letters and their sounds, known as phonemic awareness, and comprehension–i.e. understanding the meanings of words and applying that understanding, in synthesis, to the entire body of a text to understand it.

English is a tough language to decode. One person who recognized this and wanted to do something about it was the Irish playwright and Nobel Laureate George Bernard Shaw. Shaw was sufficiently concerned about the odd vagaries of English spelling that he actually bequeathed money in his estate for spelling reform. Indeed, there is a form of orthography known as the Shavian Alphabet (Aside: Shavian is both an adjective and a noun meaning, basically, related to George Bernard Shaw and his writings.)

In any case, one of the well-known representations of the challenges of English phonics, often erroneously (it first appeared, apparently, in a letter from Charles Ollier to Leigh Hunt) attributed to Shaw, is the word ghoti. It is possible, using English phonics, to pronounce this word as fish: take the gh from tough (i.e. f), the o from the plural women (i.e. short i), and the ti from action (i.e. sh).

Over the years, when I had a few minutes left in a class period, generally at the beginning of the school year, I would trot this out for the struggling readers and English language learners I served. After explaining–in summary of course–much of the foregoing in this essay, I would point out to students that if they struggled with English phonics and their representation in orthography, they were in very good company: George Bernard Shaw, Nobel prizewinning author whose plays are still routinely performed today.

This year, I finally wrote out this lesson plan on ghoti for use in a full class period. Here is the accompanying worksheet and the teacher’s copy of same. I added a few words, which I grabbed somewhere along the line. Now it’s yours if you can use it.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Term of Art: Work Ethic

“Work Ethic: The idea of productive labor, or work, being valued in and for itself for those who do it, encouraging them to invest greater effort than could be achieved by social pressures, incentive payments, or other devices developed by employers to extract maximum output from their workforces. The concept is a unique product of Western European culture; other cultures rely on different social, religious, and political ideologies to encourage productive labor and the fulfillment of social obligations. The idea was derived originally from the protestant ethic, which presents work as a religious and moral obligation, and is now widely used as a simplified popular version of that concept, especially in the context of explanations for low or high productivity and economic growth. The relevant American and British research in sociology, psychology, economics, and political science is reviewed in Michael Rose, Reworking the Work Ethic (1985).”

Excerpted from: Marshall, Gordon, ed. Oxford Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Term of Art: Skill

“Skill: In everyday speech, skill means a relatively precise set of manual or mental techniques which, though they may depend on aptitude, have to be learned through training or schooling. Sociological work, though not denying this aspect of skill, is primarily concerned with the management of skill; that is, how skill is defined, constructed, and recognized. Since the publication of Harry Braverman’s work in the 1970s, much scholarship has been devoted to examining Karl Marx’s claim that ‘valorization’ in the capitalist labor process requires a continual attempt to de-skill expensive forms of labor. De-skilling means either the disintegration and mechanization of craft techniques; or a refusal adequately to recognize established or new capabilities still required of the worker. The latter is very common in women’s employment. Many writers, Marxist and non-Marxist alike, argue that de-skilling is not inevitable. Workers, individually or through trade unions, may resist mechanization, or insist that de-skilled processes are reserved for workers with established training, who continue to be paid a premium for their displaced skills. Also, employers may upgrade (or ‘upskill’) workers; because they wish to recognize and retain dependable or experienced workers; or to control and inhibit labor unrest; or because, notwithstanding Marx, the development of technology has created new skills in place of older ones. In any case, jobs may be de-skilled without necessarily implying the de-skilling of individual workers, or indeed the labor force as a whole. A selection of empirical case studies are reported in Roger Penn et al (eds.), Skill and Occupational Change (1994).”

Excerpted from: Marshall, Gordon, ed. Oxford Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Term of Art: Word Salad

“Word Salad: One of the most common symptoms of schizophrenia is a disturbance in the use of language. Rather than select words which make communication possible, schizophrenics may combine words in idiosyncratic ways, or use associations that are out of context. This tendency may generate a minor language disturbance; or, in extreme cases, a word salad in which the combination of words is unintelligible to the listener and so makes communication impossible.”

Excerpted from: Marshall, Gordon, ed. Oxford Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.