Way back when I was a college student, one of my professors warned the class to avoid using jargon in our papers, says Joanne Yatvin, a vet­eran public school educator, author and past president of the National Council of Teachers of English, for the Washington Post. By jargon he meant big words of indeterminate meaning. Ever since then I’ve tried to follow his advice in my own writing and to be aware of jargon in the writing of others. But I’ve also come to recognize that there are different kinds of jargon and at least one of them is justifiable. That jargon is a “shorthand” used in the technical literature of specialized fields to refer to complicated entities or processes that readers are already familiar with. By using jargon the writers avoid giving long and unnecessary explanations. But what about other kinds of jargon? Apart from politics, the most contentious public issue today is education. It is a polarized field, where all kinds of governmental bodies, organizations, think tanks, and citizen groups hold strong views about how schools should change or be managed and whether or not it would be better to privatize them altogether. At the same time, most people have little knowledge about the realities of education, basing their opinions on personal experience, their worldviews, and what their leaders tell them. Thus, the flow of jargon is plentiful and forceful, seeking to turn the tide of public opinion irrevocably in a particular direction…

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