From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Monday, June 27, 2011
By Joanne Yatvin
I never tack “ly” onto ordinal number words, or say “myself” when I mean “I” or “me.” I won’t use “access” or “impact” as verbs because I consider them to be only nouns.
Even so, I remain politely quiet when others commit such grammatical transgressions. But there is one word I dislike so intensely when used in connection with education that I can’t remain silent under any circumstances.
That word is: rigor.
Part of my reaction is emotional, having so often heard “rigor” paired with “mortis.” The other part is logical, stemming from the literal meanings of rigor: harshness, severity, strictness, inflexibility and immobility.
None of these things is what I want for students at any level. And, although I don’t believe that the politicians, scholars or media commentators who use the word so freely really want them, either, I still reproach them for using the wrong word and the wrong concept to characterize educational excellence.
Rigor has been used to promote the idea that American students need advanced course work, complex texts, and longer school days and years in order to be ready for college or the workplace.
But, so far, the rigorous practices put in place under the federal No Child Left Behind Act and various school reform plans have not raised test scores or improved high school graduation rates.
Since I believe it is time for a better word and a better concept to drive American education, I recommend “vigor.”