Word wars

I missed it this time, but apparently there was another academese word war on AusEduTwitter the other day. Again someone accused academics of being difficult to understand. Again someone defended academics by articulating their job is to write for obscure, wordy journals that about three people read but looks good on the university metrics; and those journals are the ones wannabe academics have to cite to be taken seriously. Again we go around and around in circles talking about the words we use to write about research.

But what about the words we use to DO research?

Where are the debates about those?  Shouldn’t we be concentrating our semantic energies on fine tuning those machines? One thing war does is force the development of new technologies. I would love to see a Twitter/blog war about the value of the interview. We all know interviews are weak research but we do them anyway because we have no real robust alternative. We need new ways of provoking responses so they don’t reflect what the researcher wants to hear.

Today I asked my 5 year old why she didn’t put her hand up in class. She told me it was because her answers were not the same as what the teacher said. If a 5 year old is already trained to give the educator what they think they want to hear, imagine what thirteen years of compulsory schooling and four years of tertiary has ingrained! In education research, we have more than a surface level politics of power problem with the interview. We have a subconsciousness that is trained to respect anyone who even smacks of being a teacher (even if you don’t think so it’s there).

So if we are to move forward in education research, and I mean leap forward, not inch forward, we need to find the words to illicit responses that we are not expecting. We need less reflection and reflexivity. They are just mirrors of mirrors. We need new words. We need words to find the weird.

En garde, anyone?


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