If any of us had the dream that we were going to actually be concentrating on the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic instead of teaching to the tests (and teaching to the practice tests), our hopes were quickly dashed when our principal Bud Sexson let us know that the three Rs were rigor, relevance, and relationships.
When I heard Sexson stressing the importance of adding rigor to the educational process, something did not seem right.
As an English teacher and someone with a knowledge of the English language, I knew that rigor was the last thing that the students at East or in the Joplin R-8 School District needed.
The definition of rigor is "harsh, unyielding. Why were we wanting to push harsh and unyielding education on children?
At first, I thought this was just another phase that Joplin was going through. Instead, it turns out Joplin was latching on to another one of these fads to which education often falls victim.
Though the time of relevance and relationships appears to have come and gone, schools all across the nation are still pushing rigor.
I was reminded of those professional development meetings at East, when I read the latest blog post from educational historian Diane Ravitch, who served in the U. S. Department of Education under President George H. W. Bush:
The post is about a letter from a Brooklyn teacher who had the same reservations about "rigor" that I had.
The letter contained the Merrian-Webster definition of rigor:
a (1) : harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment : severity (2) : the quality of being unyielding or inflexible : strictness (3) : severity of life : austerity
b : an act or instance of strictness, severity, or cruelty
: a tremor caused by a chill
: a condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable; especially : extremity of cold
: strict precision : exactness
a obsolete : rigidity, stiffness
b : rigidness or torpor of organs or tissue that prevents response to stimuli
c : rigor mortis
Considering the nonsense that educational charlatans, all of whom seem to be making steady money as consultants, have been touting since No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top and so-called reform have swept the nation, it should come as no surprise to those of us who have had to deal with the results (and that's all of us) that these geniuses do not even know the meaning of the words they are shoving down our throats.