Why do people continue to believe they can change what we think about something by changing what we call it?
To soothe the bruised egos of educators and children in lackluster schools, Massachusetts officials are now pushing for kinder, gentler euphemisms for failure.
Instead of calling these schools "underperforming," the Board of Education is considering labeling them as "Commonwealth priority," to avoid poisoning teacher and student morale.
Schools in the direst straits, now known as "chronically underperforming," would get the more urgent but still vague label of "priority one."
The board has spent parts of more than three meetings in recent months debating the linguistic merits and tone set by the terms after a handful of superintendents from across the state complained that the label underperforming unfairly casts blame on educators, hinders the recruitment of talented teachers, and erodes students' self-esteem.
People in Massachusetts aren't that stupid. They know which schools are doing well and which aren't, and it won't be long before "priority one" carries the same stigma as "chronically underperforming" (which itself is a euphemism for "failing"). And the kids whose self-esteem is bring protected will know their intelligence is being insulted. Heaven forbid they try something that might actually improve performance, such as setting high standards and holding everyone to them.