Posted by: crudbasher | July 29, 2011

Does Naming Things Limit Them?

I’ve always been fascinated by words. How things are named the way they are usually has an interesting story behind them. Words can evoke an involuntary mental image when we hear them. For example, don’t think of an elephant.

You did, didn’t you?

As we look at reforming the current education system with teachers, classrooms, classes,  and students, perhaps we should consider if our existing names are too limiting?

Let’s look at a few. (all definitions come from


-noun. an institution where instruction is given, especially to persons under college age.

The first problem I have with the word school is it tends to be thought of as the ONLY place instruction is given. The second problem with the definition is it says nothing about learning. We can give instruction all day long and if nobody learns anything, then what was the point?


-noun. a room, as in a school or college, in which classes are held.

Ok so this is just a subsection of a school. Same problems. Let’s look at classes.


-noun. a group of students meeting regularly to study a subject under the guidance of a teacher

Ah I see. So can the students study a subject without a teacher’s guidance? Of course they can, but the word has taken on implied meanings. Many parents and students think that they can learn only in class with a teacher.


-noun. a person who teaches or instructs, especially as a profession; instructor.

Ok that is understandable but is hugely incomplete. In order to teach don’t you also have to be able to listen?


-noun. a person or thing that educates, especially a teacher, principal, or other person involved in planning or directing education.

This is the word that teachers use to glamorize their profession. 🙂 Teachers get an apple from their students. Educators, EDUCATE! (trumpet fanfare)

Do you also notice that both Teacher and Educator are active words? To Teach, To Educate. In other words they are the ones doing the work in a classroom. Shouldn’t the students be doing the work?

I don’t want an educator, I want a facilitator.


-noun. a person responsible for leading or coordinating the work of a group, as one who leads a group discussion.

And finally:


-noun. a person formally engaged in learning, especially one enrolled in a school or college; pupil

This is probably the only word I think is appropriate. Socrates had students. If we were to create a new education system, we would start with the student and surround them with everything they need to facilitate their learning. Instead we built a massive school system, into which if working perfectly you would insert children at one end and get identically copies at the other.

Just Add Children (cc) naosuki ii


Words are powerful things. To lable something is to create an impression in the mind for right or wrong.

The power of the word is real whether or not you are conscious of it. Your own words are the bricks and mortar of the dreams you want to realize. Behind every word flows energy. ~ Sonia Choquette

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