As an impressionable teenager, I read George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 with a sense of fascination and fear. In particular, I was captivated by the idea that the relative diversity of our language both enabled and constrained our ability to express complex ideas. To take one example: if there was not a word for revolution, the people could not revolt. Whoever controlled the language controlled the people.
Ask someone in education about charter schools – even casually – and you are liable to be overwhelmed by a torrent of either enthusiasm or disdain. In an election year rife with proclamations about how divided we are as a nation, debates about charter schools prove that the landscape of educational policy is no exception.
Professional development (PD) in education has an image problem. Ballyhooed and derided in seemingly equal measures, it is celebrated for its potential to improve teaching and learning even as it is dismissed as a waste of time or money or both. The vociferousness and durability of these seemingly opposing sentiments give PD an air of incoherence and the impression that its boosters and detractors must not be talking about the same thing. What is the PD people love? And what is the PD people love to hate? And does it matter?