Thursday, May 9, 2013

Words I can live without

I’ll name one: pedagogy. Its three possible pronunciations make it a stumbling block: with so many choices, whatever one chooses feels wrong. But look past the surface ugliness: pedagogy is ugly to the bone. The word derives from pedagogue: “A schoolmaster, a teacher; esp. a strict, dogmatic, or pedantic one.” In ancient Greece, the pedagogue, or παιδαγωγός , was “a slave who took children to and from school.” We can do better than a word that associates teaching with dogma, pedantry, and servitude. It is telling that Merriam-Webster illustrates the word’s use with this sentence from Alex Ross: “Some of the presentations, a few too many for comfort, lapsed into the familiar contortions of modern pedagogy.”

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of pedagogy
contains an apt alternative: “The art, occupation, or practice of teaching.” Where others speak of pedagogy, I prefer to speak of the art of teaching. Not best practices, not instruction delivery, not methods, not a science or a system, but an art, whose exercise requires compassion, intuition, and wit.

Worse than pedagogy are its evil relations pedagogical and pedagogically. The adjective and adverb are often superfluous: if one is speaking about teaching, it’s not necessary to describe a practice or strategy as pedagogically useful, no more than it would be to describe an element in a building’s design as architecturally useful. Pedagogy, pedagogical, pedagogically, good riddance.

More words I can live without
A 2009 list (Bluesy, craft as a verb, &c.)
A 2012 list (Delve, -flecked, &c.)
“Some Enchanted Evening” (Words never to use in a poem)
That said, (Yes, I crossed it out.)

[All quotations from the Oxford English Dictionary except as noted.]

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