Friday, March 12, 2010

"Drink the Koolaid"? Not me.

I don’t like buzz words. Nothing trivializes an idea more than the overuse of a phrase. Some of you have heard my rants on the wearing out of the word “amazing.” However, artfully constructed, a fresh metaphor can really harness a hurricane.

The phrase du jour seems to be “Drink the Koolaid,” which has devolved into simply meaning to “believe in something,” or “have faith in something novel.” Really? Of the last four people I heard turn this phrase, only ONE knew the origin. I always ask, “Have you ever heard of Jim Jones?” From many, I get blank stares. How about “Jonestown?” In 1978, cult leader, Jim Jones brainwashed his followers in Guyana to drink Koolaid laced with cyanide in a mass “revolutionary suicide.” Nearly 1,000 people took their own lives on the word of a charismatic sociopath when he told them to “Drink the Koolaid.”

Recently, I have heard some advocates of changing our educational system use the phrase “Drink the Koolaid” to get people to buy in to student-centered classrooms, inquiry-driven research, world-wide collaboration, and leveraging technology to facilitate learning.

Is this the phrase we want to use? Have we forgotten the sinister, diabolical connotation of this phrase? Charles Manson’s followers “drank the Koolaid,” Bernie Madoff’s investors “drank the Koolaid,” to a certain extent we all “drank the Koolaid” when it came to Tiger Woods’ perceived image.

And this is the phrase we want to use to help show fellow educators, administrators, parents, kids, and community members how we can change schools for the better? Especially in the wake of President Obama’s plan to transform education, is this the proper stance?

Perhaps we need another phrase. How about “See the light”?