Many years ago there was an Emperor so exceedingly fond of new clothes that he spent all his money on being well dressed. He cared nothing about reviewing his soldiers, going to the theatre, or going for a ride in his carriage, except to show off his new clothes.
Seth Godin’s recent blog post reminds me of Hans Christian Andersen.
“Overwriting has a long tradition, particularly among academics. Make it a bit more complex and wordy than it needs to be. Write run-on sentences. Apparently, complicated writing must be more true.”
The best examples of this tendency are to be found, in my experience, in the turgid world of curriculum documentation. Godin goes on:
“One reason for this commitment to overwriting is that it keeps the hordes away. It’s difficult to read and hard to imagine writing. And so scarcity is created.”
The mythology of scarcity underscores the entire enterprise of traditional education. The eye of a needle and other biblical parables come to mind. As with organised religion, scarcity implies sanctity, hence we need a hierarchy of knowing elders whose job it is to control the sacred scripture of limited access.
Consider a traditional curriculum document. Almost all of these belong to another world and continue to be written today in the same fashion. There is little here in the ornate, self-indulgent language of the esoteric that is designed to help teachers do their jobs well. These sacred texts are rarely designed for the learner, yet there appears to be a subliminal effort put into ensuring that parents will be bewildered by an encounter.
“It keeps the hordes away. It’s difficult to read and hard to imagine writing. And so scarcity is created.”
In the end, the procession may go on, but the learner in all of us will prevail.
The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, “This procession has got to go on.” So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.
Godin, Seth. “Overwriting.” Seth’s Blog, June 9, 2019.