I hear parents, teachers, administrators and politicians speak about education a lot, and too often I hear them speak of the need for more rigor in school.
Before blindly accepting the need for more rigor, I would like us to look more closely at the definition of rigor:
- strictness, severity, or harshness, as in dealing with people.
- severity of living conditions; hardship; austerity: the rigor of wartime existence
- obsolete. stiffness or rigidity.
- a state of rigidity in living tissues or organs that prevents response to stimuli.
Consider some of the synonyms for rigor:
Does any of the above sound like a good description of a learning environment you would want for you child?
Honestly, I would hope not.
In an interview with Learning Matters, Phillip Kovacs (columnist for EdNews.org) suggests we replace rigor with vigor.
Consider the defintions for vigor:
- active strength or force.
- healthy, physical or mental energy or power; vitality.
- energetic activity; energy; intensity: the economic recovery has give the country a new vigor.
- force of healthy growth in any living matter or organism, as a plant.
Consider some of vigor’s synonyms:
Doesn’t vigor sound like a far more engaging and purposeful learning environment?
You could make the case that this is simple semantics, but I believe language matters – and the words we associate with learning and teaching should be chosen very carefully. I believe this to be true simply because today’s educational reforms -unfortunately – are more apt to reflect rigor than vigor.