The Impact Of Language

“Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow.”  -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Language has impact.  It affects us, leaves an imprint.  The words we read, the words we hear, the words we use, all influence us.  Our thoughts.  Our perspectives.  Our ideas.  Our culture.

Language and the words we use affect us, from stimulating intellectual thought to evoking the angriest of emotions.  Language is powerful.  It is how we communicate.  It is what makes us human.

And for those reasons, we have long understood that language has a powerfully defining effect on the culture and behavior of our organizations.  One of the simplest ways to determine the overall culture of an organization is to listen to the words and language those within use in their day to day interactions, operations and communications.

The stories we tell and the words we use to describe our organizations provides deep insight.  Our organizational language is an internal spotlight to our real feelings and views, our attitudes and assumptions.

If we grasp the powerful influence and impact of language in our lives, as educators we would have to be both deeply concerned and fully energized, simultaneously.  

We have a real “inside out” problem in the world of education.  If we pay close attention to the language that is being used and applied, we will gain deep understandings to the many attitudes and assumptions we are currently facing.

From the education “inside” we discover a language of creativity and  innovation.  More and more we find educators utilizing and collaborating through social media to innovate and exponentially change the current face of education.  A focus on learning, at all levels.  From technology, to strategies, and even design, we see the education “inside” engaged in dynamic conversations that are uprooting the very foundations of education.

From the education “outside” we discover a language of reform.  A conversation focused more on pointing fingers at, than pointing the way forward.  LInes blurred and smeared as we struggle with the language of test scores and learning, evaluation and professional practice.  Conversations that often spend more time pushing down upon than pushing education forward.

In a time where we are facing exponential changes that are tearing apart the very fabric of how we have previously viewed the institution of education, we still struggle with one of the earliest forms of human expression, the language in which we approach the educational conversation.

Until we bridge our language divide, we will continue to struggle to determine a unifying vision for education.

“Language is the road map of a culture.  It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.”  -Rita Mae Brown


1 thought on “The Impact Of Language

  1. David, I believe that language shapes our understandings of our work and our vision for moving forward. I sometimes think we need a “new language” to break out of our well worn ways of thinking — to truly innovate. As always, thank you for your thoughtful post and for challenging our thinking about the work we do.

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