25 May. I’ve been getting a lot of traffic for this post and don’t want it to “fall below the fold” so I’m giving it a bump back to the top. Welcome to my new Chicago readers.
Like other–perhaps all–Unitarian Universalist ministers, I got an email from the Rev. Lee Barker, the president of Meadville Lombard Theological School informing me of a significant financial gift and the school’s board of trustees “unanimously approved all of the ojectives outlined in the Going Forward: Integrated Enrollment Plan.”
Yes, ojectives. Did you hear me sigh? And reading them, it doesn’t get better.
The writing is poor: turgid, ambiguous and filled with cliche and jargon. Are they trying to hide some critical fact? Puff up the work they accomplished? I look to the signatories and see respectable people and one in particular I respect. What is this? I can’t help but think of singer-writer David Byrne’s Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information, his sly homage to PowerPoint and its culture: this report says more about corporate America than anything religious or perhaps even educational.
- its use of enforced joy, optimism and consensus. (“In January 2007 Dr. Sharon Welch was announced as the elected candidate to the delight of all.”)
- ambiguous use of tense so it is not always clear if an action is desired, is planned or has occurred.
- use of passive voice sometimes cloaks roles and actors.
- typographical and spelling errors (“In it’s initial efforts . . . ” “liberal protestants”) plus the pixilated PDF of a printed copy of the report (rather than one generated from within a word processor) invite doubt in the quality of the report.
They seem to intent to
- networks of working groups instead of hierarchical bureaucracies (which looks more like the UUA’s governance model.)
- to get experienced staff members.
- increase enrollment.
But the details, the content? I am disturbed that the technical fixes are limited to aging and pedestrian choices as “DVD/VHS players, LCD projectors, visual presenters, interactive whiteboards, and other instructional technologies, and web-based tools like Blackboard and SharePoint. . . .” What, no zoetrope?
While the plan may call for networked leadership, analogous learning models like learner-generated content and peer resource creation–anyone heard of YouTube? wikis?–are absent.
I just can’t see what’s going on here.
The Rev. Adam Tierney-Eliot (Parsonage Life) has also written about this, with a bit more optimism.