Monthly Archives: July 2011

Gobbledygook: Cracking the Code

July 28, 2011

A monthly rant from the “Frustrated Evaluator”

1. Gobbledygook or gobbledegook (sometimes gobbledegoo) is any text containing jargon or especially convoluted English that results in it being excessively hard to understand or even incomprehensible.

I’m an easy going guy and 90% of the time evaluating international academic documents, something I’ve been doing for nearly 20 years, is a smooth and effortless process. And believe you me, I’ve seen it all. From the handwritten Indian mark sheets to three-inch binders filled with German exam certificates to lengthy Philippines transcripts for not one but three or more degrees. But just when I’ve settled comfortably at my desk, a fresh cup of high octane coffee by my side, transcripts laid out in front of me, and happily breezing through a detailed course-by-course breakdown, I hit a wall. There it is; the quintessential gobbledygook road block! The course title that is either abbreviated to such an extent leaving not a single clue to help expand it to its full meaning, e.g. IMC & AHC, or so ambiguous, e.g. “Manipulating Matters”, leaving you scratching your head or, as is in my case, pulling my hair. Not to put the spotlight on our neighbors to the north, since no one country is innocent, it seems that our Canadian friends absolutely relish issuing transcripts riddled with abbreviated course titles, as though they are producing highly classified documents that only a sophisticated code breaker can decipher.

Sometimes, a little bit of internet browsing on the guilty institution’s website leads me to a curriculum plan and there buried amongst hundreds of courses lies the brainteaser, the abbreviated gobbledygook with its full course title. Eureka! But this is one of those serendipitous moments in life that happens once in a blue moon. Most often, the institution and its website don’t keep curriculum plans that go as far as back as the case you’re working on and the student doesn’t have copies of a syllabus and is suddenly struck by memory loss unable to recall much of what happened in class 15 years earlier much less the title of the course. I don’t blame them. After all, who doesn’t want to leave school behind and forget about it?

You’ve exhausted all resources and left on your own laurels to deal with this dilemma. But what’s the frustrated evaluator to do?

When all else fails, I resort to the one thing I know best and use as my lifeline, and it’s Sic—generally inside square brackets [sic]—added just after a quote or reprinted text, indicating the passage or in my case the abbreviated course title or gobbledygook appearing exactly as shown on the official document. Voila! “[sic]” is my friend when all else fails. I can wash my hands off any errors or apparent errors and move on.

And, if you’re wondering about what “IMC & AHC” stands for, drum roll please….it stands for “Instrument Meteorological Conditions and Aircraft Handling Characteristics.” Not bad for a hard day’s work!

The Frustrated Evaluator

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We Make the Road By Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change

A Pith Book Review
July 21, 2011

I was already a dedicated fan of Paulo Freire when my professor assigned the book. I had already fallen in love with the paradoxically romantic and pragmatic tale of Freire’s endeavor to effect social change in his homeland Brazil by teaching the most marginalized people to read so they could vote. What I didn’t know going into this book was that Freire had a theoretic doppelgänger in the Appalachian Mountains of America, named Myles Horton. “We Make the Road by Walking” is a collection of candid, provocative and intimate conversations between Myles and Paulo, two lovers of freedom through education.

At its’ heart, the book is about pedagogy. Both Freire and Horton were as concerned with the “how” as the “what” of education, so to speak. They talk extensively about how the teachers approach will determine the success or failure to build positive relationships in the learning environment; relationships that inform the selection of content. Students, and their experiences, are to be respected as critical aspects of the learning process. In fact, in the author’s view, the content of curricula cannot be determined in absence of the students.

Throughout his work, Freire refers to the “banking” style of education wherein the technician (teacher) deposits predetermined information into the account (student) and expectantly awaits a formulaic outcome. According to Freire, this style of education contributes to oppression, rather than freedom. In conversation with Horton, Freire says:

For me there is a certain sensualism in writing and reading—
And in teaching, in knowing…Knowing for me is not a neutral
Act, not only from the political point of view, from the point of view
Of my body, my sensual body. It is full of feelings, of emotions, of

The conversations take place at the home of Myles Horton. He talks about the importance of finding a process for learning, rather than relying only on books, or teachers, to get answers. Horton views teachers as guides rather than gatekeepers of information. A teacher doesn’t need to know every answer. A teacher needs to be skilled in helping students find their own answers.

What shines through in reading this book is the depth of value these two revolutionary thinkers hold for the process of education. Its hard not to be affected by the kindred spirit infused with love these two share.

For anyone seeking to renew and inspire a love of education, I recommend this endearing book. I go back to it and visit the ideas like old friends each time I need to remember the essence of my role as an educator. It is a truly grounded, yet somehow magical, account of how learning can unite people to work for a common good while empowering each and every one.

by Abby Wills, MA

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Foreign Credential Evaluation: Looks can be deceiving!

July 14, 2011

Pedro* is from Cuba where he received the Titulo de Tecnica de nivel medio en Organizacion de la Produccion Industrial, a technical high school diploma, after completing the nivel medio superior (upper secondary/senior high school) cycle of education. Now he is applying for a job and his employer wants to know if he has the U.S. equivalent of an Associate or Bachelor’s degree. The employer refers Pedro to ACEI (Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute) to have his credentials evaluated.

As far as Pedro is concerned he believes his Diploma is equivalent to at least the Associate if not the Bachelor’s Degree. He has conveyed this to his prospective employer on the job application and is hoping that the academic evaluation will confirm his opinion.

A great many mistakes are made by those who do not have sufficient information about the age and personal history of the foreign student/job applicant whose application they are considering for college/university admission or for employment. Lack of information of the educational system, in this case Cuba, or having little or no experience with evaluating international credentials leads to even more serious mistakes.

The fact that Pedro’s Diploma uses language that to a person not versed with the vernacular of academic terms may appear to be advanced must not be the basis of accepting the credential on face value as equivalent to for example, a U.S. Bachelor’s or Associate degree. A credential evaluator, knowledgeable with the Cuban educational system knows that a person with only 15 years’ of age who has completed (at the minimum) 9th grade of junior high school is able to enter the program pursued by Pedro. This factor alone confirms that the level of the program Pedro completed cannot be compared with and measured against the Associate and/or Bachelor degree programs offered by accredited U.S. colleges and universities. In addition, Pedro’s Diploma allows him to apply for admission to the first year of undergraduate studies at institutions of higher learning in Cuba. This is another important factor ACEI considers when determining the level of a foreign academic program.

What can be said of Pedro’s studies is that he completed a secondary education program that combined academic along with technical studies preparing him mainly for a trade when he graduated from high school. So, just because the title of an international student’s or job applicant’s diploma may sound or appear to be unusual or different, one cannot automatically accept the award as, in Pedro’s case, equivalent to a university level degree.

*name has been changed to protect the individual’s privacy.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI, Inc.


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Teachers: Educators or Immigration Law Enforcers?

July 7, 2011

Times are tough. You can’t escape the news. The economy is in crisis. There’s high unemployment. Homes are foreclosing. Budget cuts and massive layoffs across the states. The list goes on. And when things get tough our political leaders fuel our angst and dissatisfaction by helping us look for someone to blame. The nation’s new bogey man: the illegal immigrant. Mind you, I’m not saying that we don’t have an illegal immigration problem, but solving the problem by pitting neighbor against neighbor, doctor against patient, and now teacher against the student is where things get prickly and unsavory. Just recently, an award-winning journalist revealed he’s an illegal immigrant owing his academic success to his teachers who helped keep his secret throughout the years.

As educators, we face a conundrum. On the one hand we are reminded by Federal authorities that every child is entitled to an education. But on the other hand law enforcement officers and lawmakers in some states want teachers, principals and administrators to help spot illegal immigrants and turn them and their families in. This is what I mean by things getting “unsavory.” We are, after all, educators, and not immigration law enforcers!

Our legislators are dragging their feet on devising a workable and humanitarian solution to this problem, e.g. the “Dream Act” which would provide the children of illegal immigrants access to further education and/or enlistment in the military. Instead, we are put in the position of turning in the children of illegal immigrants to the authorities which will force more students to drop out or leave school fearing that they would be caught and deported. And rather than finish their education and graduate, these children disappear into the margins of society losing out on the opportunity of completing their education. Not good for the children. Not good for our communities and definitely not good for the country.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI, Inc.

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