Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Better than Best

As a former English teacher who used to teach a linguistics course, I think about the implications of language more than most people. I am not a grammar fiend, but words matter to me greatly and I try to be careful about which ones I use. So I am a bit disappointed that in the past week I have used one of my most-disliked terms...twice. (I blame fatigue.)

The term? Best practices.

My issue with this term is not that is a current buzzword. In fact, I find buzzwords a bit comforting, as they can help create a sense of commonality and direction. Language is a unifier, after all. When people choose to play "buzzword bingo" rather than engage in the real purpose of a meeting, it smacks of cynicism.

My first concern with the term is more ethereal, more philosophical. I don't believe there is such a thing as a best practice. Different situations necessitate varied responses; what is "best" simply depends on...well, many things. In that sense, the concern also is a practical one and why all strategy really comes down to execution.

Being couched in the superlative, the term also suggests that we have found the ultimate. But isn't the goal--and a mindset we want to instill in young people--to never stop finding better practices?

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