Sunday, June 12, 2016

What Is a Regent?

A Regent is a person.  I'm capitalizing it because when I use it, I'm referring the the Regents from NY State. The word itself may have other meanings. From the dictionary:

noun: regent; plural noun: regents
  1. 1.
    a person appointed to administer a country because the monarch is a minor or is absent or incapacitated.
  2. 2.
    North American
    a member of the governing body of a university or other academic institution.

Under definition two, there is a Board of Regents in Albany, and they deal with education. Betty Rosa, for example, is a Regent. In fact, she's the Chancellor of the Regents. Take a look at her. You see? She has eyes. She has a nose and a mouth. And though they are somewhat veiled by hair (which she also has), she has ears as well. I've actually spoken to her, and she's responded. For me, that's proof enough she has ears, whether or not they are actually visible.

A test, approved by the Regents, is a Regents exam. It is not a Regent. If it were, it would talk. Perhaps it would even make sense. A Regents exam may or may not do the latter, but as far as I know, it cannot do the former. For one thing, a Regents exam does not have a mouth, or ears, or any of that other stuff I've attributed to Betty Rosa.

I first heard the word regent used to describe a test from an administrator whose knowledge of standard English is questionable at best. As he was not in my beginning ESL class, his usage was not my immediate concern. I therefore thought it best to ignore it. But then an administrator who seems perfectly lucid used it. When I presented her with the issue, she  told me this usage emanated from DOE, which used it regularly in correspondence I'm grateful I need not read.

The English language is not dead, and therefore it evolves. It changes as people use it. But when people misuse it out of sheer laziness or an overarching assumption that rules do not apply to them it's kind of disconcerting. It's especially disconcerting when it's misused by people who ought to know better, like educators for example.

Don't misunderstand me. I have very low expectations for members of the New York City Department of Education. I can't say I'm surprised when they misuse language. After all, logic has been an object they've uniformly reviled every since they changed their name and became the embodiment of reforminess.

They're certainly entitled to think lazily and dishonestly. They can certainly close schools and decimate neighborhoods. They can take good teachers and make them long-term ATRs. They can stand up, in front of God and everybody, and declare, "It's a beautiful day," when there are five feet on the ground and it takes five hours to drive twenty miles. They can endorse programs called "fair student funding," that prevent veteran teachers from teaching, and they can award less than 100% of the funding they deem "fair" to a whole lot of schools.

But they don't get to alter the English language, not deliberately, and not out of sheer lazy thinking either, unless of course we let them. I say we don't.

What say you?
blog comments powered by Disqus