The Future of Hyperbole

I had a professor once who, in criticizing the manuscript that eventually became my book, commented that historians of universities always see a crisis somewhere. I think that’s true, and I think that writers always have to be aware that in their pursuit for persuasion they don’t fall into an unnecessary hyperbole. The “crisis” trope might get you attention, but it also can distort.

I also think that the last three decades have witnessed profound changes in employment practices and funding that warrant the notion of crisis. So I left the trope in my book. On the other hand, I think that it is true that the emergence of new communications technologies has far too often pushed or pulled writers into unnecessary hyperbole. The solutions are not easily found.

One (subtle) example is, “Florida Virtual School: Is This What the School of the Future Will Look Like?” on Read/Write Web. The trope in question is, “the future of.” I can’t help but wonder if that phrase encourages less technologically enthusiastic readers to worry about the loss of the physical classroom. In fact, the Florida system maximizes flexibility without weakening traditional methods.

“The future of..” has an Orwellian ring, as if the future described was not about using technology to maximize potential but that Orwellian boot smashing individuality. I’ve heard more than one professor suggest something similar about new communication technologies. So I say we just drop that trope, “the future of,” altogether and try to create something more widely appealing.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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