The Year of Rebranding — that’s what I’m calling 2014.
The recent release of the U.S. Senate’s “Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program” caused me to draw this conclusion, thanks to the frequency of the term “EITs” in all of the news reports describing gruesome actions by CIA operatives.
Never has a euphemism been more readily accepted. Consider the way alarming procedures like rectal feeding have been sanitized by calling them “enhanced interrogation techniques.” But EIT is now the preferred term, completing the “rebranding” of torture.
The world of education was similarly rife with examples of rebranding, a topic I addressed earlier this year.
As opposition to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) grew, several states considered changing the name to deflect criticism. Officials in Iowa, for example, began calling the CCSS “the Iowa Core,” while legislators in Florida contemplated another moniker: “Next Generation Sunshine State Standards.”
Change the name, change the brand. Or so goes the thinking.
Closer to home, Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education decided this year to rebrand himself. Or maybe more accurately, to re-rebrand himself.
When Gov. Dannel P. Malloy appointed Stefan Pryor as commissioner in 2011, he was lauded as a “turnaround leader” whose experience as co-founder and board president of New Haven’s Amistad Academy would “help him turn the Department of Education into an agency that helps prepare our state’s children for whichever path they may choose.”
After a tumultuous three years in the position, Pryor announced his resignation as Education Commissioner in August. Just four months later, he was nominated to become Rhode Island’s first Secretary of Commerce.
The curious transition from education commissioner to commerce secretary is not so curious to those familiar with Pryor’s previous work as Deputy Mayor for Economic Development in the City of Newark, New Jersey, and President of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.
So after rebranding himself as an education expert to become an education bureaucrat, Pryor is branding himself for the second time as a business leader — a “re-rebranding” — to become a business bureaucrat.
Perhaps the most glaring case of rebranding in Connecticut this year concerns those institutions that gave Pryor his primary experience in education: charter schools. The very term “charter school,” for instance, has all but disappeared from discussions about education, only to be replaced with inoffensive alternatives.
Approximately 6,000 people attended a rally on the New Haven Green on Dec. 3 to take “bold and swift action” to improve schools “for every child.”
“This (rally) is about high-quality schools,” explained Jennifer Alexander, CEO of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, a charter school group. “We’re here today to take a stand . . . that every child in Connecticut deserves a quality education.”
The event was sponsored in part by a group called Coalition for Every Child, which paid to bus in hundreds of charter school students to attend the event. The sponsors, however, remained “coy about the details of [their] school-reform agenda.”
The mysterious absence of the words “charter school” was, no doubt, a direct result of the charter school scandals that rocked Connecticut this year. Thus, a rebranding was in order.
Lo and behold, recent ads calling for “great schools” have appeared on Connecticut TV stations this month. Paid for by “Families for Excellent Schools”. Supplemented by information at “foreverychild.org”.
Both groups are charter school supporters, but why mention that now verboten term when you can substitute glittering generalities like “excellent schools for every child” that “take a stand for Connecticut kids”?
Only time will tell if all of this rebranding will be effective. But it worked for the CIA. Why not for the Common Core, Stefan Pryor, and charter schools?
Barth Keck is an English teacher and assistant football coach who also teaches courses in journalism and media literacy at Haddam-Killingworth High School.
DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.