a co-ed, independent, inclusion school for grades k-12


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The IDEAL Big Question Challenge

Dec 12, 2016

Yesterday, as I was enjoying the cold and cloudy weather as an excuse to stay in, make chicken soup, and catch up on my reading*, I came across The Big Question, a reader challenge published by The Atlantic.

The October 2016 Big Question challenges readers to name a concept that needs a word in the English Language.

One submission that spoke to the English teacher within me was the concept of Wordschmerz, defined by Bryan A. Garner, author of Modern English Usage. Garner defines Wordschmerz as “the mental suffering that results from someone else’s misuse of a word or phrase in one’s presence, the distress being magnified by an abiding sense of politeness that precludes correcting the other person-coupled with an intensifying melancholy about the confused changes that so many words are undergoing as a result of mass indifference to linguistic tradition.” #SoTrue!

Others of the published entries had a deeper resonance. For example, Constance Hale, author of The Natives Are Restless, shared this suggestion: “The Hawaiian word pono translates as ‘goodness, moral correctness, proper procedure, and welfare’ ....the verb (ho’opono) means ‘to make right, to behave correctly.’ I wish English had an equally supple word or phrase….Do the right thing comes close, but it’s a mouthful.”

Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard University suggests “a word to describe how instrumental music affects the listener. We have literal descriptions (slow) and emotional ones (sad), but neither begins to describe the ways music is anticipated, heard, and recalled.”

One more funny one…. from Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show: “The act of staring at electronics as though we had the superpower to speed up the function they are performing. I nominate Failikinesis.”

creativity2.jpgLater this week, IDEAL will publish its Winter 2016 edition of
Pioneer Press with its focus on creativity in our community. In the spirit of our creative community, I would like to challenge you, our IDEAL families and students, to share your ideas in response to these two Big Question challenges: 


  • From the October 2016 Atlantic: What is a concept that you think is desperately in need of an English word to represent it?
  • From the December 2016 Atlantic: What is the most interesting family in history (or fiction)?

Send your ideas to BigQuestion@theidealschool.org

We will publish entries to either question in this blog after Winter Break and all submissions will becreativity.jpg entered into a raffle to win a $20 coupon to IDEAL’s new online school store.

*Disclaimer: This list, while true, is incomplete and curated to create an image of a better me who actually spend entire weekends engaged in deeply intellectual, familial, and educational pursuits. The whole truth is this: in addition to completing the activities listed above, I also successfully binge-watched the last two-and-a-half episodes of new Gilmore Girls season and watched Love Actually for approximately the fourteenth time.

Topics: school, independent school, NYC schools, private schools, education, academic, excellence, creativity, words, English, concept, meanings

Written by Janet Wolfe