*My history teacher is so old, she lived through the Civil War.
*My dog is so ugly, he saw himself in a mirror and ran away.
*My teacher is so mean, she eats first graders for lunch.
*My sister uses so much makeup, she needs a paintbrush to put it on with (see here)
Yes, these statements are hyperbole. They are exaggerations. Stand-up comics use hyperbole often in the one-liners they deliver and the shaggy dog stories they tell. It is also a rhetorical move seeking to make a point through overstating. Awareness of exaggerated statements has risen dramatically in the 2016 campaign for the U.S. presidency. Republican nominee Donald Trump acknowledges that he exaggerates to make a point. In Art of the Deal (1987), Trump said:
I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.
Journalist Tony Schwartz ghost-wrote Art of the Deal and reveals how the phrase “truthful hyperbole” originated with Trump thirty years ago in developing New York City real estate projects.
So the phrase “truthful hyperbole” has entered the presidential campaign leaving most of us unclear on what is fact and what is fiction. Of course, in previous presidential campaigns, other candidates have made exaggerated claims but now journalists and pundits have enjoyed a Trumpian cornucopia.
To be direct, “truthful hyperbole” is as oxymoronic as “accurate exaggeration.” While in the next two months campaign talks, presidential debates, and TV ads will surely add to the list of examples of “truthful hyperbole,” such exaggeration surrounding school technologies contains many examples (I was going to write a “gazillion” but did not want to add to the list).
“Truthful Hyperbole” in Computers in Schools
Massive Open Online Courses beginning in 2012 were going to “revolutionize” universities making degrees accessible to anyone with an Internet connection (see here and here). Well, the obituaries have already appeared less than five years later (see here and here). Surely, MOOCs still exist–the truthful part–although the hyperbole has been cremated.
Remember the introduction of iPads?
As one headline put it in 2012: How the iPad is Transforming the Classroom.
Or an online newspaper article from the San Jose Mercury News:
As teachers, administrators, parents and students continue to argue about how best to incorporate digital technology into the classroom, Apple (AAPL) strode into the center of the debate Thursday with a promise to transform the classroom the same way it changed music with iTunes and the iPod.
Then there is the commonly used word “transformation” to describe what will happen with the onslaught of technologies in classrooms. It is “truthful hyperbole” in action.
For computer technologies: Among ourselves, we educators and policymakers discuss the transformation of schools, recognizing how great the changes in these institutions need to be. Unfortunately the public does not like the term “transformation,” probably for the same reason many people dislike the idea of transforming the health care system. The public fears that something familiar and important will be lost as institutions are transformed. In fact, we know that the United States faces greater risks if our schools fail to improve fast enough than if they change too slowly.
Computers, the Internet, online courses, smart phones, cameras, interactive whiteboards, and other digital tools play an important role in improving and, yes, transforming schools. The role of technology in schools will increase, and as we use these new tools wisely, they help make schools more effective and engaging. (2012)
For online learning: What does stand to happen in K-12 education is a transformation, where the schools of tomorrow look radically different from schools of today as a result of disruptive changes in subsystems beneath them, i.e. classes, after-school services, etc. Schools may become community hubs where students come to collaborate, work online, get mentoring, tutoring, and individualized help – a stark contrast from the whole group instructional model of today where whiteboards and desks reign supreme. (2016)
For adaptive or “personalized” learning: How Computer Technology Will Transform Schools of the Future (2014)
And on and on. The hyperbole attached to the use of technologies in classrooms are exaggerations anchored in magical thinking, not fact. When it comes to hyperbole, the “truthful” part is a casualty of rhetorical overkill.