Reforming "reform"

Here’s my weird thought de jour: I don’t know what the word “reform” means.

I looked it up in a dictionary, and it says: “Reform \Re*form”\, v. i. To return to a good state”

So when I read about, say, immigration “reform”, with contradictory senses of what “good” is – lock the borders! show compassion! – the term becomes nearly meaningless to me.

A few weeks ago, the French labor unions, emboldened by massive turnout of demonstrators on the streets of several cities, demanded that the government withdraw its contentious labor reform law. In this case, one COULD suggest the “reform” was trying bring back prosperity, but the young adults who would be subject to firing certainly didn’t see it that way.

“The Senate’s idea of lobbying reform is no substantive reform at all.”

“Raise judges’ pay: They have gone years without an increase, and the system needs reform”

Long Term Care Reform Committee of the New York State Bar Association: “Poor people can always get care; rich people can afford it. It’s the middle class that’s getting squeezed,” he warns.

“The United States stood nearly alone” last month “as it voted against the creation of a new U.N. Human Rights Council, saying the reform did not go far enough to keep abusers off the panel.”

“Consensus elusive in talks: Labor, business leaders differ on ways to reform workers’ compensation”

“Faster work sought on voting reform: U.S. Department of Justice turns up heat on state to meet federal election guidelines”

“PSC praises price reform: Panel says deregulation helps energy consumers, but assemblyman assails report”

In each case, one side will tout action as progress, while the others will bewail as punitive.

I think again of the word re-form, to form again. I guess my point is that the things lifted as reform may be re-form, i.e., change, but it is not necessarily better. So I vow not to use the word loosely. I wish others, especially politicians, would choose to do the same.

NCLB – perhaps the antithesis of reform.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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