The word ‘silhouette,’ we are told, ‘was satirically derived from the name of the parsimonious mid-eighteenth century French finance minister É tienne de Silhouette, whose hobby was the cutting of paper shadow portraits (the phrase à la Silhouette grew to mean ‘on the cheap’)’. Education à la Silhouette results from education practice and discourse that is not informed by semiotic understanding. Language and other resources that could be used as signs mediating access to the world for learning and participation become, instead, flat and opaque substitutes for knowledge, and occlusive obstacles to learning and understanding. Propositional and procedural ‘knowledge’ are presented and learned (whether by memorization, or by active construction) with the idea that such propositions and procedures are, in themselves, bits of positive knowledge, rather than being used as sign-elements for cognitive participation in the world through mediative semiosis. The fundamental difference between positive and semiosically mediative conceptions of meaning implicates profound consequences for education practice and policy.