Doctor axe murders surgeon;Jotter

1st October 1999 at 01:00
The choice of a theatre in the Western Infirmary for Glasgow University education faculty's inaugural conference (TESS last week) was very appropriate. And not only because education minister Sam Galbraith was returning to the alma mater where he trained as a neuro-surgeon.

The theatre may have been for lecturing rather than operating. But you would never have guessed it as another doctor, Walter Humes of the university's department of educational studies, dissected the education body politic and its "leadership class". Wielding a hatchet rather than a scalpel, Humes castigated the "high degree of orthodoxy" and "manipulation of discourse" which pass for policy making. He saw an Orwellian use of language producing a "low trust, tight control regime" in which a "cynical and demoralised teaching force" is swamped under vast amounts of documentation.

Humes did not spare his fellow academics either. They were endowed with a "wimpishness gene" and lacked "intellectual courage". As for MSPs, the doctor's diagnosis was that they had little room for "discourse manoeuvre".

His boss Bart McGettrick, the University's dean of education and a member of the leadership class if ever there was one, was forced to do some staff appraisal in reply. He chose the opaque route. Humes' contribution was "reflective", the dean pronounced - a bit like calling Operation Barbarossa a day trip to the steppe.

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