Forced to join pedants' revolt

17th July 1998 at 01:00
I NEVER wanted to end up like my father. I didn't want my pockets full of chalk and my Sundays full of marking. I didn't want to become the kind of person who despairs at the appalling use of English taught in schools either. The kind of man who sounds off in newspapers about his daughter's end-of-term report.

My dad's view was that teachers stand as guardians against linguistic vandalism. What would he make then of Susan Firebrand, deputy head and Ginny's form teacher? I've had my eye on her since she started sending letters home addressed to "Dear Infant Parent" because, as we all know, any adjective applied to the noun "parent" describes the noun in question for example "happy" parent or "worried about appalling standards" parent. "Infant parent" is an oxymoron because no infant is old enough to have had children. I suppose Mrs Firebrand is trying to improve on the time-honoured honorific Dear Parent but some language suffers from such an overhaul.

In maths, for instance, I notice Ginny has "difficulty remaining on task". I presume her concentration is fine. It's just that half way through a sum she'll start applying herself to geography or maybe even religious education instead.

In English Ginny is doing well but "spelling mistakes are in evidence". Obviously Mrs Firebrand doesn't want to do anything so repressive as suggesting Ginny actually perpetrated those mistakes herself. As for what I used to call handwriting, but what is now handwriting skills, the "letter formation deficit is responding".

When it comes to general comments I notice that my daughter is a "quiet and reserved personalitywise" - as if there is any other way to be quiet and reserved - although when another girl stuck her finger in Ginny's eye she reverted to "inappropriate behaviour". Personally I consider sticking your finger back in theirs to be wholly appropriate behaviour. It may be disruptive, unchristian and wrong but a teacher like Mrs Firebrand seems loth to use words that convey a simple sense. In fact direct communication seems anathema to this lady causing parents like me to have our "what is this country coming to?" skills much in evidence.

My father would be proud of me.

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