Future-proofing curriculum is am-dram farce

19th March 2010 at 00:00

Curriculum for Excellence is turning into a terrible amateur-dramatic production. Any lingering suggestion that there was hope of a respectable rescue of the whole shenanigans was soundly dashed by a tiny booklet called Quick Guide - Speaking to Parents and Carers with Confidence. Quite who is speaking and to whom is not obvious.

Having an interest in grammar (who doesn't with literacy and numeracy being clamant for our attention), I am appalled by the expressions contained in this publication. Page one contains five bullet points stating why we need Curriculum for Excellence. The first explanation simply says "fast-changing world". Don't you think that we are entitled to know who coined such a cliche? Doesn't every generation look into the telescope and see a "fast-changing world" ahead? Use such a hackneyed expression in an English essay and you can expect your teacher to protest.

There is no uniformity of structure in the document. The style grates on the nerves like other writings from the dead hands of bureaucracy. Trojan horses come in many guises, but it is very concerning that the writers of these documents do not have the command of the English language commensurate with highly-developed literacy.

The worst of these ill-constructed mantras explaining why we need Curriculum for Excellence is possibly this one: "need to equip our children to respond - future-proof them." What does it mean to "future- proof" a child? One dictionary definition defines "future-proofing" as the exclusive process of trying to anticipate future developments so that action can be taken to minimise possible negative consequences and to seize opportunities.

Ah, how engaging. Apparently, this process can be applied to digital media and related paraphernalia. But should children be future-proofed?

The internet informs me that "future-proofing" children means preparing them for the world which they will live in. How irretrievably unoriginal! Haven't good teachers always tried to equip their pupils for life beyond the classroom?

My inspiring English teacher, in interpreting Shakespearean tragedy, gave us much insight about the psychology of the human mind and behaviour. My perceptive and radical religious education teacher encouraged us to think about diverse matters, thus giving us the impetus to explore beyond the conventional. I felt ready for my future, because I was encouraged to understand the past. Future-proofing will be the death of free thinking.

The most depressing page of all is the last page in the booklet, headed "What parents can do - sharing, planning and learning". Quite apart from being a morass of conflicting grammatical conventions, the advice on this page is both bland and patronising. Parents need to be told to play, talk and read to their children, as well as praising, encouraging and supporting them.

This is on a par with the whole nation having to be told through television adverts to defrost turkeys before they eat them. We might as well wave clapperboards with daily idiots' guides on them. No wonder teachers and parents have high levels of impatience and cynicism. Political white noise has never been so overwhelming, yet we are achieving nothing.

This ridiculous handout is like the old pit canary of long ago. It conks out in the Curriculum for Excellence coalmine and then we know not to send bigger fry into that poisonous atmosphere - like, heaven forbid, children.

Increasingly, I'm with Mark Twain, who said: "I've never let my school interfere with my education."

Marj Adams teaches religious studies, philosophy and psychology at Forres Academy.

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