It's not clever to discriminate

15th September 2006 at 01:00
I must take issue with Neil Paterson's interpretation of the debate at the PAT conference ("But we mustn't get too big for our boots", TESS, September 8). Delegates did not "accept" the state of affairs that it was not "cool to be clever" and their debate was about more than just terminology.

Calling for "successful" to be used instead of "clever" celebrates success while exploring ways of making it more acceptable to some young people.

While it's easy to scoff, the way we use language is an important first step in changing values.

Delegates spoke of the psychological bullying of pupils who were hardworking and of pupils unwilling to celebrate their own achievements, even turning down prizes. This was contrasted with other European countries where students were encouraged to be their own person and not follow the crowd.

Delegates were keen to change attitudes and attack the "double-edged sword of stigma". As the motion's seconder, Simon Smith, said: "We, as educators, are responsible for the values that children hold - so we should do something about it. A culture has developed that mocks being clever. We should fight against it. We can take people and make them bright, make them clever and it's not a bad thing to be."

Philip Parkin General secretary Professional Association of Teachers

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