Plainspeak? Some hopes

27th May 2005 at 01:00
It is a commonplace complaint that we now live in a world of soundbites. But the soundbite has an evil twin - the mission statement - which is just as all-pervasive, but which has an odious way of sneaking in under the radar.

Our lives are now saturated with them, but we seem hardly to notice. When did you last see a sign saying Sandwiches Sold Here? They must have existed once. But then they acquired adjectives and adverbs. They now sell only delicious sandwiches, freshly-made, probably the best sandwiches in the world.

They've gained verbs as well. The humblest dive is today passionately dedicated to providing only the finest sandwiches, using the freshest, carefully sourced ingredients, all served with care and love. And all you wanted was cheese between two bits of bread.

Nowhere is this depressing trend more apparent than in the world of education. It used to be straightforward: I teach English, you teach maths. They learn it, or we make their lives hell. Nowadays, we are devoted to enhancing the personal development of the total child in an atmosphere of positive support. It's got so you can't walk down a school corridor without tripping over a shared value.

I wouldn't mind so much, but they're foisting it on us grown-ups as well. We used to be called teachers, because that's what we do. Now the buzzword du jour is "effective professional learning community". This apparently relates to promoting and sustaining the learning of all professionals in the school community, so that we can enhance pupil learning. It involves vision and collective responsibility (this is a terrifying concept - somebody else screws up and it's our fault).

As always, the latest jargon is just a new way of describing something which has been around for ever. Ever since the first Stone Age pupil made a hash of tying the bits of his axe together, teachers have been comparing notes on how to teach better (well, technically, we at St Jude's mostly compare notes on how to teach our pupils anything at all). But now if they do it well, they get to be called effective professional learners. And as there are several of them, they also get to be called a community.

OK, here's an effective professional idea. Let's all put signs outside our schools which say Children Taught Here.

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