Walking the talk in an affective domain

9th June 1995 at 01:00
I'd be the last one to describe myself as an "adrenalin-driven person", but that hasn't stopped me carrying out my regular, vigorous "trawl" through the murky linguistic depths to turn up another "raft" of verbal infelicities. These have been "quarried" from the utterances of the pretentious, the irritating and the pompous. I have easily resisted the temptation to open the piece with the awful "Time was when . . .", or to say that I am about to "log in" or "green light" my latest "basket" of findings.

There are still too many who can't resist trying to make the mundane seem mysterious, whether it's resorting to sexual imagery when talking about their innovatory "thrusts", or careers officers worrying about their "penetration rates" into schools. When a police officer describes jumping out of his Transit as having "de-bussed", it really is getting silly. No doubt an incident at which timing was "key".

The great and the not so good have come up with some truly witless contributions to my lexicon. Anita Roddick twittering on about Body Shop "walking the talk" when putting its principles into practice. Alan Parker offered the grotesque explanation that, in his film The Road to Welville "he had pushed the envelope as far as it would go", while, a few months back, Iain Vallance took time off from comparing his working hours unfavourably with those of junior hospital doctors to point out that BT "benchmarks" itself against the best in the world.

This tendency to coerce nouns into performing as verbs is a particularly annoying trend. It's easy enough to "source". It began in the eighties with all those people who kept wanting to "progress" their "initiatives". Kenneth Baker gave it a further nudge when he used to ooze on about his commitment to "ratchet up" standards in schools. Sting added a new twist when he described his recent album of recycled hits as being "bookended" by two new tracks. His attempt to "finesse" it?

Jokes about political correctness are getting terribly stale but there are still some splendid own goals. I recently heard a colleague with a magnificent beer gut diagnosed as having "a body image problem". "Challenging Behaviour Centre" as the name for the place to which one LEA sends its seriously naughty pupils is a classic of the genre. This is the kind of nonsensical relativism which implies that, rather than being disruptive, such young people give us new insights which challenge our taken-for-granted assumptions about classroom "interaction".

My fellow teachers never let me down. I get particularly irritated by those who want to "mix and match" curriculum modules as though they were running the sweet counter at Woolworths. Then there are the GNVQ people who want skills to be "evidenced" as part of the move away from a "text-oriented environment" - books to me and you. Students can no longer get on with their work quietly but are now expected to be "on task". Mind you, the teachers who say they have been asked to speak or lecture "for their sins" in order to give students a "taster" of this or that are sadder cases, as are the younger things whose favoured term of approbation is "Yeh, it's like, er, really, really excellentbrilliantawesome " etc.

Freshly half-baked jargon is bad enough, but occasionally old fossils get dug up. Only last month I heard a teacher talking about the "affective domain". This went out with tank tops and Glam Rock, around about the time "relevance" was still the key educational principle.

There is a new coded language emerging too. Just as "relaxed resort" in the tour brochures signifies "no lager louts", "oversubscribed rural" in a TES advert translates as "a nice middle class school". I suppose it's all part of the process of "up-marketing" or "face-lifting" our image.

The trouble is, it isn't just a matter of knockabout fun. The demise of so called educational theory has led to a desperate search for any form of legitimisation for classroom practice. In the absence of carefully collected evidence and a clear rationale for what we do, the vacuum gets filled by poorly thought out innovations lashed together by jargon and buzz words.

What exactly is "going down"? As the corporals of industry have taught us to say, all this verbal deviance is "well out of order". We need to get it "sorted", "whenever". I think you "know the time with me and I know the time with you" or at least, "know where I am coming from". "I hope you don't have a problem with that". "Take care!".

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today