What do they mean...

6th February 2004 at 00:00
Classroom. Blackboard. Education. Little horrors. These are all examples of real terms. Real teachers use them all the time, and real people know what they are talking about; even the odd parent can occasionally get the gist.

But intelligibility is anathema to administrators and policy makers. It makes simple ideas sound simple, when they wish them to sound clever, and complex ideas sound dodgy and unworkable, when they want them to sound brilliant, visionary, and ground-breaking.

Unfortunately the powers that be have cottoned on to the fact that, despite all their efforts at obfuscation, too many people know what they're on about, and don't like it one bit. Hence, the policy of real terms decrease.

The DfES is now working on the progressive eradication of understandable vocabulary. All documents are already 50 per cent more incomprehensible than they were when Labour came to power, and Prime Minister Tony Blair, who let's face it fervently wishes he'd never made that 'education, education, education' speech in the first place, has set a target of complete meaninglessness by 2010.

All DfES staff are being encouraged to come up with impenetrable replacements for real words, preferably with lots of syllables and a hyphen or two (commonly referred to as a half-term break), and suggestion boxes have been supplied to all offices. Each month the winner of the gobbledygook of the month (or duodecimal calendrical component) award receives a copy of Gowers' Complete Plain Words and a box of matches.

High-ranking civil servants are expected to carry a copy of the Czech Scrabble dictionary at all times.

But the department is in danger of being a victim of its own success, as nobody there now has a clue what anybody else is going on about. When the fire alarm went off recently members of staff thought they had to prepare a new initiative to supply City Technology Colleges with army surplus Meccano sets. One poor sap translated David Miliband's imminent speech into Japanese - and nobody noticed.

Of course, there are those who believe that real terms decrease means getting less money, but that just proves how well the policy is working.


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