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What keeps me awake at night: how brain-busting jargon dehumanises education

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"Excuse me, Sir. Seeing as how the VP is such a VIP, shouldn't we keep the PC on the QT? Cause if it leaks to the VC he could end up MIA, and then we'd all be put out in KP."

How I cheered when Adrian Cronauer hilariously mocked Lt Steven Hauk's propensity for using acronyms and military parlance when addressing long-suffering subordinates in Good Morning, Vietnam

Cronauer brilliantly articulated what many of us think when a self-important manager stands up and bamboozles us with arcane jargon. It is an act of unconscionable self-indulgence, designed to make the user feel superior, and Adrian, played by the late Robin Williams, spoke for millions when he punctured Lt Hauk's conceit.

Schools are particularly susceptible to such bunkum. They are replete with incomprehensible acronyms and mind-boggling corporate-speak, and this phenomenon has become a way of disempowering parents and maintaining producer control.

SEN, Progress 8, Value Added, IEP, EBD, FSM, ADD, ADHD, Flight Paths, EP, EAL: this is just some of the terminology that, taken as a whole, contrives to enhance the power of educationalists and reduces the ability of parents to question and hold teachers to account. The consumer simply cannot access what has become impossible to adequately understand.

More worrying is the realisation that schools' conceptual frameworks drive their responses to complex problems. Educational jargon stimulates a tendency to pigeonhole, over-simplify and, in the process, misdiagnose and wrongly prescribe. Just look at the over-diagnosis of ADHD. As a result, real problems often remain unattended and unresolved. 

We are responding to fashions and concepts rather than the needs of children. Educational jargon has taken on a life of its own. Just as Adrian Cronauer recognised in Lt Hauk’s vain diatribes, acronyms have become an instrument of control rather than a framework for understanding and responding to professional challenges. This must change. We must learn to speak English again.  

Joe Baron is a history teacher in London

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