Monday, July 13, 2009

Tough on bullshit, tough on the causes of bullshit

Keir Bloomer - one of the few in Scotland's educational establishment who has a respectable record of actually talking sense from time to time - is tough on bullshit. Most recently, he described the forthcoming Curriculum for Excrement Excellence, due to be introduced in Scotland's schools in 2010, as 'not good enough'. He was particularly scathing about the literacy section:
"The document described literacy as "the set of skills which allows an individual to engage fully in society and in learning, through the different forms of language, and the range of texts, which society values and finds useful". He said: "No it's not. It's about how to read and write. This sort of crap does not take us any further forward.""
Indeed it does not. But while my heart rejoiceth to read in print what the rest of us all think anyway, I reckon Keir is not tough enough on the causes of bullshit. We are all amused, but more often infuriated, by the apparent inability of central and local government - along with their minions in the quangocracy - to never use one word when ten will do - but too infrequently is the question asked: why?

The answer is a text-book example of one of Chris Dillow's perennial themes. Working in education throws this into the starkest light imaginable. What is the function of language? To communicate, to impart knowledge and understanding. And what is the function of education-speak? Clearly not this but something else. Jargon is not language that describes a technical process but something that is akin to the codes, rituals and secrecy used by the medieval guilds - a mechanism to preserve status and wage differentials within a profession. Hierarchy, in other words.

Therefore, while mocking the bullshit, while undoubtedly therapeutic for all of us in this job, doesn't really address the issue: managerial bullshit has increased exponentially in recent years simply because management has increased so much. What's annoying me here is that seldom the real culprit is blamed. Not the mythical oxymoronic creature - the 'trendy teacher' - that the Tories would have us believe have blighted education in Britain in modern times. Rather it is them and the culture of centralisation they introduced. (In the spirit of non-partisanship, I would cheerfully confess that New Labour has done precisely nothing to reverse this culture of micro-management.) Now, does anyone seriously imagine that the Tories have learned the error of their ways? The evidence we have available so far would suggest not. Here's a piece from the Torygraph, for example, with the pearls of educational wisdom that flow from the 'cerebral' Michael Gove:
"And he thinks children should sit in traditional rows, rather than freeform classrooms. "The regimental format is not backward-looking, many of these schools succeed by using tried and tested methods.""
Now it so happens I prefer to arrange my classroom in this 'regimental' way myself but too few people consider the implications of this kind of shit. You want an example of micro-management? The probable future minister of education thinks it's appropriate to dispense advice about how teachers arrange the fucking furniture in their classrooms? This makes him not part of the solution but rather part of the managerialist problem.

No comments:

Blog Archive