By Gove I think they’ve lost it!

BannedWords

Now by rights All Change Please! should probably should be commentating on today’s PISA results, but all it intends to say is that it is regrettable that the main purpose of children’s education now seems to be more about political point-scoring and increasing our global standing amongst those who know nothing about teaching and learning. So in a change from today’s news we are pleased to report on a different matter.

Pygmalion, or My Fair Lady for those of you who failed, or perhaps never took, your English Literature O level, is a play written in 1912 by George Bernard Shaw in which a under privileged, uneducated woman is given a rare opportunity to be tutored in how to behave, look and most memorably speak like a high-society lady oughta.

Now All Change Please! is all in favour of encouraging school children to learn how to speak proper in a way which will enable them to communicate effectively according to their purpose and audience. There’s an appropriate language for the street, for the classroom, and for the workplace.

So it is good to discover that the Harris Hacademy (which is sadly not from Hertford, Herefordshire or Hampshire), is clearly trying  to do something about it. The question is though whether they are going about it in the right way. And while the poster above may indeed be just a small part of a thoroughly researched, trialled and evidence-based comprehensive whole school policy initiative, All Change Please! must admit to having some doubts.

The first problem is the word ‘banned’. Red rag and Bull are other words that spring to mind. To tell a school child something is banned – especially if it is an aspect of their personal and communal culture – immediately causes resentment, and promotes a thousand ways to ridicule and break what is essentially an unenforceable rule.

Then there are the actual words that have been chosen. ‘Like’, ‘extra’ and ‘bare’ are perfectly acceptable English words, so there’s a good game to be had trying to get your teacher to say one of them and then pointing out he or she has just spoken a banned word.

And there’s nothing wrong with starting the occasional sentence with basically. Basically it’s starting every sentence that way that needs to be avoided. And what’s so wrong with ‘She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah?’

So below is All Change Please!’s suggested revised version of the notice which it would like to offer to the Harris Hackademy as a more workable alternative. In return it would welcome an appropriate donation, relative to the amount of time the well paid senior management team should have spent thinking the whole thing through properly in the first place.

Screen shot 2013-10-29 at 20.29.23

And here for a change is someone who seems to agree!
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/16/banning-slang-harris-academy-alienate-young-people

Followed by more recent news of another school that wants to ban the local dialect

Black Country dialect: no more waggin’ for Halesowen pupils
http://www.theguardian.com/science/shortcuts/2013/nov/17/black-country-dialect-halesowen-school

And finally, Hmmm. The All Change Please! Academy? Now there’s a thought…

5 comments on “By Gove I think they’ve lost it!

  1. I’m constantly annoyed by the way the current senior generation uses the phrase ‘D’you see?’ at the end of every sentence. Stop saying it, oldsters! Although don’t you think our constant use of these interrogative tags, and their existence in other languages (hein?) might suggest they should be taken at face value, rather than deplored as hideous manglings of English. If you say ‘innit?’ you are looking for confirmation of your view. Yes? And that’s something we’d expect our learners to be doing, isn’t it? Ditto ‘like’ and ‘basically’ – these are fillers that give us time to catch up with our thoughts, and which we use to signpost what we are saying. If you put grammatical fetters on children’s speech you will surely find children choose not to say anything. Innit?

    Disappointed that you haven’t been quicker off the mark about our dreadful international education standings, though – I was looking forward to a Pisa express.

    • I’ve never said ‘d’you see’ in my life. The word ‘like’ is now used as verbal punctuation. Funny, that, as the vast majority of the younger generation don’t have a clue what punctuation actually means, let alone be able to use it effectively.

  2. An anonymous e-mailer comments:

    Hi mate,
    Basically I’m LOL at this. How will this work, J coz it’s gonna make the day job that much ‘arder. No wot I mean?!

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