Thursday, August 06, 2009

Stress testing the Badman report: points arising: Language

I've been through the twelve parts of my critique of the Badman report [opens pdf] with a highlighting pen now, and it seems that the main points arising from it can be separated into five distinct categories:

  • Language issues, in which sentences are carefully crafted to partially obscure their full meaning, or selective quoting is employed, or certain key or trigger words are used to convey a message not explicitly stated;

  • Safeguarding and child protection issues;

  • Legal issues;

  • Logical issues - or otherwise! By which I mean those points that are contradictory or just not logically coherent; and

  • Financial issues.

In today's post I'm focusing on the main points arising in the category of 'Language':

1.4 I have taken account of the views of local authorities who are strongly of the opinion that the current guidelines are unworkable in that they are contradictory and confer responsibility without power.

(Carefully not mentioning the views of local authorities who are not of that opinion, thereby giving the appearance that they don't exist.)

1.5 However, there has to be a balance between the rights of the parents and the rights of the child.

- and several other similar phrases, such as:

11.2 I have sought to strike a balance between the rights of parents and the rights of the child..

- but nothing about the parental duty set out in Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act. This is reinforced so frequently throughout the report that I think it must be deliberately contrived to set up the erroneous implication that there is some conflict between children's and parents' rights.

From Recommendation 1:

■ Registration should be renewed annually.

But the proposal is not actually for registration, but for a system of licensing. There must be a reason why it's not given its proper name and this can only be to do with presentation.

Recommendation 7


■ That parents be required to allow the child through exhibition or other means to demonstrate both attainment and progress in accord with the statement of intent lodged at the time of registration.

- convoluted, illogical phraseology ('required to allow') straining to conceal its real meaning ('compelled to coerce') behind a mask of artificial geniality. The reason for this can only be that the author knows the true meaning is publicly unpalatable and I'm therefore delighted that home educators have been exposing it for what it is.

8.4 I understand the argument but do not accept it in its entirety in that attendance at school brings other eyes to bear, and does provide opportunity for the child to disclose to a trusted adult.

This is a cunningly slipped-in suggestion that the only trusted adults are to be found in schools. There are quite a few other similar semi-subliminal messages contained in the report.

There are also many explicit and implied references to 'support', in recommendations 1, 10, 12, 17, 18 and 20 as well as throughout the text, but nothing about the consequences to a family, parent or child who opts to decline such offers of 'support'. However, read in context the unspoken threat becomes apparent: permission to home educate will be denied. Such 'support' is actually therefore compulsory coercion and nothing resembling the "act of sustaining, advocacy, help, backing" or "encouragement" described in my dictionary's definition of the word.

With all of the above plus the liberal peppering of the report with such buzzwords as 'safeguarding', 'outcomes' (only certain varieties of these are acceptable), and 'targets' (set by governments, not families), amongst others, I think it's a strong defence to call the whole thing out, and for exactly what it is. Our language is being stolen from us, in this and the rest of the endless tsunami of reports, recommendations, guidances and regulations with which the people of England have been besieged in recent years. We need to claim it back.

In subsequent posts I'll briefly outline the main points of the other categories before moving onto the letter from Ed Balls.


Blogger Sheila said...

Thanks Gill - weasel words indeed :(

11:20 pm, August 13, 2009  
Blogger Mieke said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:24 am, August 14, 2009  
Blogger Mieke said...

Excellent blog, Gill! Do you think Mr Badman has written that report - and the recommendations - all by himself?

8:29 am, August 14, 2009  
Blogger Martin said...

"I have taken account of the views of local authorities who are strongly of the opinion...."

can of course be read two ways. It could be that he has only taken the view of one type of local authority into account (those strongly of the opinion...) or it could be read that local authorities across the board are strongly of the opinion... Now, why ever would someone want to use such an ambiguous phrase....

9:26 am, August 14, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent job you put it into words so well.

9:29 am, August 14, 2009  
Blogger Tech said...

We absolutely do need to reclaim our language! Thanks for this Gill :)

1:47 pm, August 14, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More marvellous work from stellar blogger Gill.

Bless you.


3:47 pm, August 14, 2009  
Anonymous Bev said...

Thanks for your hard work, Gill. Shall look forward to the next post.

9:31 pm, August 14, 2009  
Blogger Working Dad said...

Well done Gill, I couldn't face trying to analyse in such depth, fantastic blog.

12:14 am, August 19, 2009  
Anonymous Laura said...

My views are well known regarding the definition of the word "support", seeing that my family has been at the receiving end of what actually happens when I politely declined offers of "support".

6:08 pm, August 23, 2009  

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