07 Jun

Ill Literacy

The Secretary of State for Educashun, Michael Gove, aims to “end illiteracy within a generation.” And when he’s finished doing that, he will abolish hatred and prejudice, present a cure for the common cold and make all people live in love and charity together. Then we shall all celebrate The Great and Notable Day of the Gove. I must say, I scratched my head when I heard Gove make that promise about ending illiteracy. He’s normally so intelligent and to the point and he has done more for schoolchildren than anyone since Robert Raikes (1736-1811). Gove is not given to making damn fool remarks, so why is he promising something which he can’t possibly provide? (You didn’t think I was going to say “deliver,” did you?)

And where will he choose to begin this soroptimistic project? He had better start with the teachers – and, while he’s at it, a great number of our “leading” commentators who write in the papers and talk on radio and TV. You know, people who say “begs the question” when they don’t mean ignoratio elenchi or petitio principii but only “asking the question.” They say “deteriate” and “mitigate against.” “Refute” when all they mean is “repudiate.” medical reports announce that the patient is “critical but stable” – when the meaning of “critical” is precisely that a thing is unstable. Then there are the worshippers of the spurious adverb, as in “actively seeking,” “communicate effectively” and sheer slang such as “going forward” for “in future.” The word “iconic” is used to describe a punk rocker or a television cook. “Crescendo” to mean “pinnacle of sound” when that word means a gradual increase in volume. They can’t pronounce “drawing” but have to put in an extra “r” – “drawring.” They start all their sentences with “So…” – so forgetting that nihil ex nihilo fit also has its grammatical context. And “centred around.” “pressurised” for “pressured.” “I was stood.” “I was sat.” “Disinterested” when they mean “uninterested.” “Run down council estate” for “council estate.” “Miniscule” for “minuscule.” “Burgalry.” “Decision-making process” for “deciding.” “Impact on” for “affect.” “Infamous” means that a thing is notoriously vile, abominable etc. Now it’s used in such as “the Liverpool striker’s infamous penalty miss.” “Trained marksman” – as if there were untrained ones! “Damage” becomes “negatively impact upon.” “Is comprised of” for “comprises.” “Murals on walls…”

Gove might like to start with the in-house journal of his profession, The Times Educational Supplement in which I saw an advertisement for someone to teach English in a “grammer school.”