Parents usually want quite simple, common sense things from schools. It is the education system which has transformed these sensible expectations into complicated mumbo jumbo that no-one can understand, as a smokescreen for all of the time being wasted on activities that do nothing to advance the goals of parents.
Let’s take spelling as an example. Parents want their children to be able to spell. It really is that simple, and no doubt most of them think it is a simple job. What you do, is you memorise the spellings of words, and then you practise them lots and lots, orally and in writing. Maybe if you get it wrong in a piece of writing, you could copy it out five times to help you remember it next time. Obvious, isn’t it?
Well, no, it isn’t, actually. A concerned parent might show up to a parents’ evening for their tiny chunk of time, and raise concerns over their child’s spelling ability. The teacher will respond that they are working on developing a range of strategies for developing independent abilities for improving spelling strategy development. And that the child’s progress along a complex series of impossible to understand targets is wonderful, perhaps even better than could have been expected, and certainly better than many other children in their group.
By the time the teacher said the words ‘development’ and ‘strategy’ about a dozen times, the tiny time slot is all used up and the parent is thoroughly baffled, but slightly mollified by the idea that their child’s spelling might be bad, but at least it’s not as bad as a good number of other children in his class.
The teacher, meanwhile, breathes a sigh of relief, and jots down a note that Mrs Smith is an ‘awkward’ parent who tried to meddle in the mysterious business of developing spelling strategies, something that only those initiated in the mumbo jumbo of progressive educational jargon can possibly understand.
I remember trying to make good use of my allocated slot at the local primary school a few years ago. I made life difficult for the poor harassed teacher; I really believe he was trying to do a decent, traditional job in an environment hostile to common sense. He took out his huge chart of National Curriculum Objectives, with various bits highlighted on it. I told him to put it away, because I wanted to talk about my son. He said he had to use it, and I felt such sympathy for him as I saw the look of anxiety in his eyes.
How did it come to this?
Once we bin the useless jargon of progressive education, we can have honest and useful discussions with parents that they can actually understand.