My daughters have just brought home their school reports. Panic not, I am not going to regale you with their content – I’m not that sort of mother and I hope someone will take me outside and shoot me if I should ever become one.
No, what I wanted to say, is just how different they are from the ones we brought home at the same age.
Ours, written in the Middle Ages, with real ink (some of it green), made all sorts of interesting comments about us. Some I’m sure were intended to be constructive, many were the teachers’ opportunity to stick the knife in, but they were all insightful, even if only into the mindset of the teacher writing the remarks. I am delighted now to re-read some of my reports, knowing how very wrong they have turned out to be.
But there was never any doubt that they knew who they were writing about, and what they wanted to say.
Our daughters, on the other hand, are bringing home, what I would at best call impersonal computer generated reports. I am convinced that there exists some master list of approved comments, from which the teacher cuts and pastes at will. Given access to this list, I’m sure I could have fun, but would the results tell us anything about our children’s progress? In fact, is it actually possible to translate education-speak into English as it is spoken by the likes of us?
Is it possible, that running scared of litigious parents, teachers have now invented a system that is both incomprehensible and useless?
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not bothered about the reports. If the only indication you have of your child’s progress comes from these computer generated lists, you’re not really playing the game are you – no, I’m just sad that our children aren’t learning the valuable lessons we learned. The clever teachers were the ones who could use innuendo with subtlety – what better way to learn how to damn with faint praise? The vindictive teachers showed their true colours in their remarks – what a great way to motivate children to achievement through revenge. These gorgeous and educational variations are now lost in the jumble of education-speak gobbledygook.
I don’t think our children will have the same delight as us in years to come, if they find their reports amongst our drawers of junk paper. How much nicer to be able to stick two fingers up at their old maths teacher who said they’d never amount to anything, than remember if they actually met their target for using fractions that term.