Basically, I'm with Harris Academy on banning slang, yeah

There's a place for street slang, but it's not in school

Share

There will be a predictably polarised reaction to the decision by Harris Academy Upper Norwood in south London to ban street slang. The Twitter talk alleging “a white supremacist project with  government funding” seemingly run by “imperialist dictators” will be counterbalanced by the legions of parents up and down the land emitting heartfelt cheers – me included.

It seems reasonable that any group of people, of any age, should be able to communicate in a private language that enforces their sense of community and belonging within a group. That’s more than just their right: it’s a positively healthy aspect of social living, and language as a whole gains from the vibrancy of street talk.

But beyond that there’s the wider world, where the inanities of “innit” and “know what I mean?” will be of no assistance in getting  a job and feeling valued by  society. How can society make that call in a blizzard of cozzes, ain’ts, likes and extras?

A couple of weeks ago on Four Thought on Radio 4, Lindsay Johns, who mentors young people at Leaders of Tomorrow in Peckham, spoke eloquently about street slang and his efforts to educate his young charges in using language in a way that’s going to let them get ahead – rather than, as he put it, “speech that makes you sound as if you’ve had a frontal lobotomy”. It is, he said, “spectacular self-sabotage”. This isn’t to denigrate anyone’s culture or background; it is simply an acknowledgement of life’s realities.

I asked Johns what he thought  of the Harris school’s announcement. “What a fantastic idea!” he replied, noting that “it echoes our own zero-tolerance approach to ‘ghetto grammar’ down at Leaders of Tomorrow”.

It comes as no surprise that it’s a Harris school that has come down so heavily on street argot. The Harris Federation, set up by Lord Harris of Peckham, preaches an active return to traditional values of discipline, respect and good behaviour – zero-tolerance, not only of serious stuff like bullying and fighting, but also of more trivial transgressions like crooked ties and running down the stairs.

My son attends another Harris school, not far from Upper Norwood, and when we got him in last year the Harris ethos gave me a certain confidence that he had a decent chance of being well educated in the widest, roundest sense of the word. So far so good. A speech by the vice-principal at the beginning, laden as it was with much talk of discipline and not much of enjoyment, gave pause for thought, but it’s turned out to be a super school that my son really likes and in which he thrives.

He doesn’t mind the teachers stationed in the corridors between lessons looking out for wayward tie-knots and pupils walking on the left-hand side of the corridor rather than the right. He knows the boundaries, which aren’t  oppressive, and he’s happy to keep within them.

As for his school’s street-slang policy, there’s zero-tolerance in English lessons, but otherwise, he says, teachers tend to treat it with a smirk rather than isolation or exclusion. Would I be happy if my son’s Harris school went the same way as Upper Norwood and clamped down on “ghetto grammar”? It would, I venture, be bare sick, blad.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Most powerful woman in British politics

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
All the major parties are under pressure from sceptical voters to spell out their tax and spending plans  

Yet again, the economy is the battleground on which the election will be fought

Patrick Diamond
Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders