The Sketch: Happy-clapping with the jargonistas

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The Independent Online

Bits and bites. Jim Knight told Education questions that he completely rejected the idea that A-levels had been dumbed down. In our first A-level year, we translated every last 17th-century Alexandrine in Andromache; now they translate whole articles from French newspapers. Why is this question still so arguable?

Barry Sheerman said there was something fundamentally wrong with the way teachers were taught to teach. It must be true when half of children can't read, write or calculate properly.

How can ministers stay so happy-clappy about it? Because they can't be seen to criticise. That's what we've come to.

Parmjit Dhanda said that the rate of closing schools for special educational needs had slowed. He said that like it was a good thing. But it is government policy to close these schools. "I don't think that is the case," he said.

Jargon is coming back (we got rid of a lot of it under Estelle Morris).

Getting an A-level is now "passing through the diploma gateway".

Some say this way of talking is merely an irritant; me, I say it's an active element of the struggle. Jargon creates more jargon, and that creates a class of people trained to understand it, and they build structures to service themselves. For example: Geraldine Smith asked about the "vision boards" created by the North West Regional Development Agency. What's a vision board? It writes what used to be called strategy. Which is what used to be called planning. Which is what used to be called "doing something".

The vision boards are doing what the regional development agencies were set up to do in the first place. Soon the vision boards will be getting funding to create auditory boards to listen to what people want to see and oral boards to report to the vision boards. How the political class metastasises.

The most important question of the day: Why aren't they going after the Home Office? David Heath was the only person in Business questions to have much of a go. "The hapless and hopeless Home Office ministers," he began.

Yes, poor Joan Ryan showed the world what she had previously only shown us in a European standing committee (that she doesn't know whether or not she's telling the truth).

Heath said that Mr Reid had applied resources to the "criminal records" problem only when it came out in public, having turned down the request for more money in October last year. Does this put Mr Reid in the same intellectual category as Joan Ryan? Do they share the same pair of Marigolds? Jack Straw replied that "under no circumstances in 50 years will the Liberal Democrats get into government". I can see circumstances producing a Liberal cabinet minister before the end of the year. Brown PM calls a snap election. Hung parliament. Brown offers Ming a place in the Cabinet (resulting in the destruction of the Liberal Democrats, but that's for another time).

simon@sketch.co.uk

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