ISMISM New concepts for the Nineties: No. 27: Standardism

Share
Related Topics
Standardism: n 1. The belief that everything should always stay exactly the same, standard; a doctrine that can be applied equally to A-levels or newspaper articles. 2. The notion that all newspapers should be composed of standard articles, which can all be interchanged with each other without anyone noticing. This is taken for granted in London. If you are in New Zealand, however, it can come as quite a shock to discover that a well-run newspaper treats its opinion columnists as if they were completely and utterly indistinguishable.

The shock broke on Bryan Gould, the former deputy leader of the Labour Party, with the force of a thunderbolt last week. He is now considering whether to sue the Evening Standard for libel after it published a piece by a Tory minister's son with his by-line. One might have thought that Mr Gould would be proud to be treated as if he were a real journalist. But no. He seems to believe that he has some right to his opinions, irrespective of whether there is any demand for them. No wonder he failed as a politician and ended up as a teacher.

The story of Mr Gould's piece illustrates the lengths to which standardism can go. An executive at the Standard was able to ring him up and praise his piece in terms so well standardised that neither he nor Mr Gould realised they were discussing entirely different articles.

Standardism has long been common at the news end of the business. A well- written news story is packed full of devices to diminish its novelty. No phrase is allowed that has not been worn smooth and dull as a linoleum floor. Each new fact must be cushioned by paragraphs of recapitulation and only two new facts are allowed in every story. The consequence is that all the show-offs in the business write opinion pieces instead.

The real tragedy of the Gould case is that these facts have now been revealed to the outside world and even the opinion racket is now blown. People will think that standards are falling.

Fortunately, standardism enables us to have wholly standardised views on standards themselves. A-levels offer a case of standardised standardism.

The standardist procedure is to suppose that, since they have changed, this must be for the worse. Hence the plethora of articles by such as Sir Rhodes Boyson suggesting that there should be at most five A-level passes in any given year. Any decent newspaper executive could counter these by finding a teacher to argue that A-levels should be handed out with child benefit. But that takes us on to restandardisation, which is a far trickier issue altogether.

React Now

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

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

 

Political satire is funny, but it also causes cynicism and apathy

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links