Wednesday 13 June 2012

Outbreak of subjunctivitis: Mad Curriculum Disease

The late and very much lamented Ted Wragg coined the phrase 'Mad Curriculum Disease' to describe the National Literacy Strategy and other strategies. Far from England being rid of this dangerous illness, it has returned with a new virulent strain:  subjunctivitis. It's been spotted in  the Draft Curriculum document: "   ...the use of the subjunctive in some very formal writing and speech'" as a requirement of year 6 Grammar and punctuation.

Even more worrying is the passage in the Glossary 'explaining' what a subjunctive is:

" The subjunctive form of a verb is occasionally used in
very formal contexts to indicate unreality, uncertainty,
wish, emotion, judgement, or necessity. Its inflection is
complicated, because it does not always differ from nonsubjunctive forms.
It has a distinguishable form in the
following cases:
 the third person singular of any verb in the present
tense does not have its usual –s ending
 the verb be in the present tense is always “be” (not
“am”, “are” or “is”)
 the verb be in the past tense is always “were” (not
 the negatives of verbs in the present are formed
 some modal verbs have a different form."

This is subjunctivitis in its classic form: people  gabbling away about 'unreality' and 'uncertainty' and...'necessity'. We might ask: what kind of category can it be if it expresses both 'uncertainty' and 'necessity'???? Meanwhile, the same writers might not be aware of just how hypnotic and soporific these words are. It's been known for people to collapse into deep slumber after hearing just a few of these muddled, compressed summaries.

Clearly the writers of this passage are so far gone that they are under the illusion that Year 6 teachers can stand in front of a class of 10 and 11 year olds and tell them this kind of stuff in a way that is useful. Or, even worse: by putting it down in a document with the power of compulsion, policed by Ofsted and a compulsory test, will make anything better in education.

The one bright spot in the matter though is that this only applies to maintained schools. Academies and Free Schools won't have to suffer subjunctivitis.

What a relief.