I recently read the training 'manual' for diversity education (masters level) to see if it might enhance the existing training I have developed. The over-worded, poor point/page ratio-ed, piece of writing was satire fodder. This 'handbook' had huge paragraphs full of unnecessary (and in places inaccessible) terminology that if treated with the make simple sense magical (probably a pixie's) wand could usually be reduced to one or two phrases at most. And so this is how I found myself reading it:
1) Read six pages.
3) Think a bit
4) Translate - ah so that says,
it's hard for you to understand what makes people in a minority feel like they don't belong if you are embedded in the institution's 'majority' culture.
5) Say aloud with furrowed brow, 'well why didn't they just say that?'
(In fact - that was the only part in all 300 pages that made me think of a slightly new way of helping people to consider diversity and inclusion.)
I have friends that work in academia. Verbally they are usually easy to understand and mostly say what they mean with clarity (although some struggle to open cartons of milk - none of us can be good at everything) so what's all this over-complication about? Is it elitism? I do hope not.
Several years ago I was teaching in a school in the classroom next to the library. The headteacher had bought in 'library services' to come and have a sort out. This was undoubtedly overdue. The library was a shabby state of affairs. However, this 'sorting' arrived in the form of two huge metal bins on wheels and a chap throwing seven out of every ten books into them. I was horrified!!!
At break time I asked him 'why?' (I am sure you can imagine the facial expression). He explained that a lot of these books are completely inaccessible to children. I asked him to elaborate. He did.
(Book in the bin poem....)
*If it had no contents page or index, it went into the bin.
*If it was non-fiction and had very few pictures, it went into the bin.
*If it used too 'sophisticated' or dated language, it went into the bin.
*If it was old and tatty, it went into the bin.
*If it was written pre-1980, it went into the bin.
*If the book was on a topic that meant it dated quickly and it was more than five years old, it went in the bin.
*If the book had inappropriate dated messages (e.g. mono-ethnic pictures), it went in the bin.
and by now I was mesmerised by the speed with which he searched, assessed, and kept or rejected the books!
O.K. I did grow to understand. If a library is full of books children won't even look at, of course they have absolutely, really absolutely no point and, gladly many of these books were replaced with updated, 'accessible' versions and the children's learning could continue with books they could and would read.
An aside Sshhhhh! I'll also add when the man wasn't looking (because he said the books HAD to be thrown out or people find them and return them to the school with genuine concern...clearly experience had taught him) I fished a few out to keep and still enjoy reading old school books about China or Norway or something. Their dated-ness is extemely enjoyable!
When I was a dyslexic undergrad student attempting to write essays, I would start by getting a selecton of academic books out of the library that I perceived might be related to the topic I needed to tackle (who could tell!) and then attempt to emulate the over-complicated language to not make many points - if indeed I had even registered that I was meant to communicate 'points'. I think my essays got reasonable scores because the tutors themselves probably thought, nice over-complicated language, she must have some ideas! I don't remember any ideas - I just remember being confused by big words and panicked by deadlines. You have to understand, having struggled with the written word from the outset, (being crap at something everyone else appears to find easy knocks you a bit) I was a bit scared of language at this stage in my life.
Then two years after graduating I did a PGCE (teacher training) and my sister (Claire) taught me how to write essays (no one had before). She helped me trust that I might have some intelligent ideas of my own (no really!) that I could communicate in simple, direct language and get a really good mark. She was visiting me in my Easter holidays. She found me attempting to write an essay at a table loaded with heavy academic hardback books (not a single picture in any of them). She was bored. She asked me what I was trying to do. I described the research I had done with some pupils on investigative science and she wrote my essay. I read it. It just simply described what I had told her (in a very logical way). The research I had done was good stuff but I was going to write it up by copying chunks of academic nonsense from books and I suspect my good work would not have shone through at all! Claire's essay didn't mention anything from the stuffy book mountain. What a lesson. Thank you Claire. P.S. Please don't take my PGCE away.
I completely appreciate that the English Language is extremely word-rich...(what with all those chatty invaders stuffing their new words into the pot) and I do admire a person that has reached excellence in any field - so those with fantastically huge vocabularies can valued for their art, but I still believe language is first and foremost about ......communication.......and if the ideas are not received, then the communication has not happened. Clear, straightforward communication that does not leave room for different interpretations is clever and skilled stuff and I really respect a good communicator.