Saturday, 5 April 2014


What words
What a contradiction

An advert

People have been asking me lately about job adverts, and the jobs and institutions that they portray. I even clicked on a link on one of them (in the Guardian, no less) and it sent me further details. I will not be applying, mainly of course because I would not want the job and the job wouldn't want me!

But I wouldn't apply anyway because of the nature of the communication that I received, an automatically generated covering letter that kicked off with 'Hi there'. I suppose that there are minimum-wage employments for which this greeting might, in certain circumstances, be arguably appropriate but this was a job for a 'Chief Executive Officer' in the voluntary sector or, as local papers often call this, a 'charity boss'. (Many local papers, not all, have also now dumbed down to beneath the level of effective adult communication.)

This letter came with attachments that included even more cause for potential serious applicants to steer a mile clear.
  • One was a form for the applicant to fill in, on 'diversity'. I never take part in processes involving racist pseudo-science, with no facility to opt out. I wonder where all these pieces of meaningless data will end up, ready to be used for what purpose in what circumstances in some as yet unknown future. I abhor pseudo-science, fear dehumanised bureaucracy, and am horrified how seemingly sensible citizens allow themselves to be put at risk voluntarily submitting at a time when it is relatively easy to stay out. I get such forms offered me when I go to a hospital, and always tick the 'None of these' box, or write 'Not applicable', or say politely 'I do not fill in such things', and that is always the end of the matter. But in a job application? What impudence. I suspect that it would been illegal to take any account of 'ethnicity' profiling, however collected, as part of any recruitment process, so why do it anyway?
  • The remaining enclosures, were potentially more related to the job to be done, what the organisation is there for, what the successful candidate would be uniquely required to do to achieve this. And oh, what dull, hackneyed, right-on, dated, managerialist guff this turns out to be. For me, nothing extinguishes the will to live, but reading this documentation certainly killed dead the will to work for such an organisation.

But what if potential employees think that way themselves, like that sort of stuff, and speak, think and act like that themselves? This advert had been written by a recruitment agency? There are plenty such people about. Perhaps the Trustees of the charity want to employ just that sort of new boss, to impose just the sort of ethos that the documentation implies. The bumff sent to me could act as a filter to attract just that sort of applicant, and fend off others. Maybe the Trustees do not want this outcome, but they may get it anyway – which case, bearing in mind that it is hardly rocket science to advertise for staff, why on Earth did they not just do so themselves and generate a wider, more open field of candidates?

On Thursday I was on a bus, reading a copy of the free newspaper Metro in which an article by Ross McGuiness warned those applying for jobs: don't write your application in tired clichés and hackneyed buzzwords.

This article kicked off with deliberate irony ' Moving forward' it begins...
...buzzwords don’t just demean us verbally – they can take us to a whole new level of absurdity in written form... There is a simple answer to all this stuff and that is: show, don’t tell... If you write a CV which is actually about outcomes and results, you tend to naturally skip away from the clichéd stuff...

The problem with clichés is they become clichés very quickly... What starts as a vibrant saying... quickly becomes a cliché, and using a cliché says, 'I’m out of date'...

The problem with buzzwords... is that so many people are using them that following suit will never make you stand out from the crowd...when people use them, what they actually send out is a message that says 'I’m just like everyone else'.

Mr McGuinness advised applicants to eschew all buzzwords and confine themselves to writing what they actually mean (this of course presumes that they do mean something in the first place.

Sitting on the bus I felt that all this seems to apply to the communications of would-be employers too.

Civil service

Over the weekend I noticed that Sir Edward Gower's Plain Words has just been republished in a new edition. Not before time, as anyone knows who reads the barely intelligible verbal murk that is currently the favoured style of England's Department of Education – perhaps its utterest tripe is reserved for documents directed to those concerned with 'special educational needs', though 'early years' receives a generous helping too.

It was so pleasant in contrast to read the clear, precise lightness of touch from Leanne Reed, a New Zealand Vice-Consul in Beijing, whose letter I reported three days ago. It can still be done.

When I was young Plain Words was a model for anyone aspiring to literate modernity. Now there seems a contrary different aspiration, I suppose that one could call it post-modern illiteracy.

Something completely different

Over recent days I have also been aware of the online approval of the short video made by Eszter Agócs, her colleagues, associates and pupils in Adelaide, Australia. No wonder. Joy, passion, energy, originality, humanity, life: qualities such as these are the reason why so many users and providers come into Conductive Education in the first place and – just as important for the survival of the system – the reason why so many stick with it, and go the extra mile come what may. Smother qualities such as these, bury them under other things, and the gloss goes off CE, with risk of losing what we have. One of the big problems facing all who provide and seek to expand CE services, anywhere in the world, is how to maintain such qualities year after year, sometimes in hostile environments, within the institutions created to implement them. Where the institutions involved are charities, with greater liberty than have state institutions to set their own priorities, then presumably they hold the task of securing the 'conductive essence' high on their agendas. You'd better believe it.

Qualities deemed essential to CE are what should be in the driver's seat, on the bridge, taking the leading role in CE's institutions (you may advance your own, different to those that I saw in Eszter's video, the important thing is that they should be of the essence). Service activities to maintain these, and those who provide these service activities, are very important, vital even within the wider organisational whole, but one can hardly permit them to take control and run the show – then expect the central purpose and ethos of a process like Conductive Education to stay on track and continue to develop and deliver the goods it the way that it could and should.


Agócs, E. (2014) We are HAPPY @ Future Footprints, Conductive World Market, 2 April

McGuinness, R. (2014) Think outside the box, you have to be dynamic, Metro, 3 April, pp. 14-15

Preston, J. (2014) Speak plainly: are we losing the war against jargon? Daily Telegraph, 26 March
Sutton, A. (2014) Conductors or CE practitioners: enquire further in New Zealand, Conductive World, 2 April

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home