Teaching Tautology


As this government’s proposals for Education continue to unravel into thin threads of meaninglessness [metaphor] there is the paradox that one of its latest ideas [ironic comment] may in its nonsense prove correct, if unnecessary [just a mess].

One of these areas of ridiculousness has of course been the insistence on proceeding with SPaG SATs, though it has had to abandon those for Key Stage 1 after they were posted online. The SPaG tests are ridiculous because they are built on foundations of jelly, and the arguments for seeing it as this have been presented on this site and beyond with informed conviction. I will, however, add one further observation to present my objection to their reliance on discrete areas of language study: at my secondary modern school in the late sixties, my English teacher made us work through clause analysis [using a popular book of the time The Art of English] which primarily meant copying out the rules and examples neatly onto loose-leaf lined and hole-punched A5 sheets of paper and forever being none the wiser as to their actual significance apart from their permanence in fountain pen ink on the pages I still have, somewhere.

Yet in a paradoxical suggestion of agreement with one aspect of these lessons – and an apt expression of this as you will see shortly – we also learned about figures of speech, once again writing these out as copied definitions with examples. Terms like metaphor, paradox, litotes and tautology have been a part of my constant vocabulary as a writer since that time, or certainly since I began to write thoughtfully and meaningfully about what mattered to me, though never ever knowingly using a particular kind of clause for a premeditated purpose and effect.

All of this to laughingly labour [alliteration] how the latest government proposal announced today provides the perfect definition for the following:

a statement that is true by necessity or by virtue of its logical form, e.g. local councils are going to be allowed to set up their own academy chains of schools

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