That’s abb. for ‘abbreviation’ – the abbreviation for ‘abbreviation’ – though many will prefer/insist upon abbr. which makes more sense to me and no doubt any other actual pedants out there, but that would make my aside that it doesn’t stand for ‘abhorrent’ less tellable, accepting, obviously, that the abbreviation for ‘abhorrent’ would/should be abh.

And you think that is ridiculous? Well how about this:

When my 3-year-old boy looks out of the tube window at St. John’s Wood, he will often say, “Saint John’s Wood, S – T for saint, not street.” And I will respond, “Yes, that’s right. And what do we call shortened words like this? Ah… bree…”, and he will continue, “vee…a…tion.” “That’s right,” I say. “Abbreviation, repeat after me, abbreviation.” “Abbreviation, mummy, yes, abbreviation.”

Eventually the time will come when he will look out of the window and say, “S – T, abbreviation for saint.” The public will look on at him in wonder, as they often do now, thinking, my goodness, how is that little boy so clever? And I will want to explain to them that he only knows these things because I told him. He isn’t a genius. He didn’t discover this knowledge inside his soul. I just told him, over and over again, and eventually he internalised the knowledge so that it seems to be part of him.

That’s Katharine Birbalsingh’s opening two paragraphs from her contribution How Knowledge Leads to Self Esteem to the Hirsch celebration Knowledge and the Curriculum [see two preceding posts].

Two quick things before advancing: [i] I don’t believe the public will look on her son and think what she thinks they will think, and [ii], in the interests of being accurate, which KB seems to be quite insistent upon, isn’t that ‘self-esteem’ with a hyphen?

As for He didn’t discover this knowledge inside his soul. Well, if I was told this I would be looking quizzically again [I’m being polite] because that wouldn’t be anywhere near what I might have been thinking about any aspect at all of learning and knowing and understanding.

Honestly, I’m not trying to find drivel to prove my point on this issue. I am just reading what is there. Then you happen upon gibberish like this:

It is the same in a classroom. Ask a child a question when he doesn’t know the answer and disruption almost always occurs. They either attempt to shine the spotlight on someone else, or depending on their character, they might try to embarrass or distract the teacher. The last thing they are thinking about is what the answer is. They are too busy being humiliated, a feeling that will remain with them the next time they are asked a question. Similarly, ask the whole class a question that a child doesn’t know and he will do everything to avoid being asked. In this moment, he is deafeningly quiet, desperate not to be picked on, hoping that the teacher doesn’t notice him. Is he thinking about the answer? Of course not.

This isn’t a classroom scenario I recognise after 30 years of teaching when a student cannot answer a question. When I fell about on the floor laughing hysterically whenever a student didn’t know the answer to my question, the response would, yes, often be a little piqued.

But of course I never did that. It is as absurd an idea as the assertion she makes in that paragraph I have just quoted.

Birbalsingh’s article [I am being polite] ends by returning to her inspirational touchstone about abb., abbr., abbrev., abbrvtn.:

If teachers don’t tell children what they need to know, then it is left up to the parents. But what if the parent doesn’t know what abbreviation means? Discovery learning prevents children from poor backgrounds from succeeding in part because it doesn’t impart knowledge and in part because it kills the motivation to learn. Our job as teachers is to help enable social mobility by imparting knowledge and by inspiring children to want to learn it. That is why at Michaela, despite many people insisting that our methods are too old-fashioned or lacking in creativity, we make no apology for teaching our kids a vast amount of knowledge, help-ing them to build an armour of intellectual resilience so that they can take on any challenge in life. That is the lesson we take from Hirsch, and we are determined to make it succeed.

Let me tell you Hirsch, you have a lot to answer for.

For which to answer.

Much [not a lot] to answer for.

Oh f.i.

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