I am Spartacus*

Most questionnaires are designed to prove a particular premise.

Most questionnaires are designed to prove a particular premise.

My son came home from school one day and brought with him a sealed envelope marked, ‘for the attention of parent or guardian’.

It turned out to be a questionnaire which formed part of an upcoming Ofsted inspection at his school. When we looked at it, the questions being asked were largely about the activities of teachers and management within the school. We were nonplussed; they might as well have been questions about the activities of Lord Lucan in the last 35 years. We had absolutely no way of knowing what the teachers or management were doing inside the school unless we were teachers or managers in the school ourselves. And, as we are not, it meant that whatever answers we gave in the check boxes, would be fiction – they would, in effect, be a lie.

The answers were either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ – agree or disagree. I noticed that a, ‘don’t know’ box was entirely absent, as was a capacious box for unquantifiable comments.

Anyone with any common sense would have known that asking such questions of parents or guardians was a futile exercise as, apparently, we were not supposed to ask our son for help with the answers. Whoever formulated the questions and whichever committee approved them, either didn’t think about the realities of the situation or concern themselves too much about what they were supposed to be measuring. The questionnaire was designed exclusively for some box ticking exercise that justified some activity or funding by the controlling organisation to demonstrate ‘real’ measurable results. We, the parents, were simply an annoying, unavoidable inconvenience in this paper exercise.

Such was my irritation at the inanity of the questions that my wife had to take control of the questionnaire and prevent me from scrawling my true feelings all over it, in a thick red marker – “Must do better. See me after school.”

It may seem like a trivial matter – a few questions about the competence** of my son’s schooling – but, as always, it is the thin end of a wedge.

Most parents would simply accept any official document as infallible, and that they had to give the answers that the questionnaire was looking for. The consequence of such thoughtless acceptance of any official process is writ large on the blackboard of history. If no-one speaks out about the absurdity of pointless targets, measurements or belief systems, and everyone simply, ‘does their job’ or, ‘keeps their head down’, where does the madness end? We have a clue in the experiments of Stanley Millgram.

I’m sure everyone reading this will have a similar story from their own experience about unethical practices or crass inefficiencies occurring in whatever organisation they have had dealings with. But how many of you spoke out about it or refused to participate?

If more people made a personal stand on the smaller stuff, them maybe, just maybe we could prevent the death camps of today and tomorrow from being built.

* A reference to the recent activism surrounding the Twitter joke trial over a bomb threat at Doncaster airport.
**It makes me wonder just how competent they can be If they can’t even get basic questions right in a questionnaire.

One Response to “I am Spartacus*”

  1. Great post. I’ll be sending my friends to your site.

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