Well. It seems as if the Department of Education have a little too much time on their hands, and it’s nice to see that they’ve obviously solved the more pressing issues of recruitment and retention, overwork and decline in pupil wellbeing, because they can now tackle the exclamation mark.
Apparently these little bad boys of the punctuation world should only be used by Primary school children in the UK in sentences that start “What” and “How”. Excellent. I can do this:
“What the fuck are you worrying about this for?”!
“How are you going to justify to the legion of perfectly sane teachers that you have their best interests at heart when coming out with this drivel?”!
As if it wasn’t tough enough already to create awe and wonder in your classroom on a Tuesday morning, you now have to be the fun police. No more “Thud!” “Bang!” “Crash!” and a particular favourite “Boooiiiiiing!” in descriptive writing. Nope. No more of “The mad professor ran screaming through his lab after the monster (who looked suspiciously like an ex-education minister of recent times) shouting “Stop you scurrilous demon, get back in your cage”!”.
The argument that, “I don’t know about the perfect use of grammar and I turned out fine” is wearing a little thin admittedly, because there are plenty of folk that school didn’t work for, and who could do with a hefty dose of English Language GCSE. I’ve been guilty of punctuation overuse, capitalisation in emails where I’m REALLY VERY CROSS and the endless sentence with multiple commas. But Coco Chanel once advised that to work out whether you are wearing enough accessories you should always take the last thing you put on off. Yes, this has it’s limitations when attired in a mankini and fedora hat (what to choose?!) but grammatically it has its applications.
Get kids writing, let them play around with language, and sounds, and words and punctuation. Then get them to read it out loud to their friends. Look back over it and encourage them to think about where it might be a little over-accessorised. Hopefully they would have had such a giggle writing chaotic stories about slime goblins and arch-villains from the planet Zog that a bit of tidying up and reflection wouldn’t be too much of a chore. And they might like writing.
It’s a little like learning to draw and paint and colour in. If you sat beside a toddler with a colouring-in book and crayons and barked at them every time they went out of the lines, pretty quickly they’d scream in your face and hurl themselves on the floor. If you’re lucky. They might just start eating the crayons in a passive-aggressive gesture of “Piss off mum, you’re a witch”and I would commend that child.
If we hammer in every rule and restriction that exists in our gaffer-taped world into our children, right from the very start, we run a very real risk of taking the soul out of learning. The joy of understanding a double entendre for the first time. The visual pleasure of making patterns on a page with punctation marks. The beginnings of an addiction to Asterix & Obelix and Tin Tin cartoons (which use up their exclamation mark quota by the third frame).
I would love the Education Department and the Rt. Hon Nicky Morgan to stop fucking it all up now please. To stop worrying that UK kids are just not good enough at maths, or science or grammar compared to every other country they think is fashionable at this current moment. And, to GIVE ME MY SODDING EXCLAMATION MARKS BACK!!!!!!