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The International Writers Magazine
On Training Teachers

Certificate of Education For Post-Compulsory Teaching
Chris Philipps

‘The Importance of Teacher Training.’

The above statement is used as a diagnostic tool in the assessment of trainee teachers’ literacy skill and/or acumen in order for them to qualify – irrespective of their previous training or qualifications.
When approaching the statement in order to attempt to provide a ‘piece of writing’ that can be used diagnostically to assess the literacy skill and/or acumen of trainee teachers one is immediately faced with a difficulty that undermines the whole enterprise: namely, that the statement is founded on two main pretexts, which can be shown to be intrinsically flawed.

The first pretext (which is evident in its solitary nature – it is a statement which asks of no discursive affectations to be applied) presupposes an ‘interaction’ between the reader and the text. This ‘interaction’ is an inherent characteristic of communication through language, explored in reader/response theory (of which B. Nicol is a chief exponent), in which the reader ‘decodes’ the meaning behind the text by drawing on their own experiences of the statement’s foundational subject area. This infers that the reader must take a positive or negative position – commonly known in literary criticism as a ‘relationship’ – with regards to the statement. However, such a ‘relationship’ is intrinsically impossible, as the statement itself is founded upon the presupposition of such a ‘relationship’, which therefore precludes its intentions as a reflexive affectation. That is, if the genesis of the statement is founded on a presupposing of a ‘relationship’ between the intent of the statement and that upon which it is founded, it cannot ask the reader to then reflexively use that foundational intent as a means to ‘decode’ the statement. In short, a word cannot define itself using itself as explanation.

Coupled with this is the fact that the statement exists with no corollary directive – such as ‘Discuss’, for example. This not only suggests that the statement should remain non-discursive, but furthers the supposition that it is, in fact, unsuited to such inconsequentially-arbitrary discussion; and, indeed, that there is no cause for such discussion to take place.

The second main pretext on which the statement is founded regards its arbitrary usage of initial capitalisation – capitalising ‘importance’ to make ‘Importance’, for example. Without initial capitalisation, ‘importance’ is an adjective: a word used to describe the state of being of something; but capitalised to make ‘Importance’, the word takes on a new meaning: it implies the word ‘importance’ should rightly be regarded as a ‘common noun’: ‘a word… used to identify any class of persons, places or things’ ; though, more accurately, it is used a ‘proper noun’: ‘a particular one of these [nouns]’ – whereby the descriptive terminology is (in this case) arbitrarily elevated to a presupposed significance.

However, such implications are themselves arbitrary, as to state that ‘Teacher Training’ is itself only contextualised by the prefixed proper noun ‘Importance’ is to merely highlight that ‘Teacher Training’ must, after all, be of little true importance so as to require the arbitrary contextualisation of a proper noun. That is, if ‘Teacher Training’ was truly important, there would be no need to labour such a sentiment without resorting to the grammatical gimmickry of assigning it a ‘definite article’ – a proper noun – as is shown above. In this sense, the above statement is oxymoronic, as by attempting to grant ‘Teacher Training’ with importance by implying – through initial capitalisation – that the importance of ‘Teacher Training’ itself has been elevated to the status of a presupposed significance calls upon a presupposed significance which the statement cannot hope to uphold. In short, if ‘Teacher Training’ were truly important, ‘Importance’ wouldn’t need to be capitalised; and by doing so merely indicates that ‘Teacher Training’ is, in fact, unimportant.

Indeed, so arbitrary is the usage of initial capitalisation used (supposedly for benefit to the statement’s intent) in ‘Importance’, one must question its application to the words ‘Teacher’ and ‘Training’.

Firstly, to consider ‘Teacher’. To capitalise the word ‘teacher’ implies that the word has been elevated above (or even beyond) the role with which it is concerned – namely, ‘one who teaches’ – to something far loftier. This, perhaps, is not arbitrary – but merely indicative of the grammatical phraseology by which the ‘assessment strategies’ of the teaching profession has come to be characterised. For example, to initial capitalise the word ‘teacher’ to make ‘Teacher’ transforms the connotative meaning ‘embedded’ in the word – with which the reader must establish a ‘relationship’ in order to ‘decode’ it – into a noun – which is grammatically removed somewhat from the mere encumbrances of the word’s extraction. That is, that ‘teacher’ is presented as ‘Teacher’ is to show that a ‘Teacher’ is no longer regarded as ‘one who teaches’; but merely – though supposedly beneficially – as ‘one who is regarded by others as one who teaches’.

This raises two problems:
a) ‘Teacher’ implies that the ‘one who is regarded by others as one who teaches’ can only be regarded so by others, and not merely by one’s self – denoting a ‘relationship’ which, as shown above, is intrinsically flawed by virtue of the initial capitalisation that led us to take this closer look in the first place. Subsequently, the proper noun ‘Teacher’ – meaning ‘one who is regarded by others as one who teaches’ – is a redundant word: to ‘regard’ something is to imply a ‘relationship’ of a nature which we have seen cannot exist in this grammatical form.
b) ‘Teacher’ – meaning ‘one who is regarded by others as one who teaches’ – makes no direct reference to the original meaning of the (now corrupted) word ‘teacher’: at no point does it state that actual teaching must take place for one to be ‘regarded by others as one who teaches’; but that they are merely ‘regarded’ by others as being ‘one who teaches’ irrespective of whether any actual teaching actually takes place.

By extension, considering this statement’s source (an educational institution using it as a means to assess a trainee teacher’s eligibility to qualify as a ‘Teacher’), one can assert that said educational institution recognises that to be a ‘Teacher’ (‘one who is regarded by others as being one who teaches’) has little or nothing to do with being a ‘teacher’ (‘one who [actually] teaches’).

To return to the third and final usage of (arbitrary) capitalisation: ‘Training’. As with the corruption of the word ‘teacher’ into ‘Teacher’, the corruption of the word ‘training’ into ‘Training’ follows a similarly-flawed grammatical logic. The initial capitalisation of the letter ‘t’ denotes that the word has taken on a new meaning – namely, that of an identifiable object or thing (as a proper noun) which is singularly distinct. That is, if one is to accept the capitalisation of ‘training’ into ‘Training’, one must accept the direct implication made by such an act as connotative of the word’s meaning as a distinct entity; and not a generalised, universal term (as was inherent in the source word ‘training’). The implications of such an acceptance of the word’s grammatical shift is that the ‘new’ word ‘Training’ cannot be considered by the reader in the same light as the original, uncorrupted word ‘training’.
In effect, to capitalise the word ‘training’ into ‘Training’ is to suggest that the word ‘Training’ – and, presumably, all its connotative meanings – has become something quite removed from what the word ‘training’ means in common English usage. Subsequently, although one cannot state what the ‘new’ word ‘Training’ does mean (no secondary definitions are provided as a corollary alongside the statement), one can state what the word ‘Training’ does not mean: namely, what, in common usage, ‘training’ means – ‘the act or process of teaching’ . As such, the ‘new’ word ‘Training’ has no relevant (or identifiable) meaning; and therefore its ‘decoded’ meaning should be presumed with some caution by the reader. As a further consequence (when presuming a word’s meaning with caution), the word loses any definitive meaning; rendering it meaningless in practical application; or, put simply, ‘Training’, and all it has come to stand for, is meaningless.

And this, of course, is not to indulge the oxymoronic implications of training (‘the act… of teaching’) teachers (‘one who [already] teaches’) to teach.

Furthermore, such cautionary presumptions require a ‘relationship’ to exist between the reader and the word ‘Teacher’; such a ‘relationship’, however, has been shown throughout to be intrinsically flawed (and therefore useless as a reference in ‘decoding’ the meaning behind the text). Consequently, ‘Training’ is shown to have no meaningful applications in common English usage; and should therefore be disregarded by the reader altogether – which, in doing so, leads the reader to only one conclusion: that the above statement has no meaning identifiable by the reader. The statement, then, should be disregarded (in its entirety) as meaningless; a sentiment which can be similarly stated (in accordance with the arbitrarily-jargonistic phraseology now common to the profession) as: ‘Teacher Training has no Importance whatsoever’.

Worryingly, then, one wonders exactly what level of literacy the educational institution expects one to achieve in order to qualify.
© Chris Philipps April 10th 2007

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