While the discourse of myth is about the denial or destruction of the past, the discourse of meaninglessness is about the ultimate in collateral damage: the destruction of language itself. Once one has negotiated the macho, militaristic rhetoric that framed the 1997–2010 standards drive – tough new initiatives, task forces, step changes, hitting the ground running, driving up standards, rolling out innovation, zero tolerance, best practice, world class schools, back to basics and the rest – one encounters the opaque banalities of managementspeak, epitomised in the influential McKinsey report ‘How the world’s best-performing school systems come out on top’,
a lavish tome replete with nuggets such as ‘Top-performing school systems leverage a substantial and growing knowledge about what constitutes effective school leadership to develop their principals into drivers of improvement in instruction’ (Barber & Mourshed, 2007, p. 30).


There’s now a growing consensus across a wide spectrum of professional, parental and public opinion in Britain, the United States and many other countries that the obsession with tests and league tables has had its day and that we need a richer and more humane educational vision for today’s children and tomorrow’s world – an hence a genuinely world class definition of ‘world class’.

Robin Alexander

Robin Alexander (2011): Evidence, rhetoric and collateral damage: the
problematic pursuit of ‘world class’ standards
, Cambridge Journal of Education, 41:3, 265-286