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Useless Sentences

Some things just get under my skin that I probably shouldn’t allow to annoy me so much.

Perhaps it’s because I watch a fair bit of sports, but gambling ads are one such irritant. As a sports lover, it bugs me that gambling companies are so allowed to target young people and addict them to a habit so destructive that it ruins their lives when sports should be an area that enhances those lives.

I’m genuinely hopeful about the current push to banish gambling advertising from our screens, and I’ll support it where I can.

The aspect of gambling ads that most sticks in my craw are the disclaimer-type messages at the end. If finishing an ad with “You win some, you lose more” or “Chances are you’re about to lose” spoken so quickly that it’s barely comprehendible worked … then the gambling companies wouldn’t run the ads.

It’s a useless sentence designed to trick us into thinking it’s doing something useful.

I think schools should also be careful about useless sentences that are more marketing, platitude or vague wish than truth.

I’m speaking to sentences such as:

  • “We have a zero-tolerance approach to bullying.” No, you don’t. You don’t like bullying, but I can guarantee it’s happening to some extent in your school today.
  • “We always listen to both sides of the story.” There’s a big difference between hearing the side of the story of a kid who’s regularly in trouble and actively listening to him.
  • “We value the input of our parent community.” Unless it’s the parent of the kid in the dot point above. That one’s a nut.
  • “We’re a no-putdowns school.” That is unless you can hear what we say about some students in the staffroom.
  • “My classroom is for positive feelings only space.” Well … except for all the healthy, natural and negative emotions we should want kids to recognise and reconcile.

Be a little careful about talking in absolutes and using words like “always” in your school. Sometimes that’s only mostly true, sometimes, it’s just hope for the future, and sometimes it’s not true at all. Sometimes we shouldn’t even want these statements to be true.

The people watching our schools are less interested in what we promise than in the times we break those promises.

Promise what you’re prepared to deliver and speak to things that actually happen. Be better than SportsBet.

Keep fighting that good fight,


PS. There are only a few tickets left for my Melbourne events next week. If you are still considering it, this weekend is your last chance to book. You can register for Restorative Classrooms, Strong Classrooms on 24 July here or The Art of School Culture Leadership on 25 July here. I hope to see you there.


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