Tag Archives: traditionalism

“This debate doesn’t happen in schools”

Ah, the good old debate around traditional and progressive philosophies of education. An important debate for some and one that such people tell us has given them enlightenment and understanding about what they do in the classroom.

Except we all know it isn’t important, no matter what they tell us, don’t we? And you know why we know it isn’t important? We know it’s not important because it isn’t a debate that happens in schools. It all plays out on the internet. And of course, things said on the internet aren’t really real. Those aren’t real people telling us this is important to them. They are just floating avatars spewing out the same rubbish day after day. Probably Russian bots or something. We should ignore them. If the trad/prog debate is something we don’t talk about in schools, it’s obviously not important at all.

Okay, that may be an extreme characterisation, but it is the crux of a particular argument: the trad/prog debate isn’t something that happens in schools so it is not important. The fact it isn’t spoken about in schools is largely true. Walk around any school and you’ll rarely see people having this debate. (The lack of the debate will be even more starkly obvious if you don’t actually work in a school: if you’re a consultant and you visit lots of schools, you will be able to report with confidence that in absolutely none of the schools you visit people have had this debate.*)

I think we’re all agreed then. If we aren’t discussing it in schools, it’s irrelevant. It’s unimportant. And if we aren’t discussing it in schools there’s really no validity in discussing it anywhere.

So let’s all agree that the trad/prog debate is an irrelevancy and let’s disregard it.

But if we disregard on this basis, then in the interests of fairness we should all agree that anything we don’t really talk about in schools is also irrelevant and should be disregarded.

So out goes the trad/prog debate. See ya!

But we’ll also need to say goodbye to the mental health of teachers. That can go too. According to this TES article, “The one place you won’t hear much talk of teacher mental health is in schools.” Well, as we all know, not talking about it in schools makes it irrelevant and unimportant, of course. Bye bye teacher mental health!

Another unimportant issue we should disregard is violence against teachers. Again, in the TES: “I think this issue of violence against teachers is actually a taboo in our occupation. We don’t talk about it.” Well if we don’t talk about it in schools, it means it’s not important. Duh.

And our feelings too. We don’t talk about the emotional labour of teaching and the impact this can have, according to the Washington Post.  Who cares? If we don’t talk about it, it’s obviously of no import.

There’s a whole host of other things teachers and commentators tell us “we need to talk about” more in schools : the joy of learning, financial education, the dangers of pornography and sexting, healthy eating… all of these things are unimportant precisely because we don’t have enough conversations about them, right?

It’s a kind of cognitive dissonance that uses “we don’t talk about it in schools” as an argument to disregard some things and suggest they are utterly irrelevant, and yet sees the same “we don’t talk about it in schools” statement as a valid way to highlight that some things are unfairly undervalued.

Of course, I don’t think that any of the things above – mental health, violence, healthy eating, etc. – are unimportant. I think we should be talking about all of them. And I think the same about debates in education – no matter how unfamiliar the debate is to your daily experience, it is still a debate that people are having and to tell them it’s unimportant because it doesn’t happen in other arenas is ridiculous. The first reason/excuse people will give for any of the topics above not being talked about enough in schools is lack of time. Where do we find the time to discuss mental health of teachers, etc? We are so busy, that we just don’t find the time. Well, the same goes for the trad/prog debate. Where in a busy teacher’s day do they have the time to have deep discussions about philosophies of education? Somewhere between getting a cup of tea and going to the toilet before heading back to the classroom to set up their next lesson? Schools aren’t really the place for many topics that need unpicking at length. So what do teachers do if they want to discuss anything they don’t get to delve into in the school day? They use social media. And when they do, they get told: if you aren’t having this discussion in schools, then it’s an invalid discussion here too.

The whole this-debate-doesn’t-happen-in-schools response is an extension of the “you aren’t living in the real world” argument: teachers who debate and discuss the philosophies of education (a debate that has been going on for more than a century, by the way) on Twitter aren’t living in the real world of schools where, as we’ve established, nobody talks about this.

Jeffrey Israel, a lecturer in religion and political philosophy, argues that, amongst other things, the accusation that someone’s opinions aren’t from the real world is narcissistic. He defines narcissistic here as being “characterized by an inability to perceive the lives of others as anything other than examples of one’s own idiosyncratic preconceptions.” In this way, we might see those suggesting that the debate around education philosophies is insignificant (“because it doesn’t happen in real life”) as lacking the ability to attach value to anything that is beyond their own worldview. The debate may not be happening in schools, but it is happening on social media and in blogs and articles and thus it is real and it is significant to the people involved in it and to many reading about it. It might be seen as narcissistic to disregard it on the grounds that it isn’t happening “in real life”.

In fact, there really is no distinction to be made between beliefs held in different domains. Believe it or not, people discussing something on Twitter are real people. As Israel succinctly tells us:

“Everyone who is living is living in the real world.”

And whilst they aren’t having lengthy debates about philosophy in the real world of schools, they are having debates with real people in the shared world of social media.

There are plenty of examples of people who have developed or had their thinking shaped as a result of the debate online. Indeed, I wrote about my own experience last year.

 

Here’s a couple of tweets from real people telling us that the debate changed their minds:

 

Is the debate invalid because these people are choosing to discuss it on social media rather than the staffroom? Are they not living in the real world?

It matters not where the debate is happening. If it is happening, it is real. I am happy to listen to any arguments against the debate, but the argument that it isn’t valid because it doesn’t happen in schools is a very, very poor one that simply doesn’t stand up.

 

(*If you are a consultant and you think that visiting lots of schools and never experiencing something means it doesn’t exist, you are sadly mistaken. You are the least likely to actually experience it as your relationships with the people you come across every day, whilst I’m sure are useful and beneficial to the school and you, are largely of a fleeting nature. The context in which you would be a more able judge of whether something exists in a school is to work at that school. I should also add that you also aren’t privy to the conversations about consultants that undoubtedly happen after you’ve left. They do exist even though you don’t witness them. And they’re always entirely complimentary, of course.)

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A Glossary of U.K. Education (Vol. 1)

Debates around education on social media can sometimes be hard to follow if you aren’t well versed in the jargon of education in the U.K. With that in mind, we’ve produced this handy glossary of commonly-used terms.

academisation

/əˈkadəmʌɪˈzeɪʃ(ə)n/

noun

1. the process in which a school undertakes a Faustian pact resulting in the handing over of its pupil data to Amazon, the selling of the school fields to Starbucks, and eternal damnation for all staff in exchange for better SATs/GCSE results.

or

2. the process in which a school merely alters a word on their signage and stationery.

children

/ˈtʃɪldrən/

noun

small human beings cared about by progressives and hated by traditionalists.

free school

/friː ˌskuːl/

noun

evil, bloodsucking entity, set up to appease the greed of its vengeful ruler by educating the children of the local community.

Gove, Michael

/ɡəʊv ˌˈmkəl/

noun

pantomime villain, originally from Old English folklore where he is often depicted as having the body of a Tory MP and the head of an agitated baby; in many stories in which he features, Gove is vilified by the adults of the village for trying to give their children more knowledge.

Grüppwerk

/ɡruːpˈvəːk/

noun

Kraftwerk tribute band marked by their performance style in which one of the members arranges all of the songs, plays all of the instruments and prepares all of the lighting, sound and stagecraft, whilst the rest of the band take the opportunity to muck about and do nothing.

learning styles

/ˈləːnɪŋ ˌstʌɪlz/

noun

antimicrobial resistent organism that continues to thrive despite numerous attempts to medicate against it.

literacy

/ˈlɪt(ə)rəsi/

noun

word used as part of a compound noun to give an air of legitimacy to an otherwise woolly term, e.g., digital literacyvisual literacyliteracy literacy.

neo-

/niːə(ʊ)/

prefix

versatile combining form that can be adjoined to the beginning of any noun in order to make that thing sound more sinister than it actually is.

neo-trad

/niːə(ʊ)ˈtrad/

prefix

traditionalist, only more sinister. Synonyms: right-wingTory, Nazi, Sith Lord, Agent of Hydra.

Ofsted

/ɒfstɛd/

noun

capricious inspectorate, prone to systematically dishing out unfair judgements. Unless that judgement is ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’, in which case it is entirely accurate and should be emblazoned across letterheads and banners. 

pedagogy

/ˈpɛdəɡɒdʒi/

noun

from the Greek παιδός, (paidos), “teachy”, and ἄγω (ágō), “teaching”: literally, “teachy teaching”.

progressive

/prəˈɡrɛsɪv/

noun

1. a teacher committed to the values of progressivism.

or

2. a teacher just out of initial teacher training.

Robinson, Sir Ken

/ˈrɒbɪns(ə)n ˌˈsəː ˈkɛn/

noun

chivalrous knight of YouTubian legend; the folk tales tell of how Sir Ken is bestowed with a golden tongue by TED the Enchanter, and of how he uses this tongue to defeat the Great Sages of Rote Wisdom by invoking the Spirits of Dance.

rote learning

/rəʊt ˌˈləːnɪŋ/

noun

1. that which Sir Ken Robinson opposes, instead suggesting more dance in the curriculum.

2. the most common and effective way to learn how to dance.

Shift Happens

/ʃɪft ˈhap(ə)nz/

noun

bullshit.

traditionalism

/trəˈdɪʃ(ə)nəlɪz(ə)m/

noun

a diabolical cult dedicated the denigration of fun, posters, role play and group work; based on ideology (cf. progressivism, which is ideology-free and entirely based on pragmatism and principles); followers of traditionalism dislike children and can be mostly found in schools.

troll

/trɒl,trəʊl/

verb

to disagree with a view on education that one holds; this is a transitive verb which can only be done unto the first person me and not unto second or third person pronouns such as him, her or you – “he trolled me” is correct usage, whereas “I trolled her/you” is incorrect.

noun

someone who disagrees with your view on education.

 

 

The Reconciliation of The Debate (Is it possible? Is it desirable?)

Yesterday, I wrote a blog about how important debate around the distinct philosophies of teaching has helped me. I’ve had some really positive responses to it, but I thought it particularly pertinent that a large number of people echoed my experiences of watching and taking part in the debate. By way of showing the extent of the debate and how it has helped shape a number of teachers’ understanding of their practice, I thought I’d share some of the tweets where people claim to have undertaken a similar journey to me. I think this shows how important and useful the debate has been.

There have been some really thoughtful blog posts on this topic too:

Can a false choice be an object of research? by Greg Ashman

Varieties of boredom by David Didau

Boredom by Toby French

Dangerous Conjectures by Horatio Speaks

Shutting down debates by Rory Gribbell

The Unexamined Life by Phil Stock

In the last of these links, Phil Stock expertly draws our attention to the importance of the “insights that can emerge from holding two opposing ideas in tension.” Phil also alludes to the way that many teachers who dismiss the debate actually try to reconcile the two philosophies – he notes how people say things like “one day I am traditionalist and another I am progressive”. As Phil points out, this confuses methods and philosophies, but a wider point that we might draw from it is that some see the goal of the debate to reconcile these ideologies. Indeed, if they claim to be bored of the debate and to have moved on, as Anthony Radice points out, the assumption is that they have managed to reconcile them:

If this is the case, I would dearly love to see someone – who positions themselves as having moved on from the debate – write about how they have reconciled these two competing philosophies. At the moment, I follow Phil’s opinion that holding these opposing ideas in tension is where the power of both of them lies, but I’d be incredibly interested to read, from any commentators, about the reconciliation of progressive and traditional education philosophies.

As you can see from the tweets above, I am confirming my own biases that the debate is useful. This is a genuine open request to challenge those biases. Over to you.