Traditional vs Progressive: a riposte

There is a school of thought that argues we, in England, have gone way too far down the ‘progressive’ route in education. I’ve looked at this here, here and here. For me the traditional vs progressive debate is a false one because in 2016 neither approach is dominant and the two approaches have much to offer. Certainly individual teachers can be appalled at a woolly approach to, for example, learning verb endings and then blame it on the ‘progressives’ but this doesn’t dig deep enough. We must consider something very obvious indeed here: teaching takes place in many different contexts e.g. a class of teenagers preparing for a French GCSE, a class of six year olds starting a new topic about volcanoes, a small group tutorial at university discussing the romantic poets etc etc. Naturally enough these examples may lead to the teacher choosing a more ‘progressive’ approach or a more ‘traditional’ one.

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Question: What is Education? Answer: An emerging market!

In the following link Stefan Collini reviews two books that both look into the marketisation of higher education. It is shocking stuff:

Meanwhile here are some extracts from my own talk about the marketisation of education that I delivered at the State of Education Conference on Saturday 1st March (

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Email to Ed Dorrell, TES features and comment editor

A couple of months ago Ed Dorrell, the features editor at the TES, wrote an editorial about school autonomy and whether or not it is really happening. Unfortunately I can’t give you a link to the piece because you have to subscribe to the TES to see it online. I wrote to him because I felt that he hadn’t made any effort to unpick the terms or look behind the motives of those pushing for greater school ‘autonomy’.
Here’s the email (it’s not as long as the Gabriel Sahlgren one but like that email it also went unanswered):

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Market Reform of Education: My Letter to Gabriel H Sahlgren

I read your article (Leave Schools Alone to Judge the Best in Show) in the most recent TES (20.09.13) with great interest. I have written and re-written my email to you because I had to remove lots of spittle-flecked ranting in an attempt to engage with your underlying philosophy. My main question I suppose is: what convinces you that the market – an entity that seeks profit above all else – would be the best model on which to base a national education system? What I have written here is not an academic, properly sourced essay.

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Unsavoury Gove: Recipe for Disaster

Here is a diagram that illustrates the links between Michael Gove and his privatisation chums (click on it to enlarge it). Francis Gilbert made this, he is one of the founders of the Local Schools Network.

Goves Connections_Diagram

This diagram is very similar to the picture I had in my own head after reading the following story (not written by Francis Gilbert but on an unrelated website):

There is a recently posted, lengthy, very thorough and highly critical article about Michael Gove here:

Here is my own artistic response to all this:

Gove the imposter

Policy makers “…often know what they do; they frequently know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do does.” Michel Foucault

Whoops!! A bit too revealing!

Here is a recent advert encouraging graduates to join the teaching profession. It is really an advert encouraging graduates to join the management profession. I have not seen it since. Perhaps teachers complained about the implications: there’s nothing wrong with wanting out of the classroom as soon as possible and also management do not need a solid background in actual teaching!

Management Advert

Waiting for Superman

Our headteacher has invited us all to watch ‘Waiting for Superman’ at the start of next term. Naturally suspicious I looked up the film on the internet and discovered a piece written by Rick Ayers for the Huffington Post that draws attention to the film’s one-sided promotion of academies (or Charter schools as they are known in the US). You can read this essay here:

Essentially the film argues that poor neighbourhoods in our cities are the result of poor teaching. It is teachers that are responsible for the poverty; no mention is made of any wider economic picture.

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Business Values

Business values what? Profits!

Two more questions: Do we want an economy that serves the needs of society or a society that serves the needs of the economy? And is it in all of our best interests to accept the inevitability of business values creeping into all aspects of our lives? The following three items are all depressing in different ways:

  1. A boring, test-driven education system comes about when business minds apply themselves to the problems of delivering education for all. The owner of a factory, states Ken Robinson who is good on the subject of dreary and unimaginative standardised education, would attempt to see off a threat to profits by facing up to overseas competition, limiting production-lines and making sure that everything is made to the same standard. Following the same production-line mentality with people in education is surely one of the main shortcomings of our education system.
  2. James O’Shaughnessy – one of David Cameron’s former special advisors – has argued in a recent pamphlet for the Policy Exchange thinktank that it is time for profit-making firms to be allowed to run academies. As Private Eye points out this could be good news for O’Shaughnessy who has set up a firm, Mayforth Consulting, to act as an ‘educational entrepreneur’. It’s heartwarming stuff!
  3. By way of teaching 13 and 14 year-olds about the African slave trade Queen Elizabeth’s Girl’s School in Barnet asked its students to come up with a business proposal for how they would capture and imprison slaves in Africa. Apparently one part of the lesson pointed out positive aspects of being a slave trader such as having an affair with a beautiful slave!