The following is a guest post from an old friend. Whatever your pedagogical outlook, I think you will see the beauty of the prose and humanity of the argument:
It was St Augustine who observed, “Wisdom and folly both are like meats that are wholesome and unwholesome, and courtly or simple words are like town-made or rustic vessels.” And lo, one will speak plainly with rustic vessels; vessels shaped to caress the simple mystery that has slipped down the back of the sofa of recent times.
Once, to be a educational traditionalist was a romantic kind of a thing. It was to be a maverick, a lonesome traveler with flowing locks, full of heart, wearisome and hungry who alights at an inn, drinks, eats and tells a fireside tale of the mystery at the heart of creation. It was a humanising call. It was poetry and drunkenness. It was beauty and art carousing with royalty and rascals. It was a screaming cry of disgruntlement at the Moon. And yet this traveler has changed. He is no longer content to be aloof and handsome, alone on the moors, staking a claim to independence like Braveheart or something. The new traveler has come to conquer and tell others what to do, and the orders are clear: One must be effective! One must teach well!
In other words, do what works well, be effective and teach children properly! No other outcomes can be countenanced. To waste time is to waste lives! Yea, this has a superficial, paper-thin appeal for a short time to those with simple minds but let us look at what is lost.
If education is about anything at all then, at heart, it is about meaningless platitudes. The new traveler seeks to take these away, demanding evidence and waving research papers like some geeky little despot with thick-rimmed glasses who probably isn’t very good at sport. The new traveler shrieks that we must not allow children to ever work together, that we must not engage them in conversation, that we must not interact in any way at all but simply lecture them robotically in a monotone for five hours a day. And he has a study to prove why!
Yet education is a really complicated kind of a thing. Let me say that again. Education is really complicated. Have these people never contemplated the nature of cause and effect? How can they have any certainty that one thing might cause another? There is no way to know this because life is intrinsically mysterious and people are complex. Really complex.
This miserly bean-counting, measuring-cylinder-waving, spreadsheet-toting philosophy allows no room for the expression of our own unique humanity on a wet Wednesday afternoon in Huddersfield. Will somebody please think of the teachers? And the children?
We need a broader, more nebulous and unspecific view of things.