So I wrote an article for Spiked.

I was then challenged about this on Twitter.

So I wrote this blog post.

Seemingly unaware of this blog post, Dan Meyer then wrote this.

Then, Doug Holton gratuitously accused me of trolling, again. He even suggested that this might lead to harassment and linked to Jo Boaler’s response to Milgram and Bishop. Which is frankly outrageous.

holton troll III


14 Comments on “Gotcha?”

  1. Tara Houle says:

    All of this indicates you must be striking a chord. By challenging the status quo of junk science, some are not amused. Please keep writing. Voices like yours are the reason many of us keep fighting for our kids.

    • blaw0013 says:

      I’m not here to say there isn’t a large amount of junk science that gains traction in the field of education, for reasons of opportunity to make money, fame, or even just for teachers to feel hopeful about doing something that may have an impact (which by their own enthusiasm tends to create positive effects).

      However, there is a very sizable amount of very good science. So how is one to determine what is junk and not? Probably by how it aligns to your own beliefs, or dare I say view of the world; Fish is Fish.

      • gregashman says:

        I agree that the aims of education are often divergent and I don’t think that I share yours. However, all is not lost. I am happy to evaluate claims on their own terms. For instance, when Dan Meyer suggests his methods are more *motivating* than explicit instruction then I simply ask for the evidence of this rather than the assertion. When claims are made that there is a qualitative difference between knowledge and understanding and that ‘constructivist’ approaches are better for developing the latter then, again, I ask where the evidence is. I don’t think it is acceptable for educational discourse to proceed through a series of assertions.

  2. Tempe Laver says:

    I think that Doug Holton sounds peculiar. What baseless accusations.

  3. Stan says:

    At some point arguing with people who hold their beliefs with religious fervor becomes a suboptimal way to spend your time. If some of them just see questioning of those beliefs as persecution there is not much you can do except leave them alone. If others just harp on about the weaker points in your argument while avoiding the development of the stronger ones then giving them the time of day is time that could be better spent elsewhere.

    Have you noticed that the other side here is not dealing with the difficulties you point out in their theory? You can point out the unsupported assertions, the fuzzy wording, the straw man caricature of the views they don’t like and so on till the cows come home. They will ignore it all. Yet one slip by you and they will revel in the proof that you are wrong.

    On a lighter note. Sometimes this discussion seems like a debate between the People’s Front of Judea and the Judean People’s Front. PFJ has questions for priming, JPF has questions for motivating, PFJ has explicit statements of facts to communicate facts, JPF has that too but is less clear about when you should ever really try it. PFJ has assessment of current knowledge, JPF has …

    I don’t think it is really two sides of the same coin just that some arguments seem to look that way. The JPF side seems to want to murky the waters here by co-opting any valid ideas from the PFJ but with some caveat that implies it is true but inferior while reinventing obvious truths as unique JPF developments. I don’t know how much work it would be but it would be interesting if you wrote a piece about what is the same and what is different. Even if you just covered a few aspects of both it would be worthwhile.

    • gregashman says:

      There has been no slip by me.

      On your broader point, I think that there is much more difference between the two perspectives than you suggest. In a similar vein to how ‘balanced literacy’ has been presented, advocates of constructivist approaches seek to obfuscate. I see it as my role to shed some light on this. Ultimately, I am advocating an approach based upon strong empirical evidence and they are not. This explains our different approaches.

      • Stan says:

        Don’t get me wrong Greg. I don’t think you are mistaken in your thesis. I just think your initial blog post didn’t provide enough support for your point. You addressed that both in the twitter discussion and your updated postings. For normal people that wouldn’t result in someone harping on about the initial blog post. Concern raised, answered, move on to something worth debating. Unfortunately the people you are debating with think there is some sort of points system per round and that they are player and score keeper.

        I agree that there is a lot more difference than some of the discussions indicate. I think that is due to sloppy writing and not on your part. That is why I would benefit if you wrote up some of the key points that sound alike but are not.

      • Stan says:

        Putting it another way. I bet one hundred dollars the other party in this debate will never look at the comments in their own blog and write something along the lines of: wow it is not just people finding fault who see the Fish and Frog example the way Greg does so perhaps there is something wrong with the original authors’ writing. To be paid to the charity of Greg’s choice if we see anything like that.

      • It feels to me like “advocates of x do y” is overly broad. I am trying, as a matter of principle, to focus less on grouping people together by similar characteristics and then treating all members of the groups I create as single entities, and focus more on the individual arguments presented by those individuals.

        You for one, among others, do try to do a good job of arguing with facts and evidence and I enjoy reading your posts, even though I sometimes see some different language being used to describe somewhat similar things being seen from very different perspectives. This point is not unique to you of course, I think it is a fundamental flaw with how we use language, especially when we operate in very different contexts.

      • gregashman says:

        There is much evasion and obfuscation in education and this is often used to maintain a practice for which there is little supporting evidence. ‘Balanced literacy’, for instance, represents a strategy to allow continued use of a whole language approach to reading whilst defusing the issue of the overwhelming evidence for phonics; “Of course we use phonics but it’s part of a balanced approach.” When you look, there’s hardly any phonics there at all.

        I try to go back to sources written by proponents of a particular position. For progressivism, I use Alfie Kohn’s essay. For my recent ‘constructivism’ explainer, I use an article written for the ASCD.

        These sources highlight genuine and important differences. For instance, constructivist teaching does imply an element of student discovery, no matter how much its fans baulk at the term ‘discovery learning’. It also prioritises ‘relevance’ and proceeding from the whole to the part. I disagree with all of that for novice learners i.e. pretty much all school students studying academic subjects.

    • I really like this analogy to Monty Python’s Life of Brian, which was a really funny movie with some really useful take-aways about life in general.

      • Stan says:

        Yes don’t take the analogy the wrong way. But someone seems to be a master of self-parody. You have to read the latest – if you don’t like my pal’s obscurity I’ll send some rotten fish at you, with an outrageous French accent.

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