One of the interesting components of the great education debate is the names that get bandied around. When I criticise aspects of ‘progressive education’, rather than recognising that this is a well-defined movement with its roots in romanticism and its flowering in the 20th century, many assume that it is a neologism created as a term of abuse.
Schools Week’s recent progressive-educator-of-the-week, Gerald Haigh, whilst complaining about a ‘rather vulgar world of offensive tweets and ill-humoured blogs’ suggested that ‘child-centered’ has become a term of abuse and longed for the era of a better sort of ‘trad’ (is that a term of abuse?) before concluding that ‘Yah-boo debate gets us nowhere. Children need teachers, but do not become educated through the learning of facts’. Which is kinda wrong.
Michael Gove bears much responsibility for this paroxysm of name-calling for coining the metaphor ‘the blob’ to describe the educational establishment in the UK. Whatever the merits of this as a metaphor, it is plainly insulting and I have tried to avoid using the term.
But there is a double standard. The same people who complain about a lack of civility and the debasement of discussion are the first to jump to terms of abuse. As far as I am aware, it was Michael Merrick who coined the ludicrous, oxymoronic moniker of ‘NeoTraddie’. When asked to identify an example of a NeoTraddie, he chose the writings on my old blog. The irony, of course, is that he coined such a term in order to shrilly berate the likes of me for being shrill.
And we all remember Guy Claxton having a go at ‘angry trolls’ who ‘not very bright’ because they don’t like thinking or learning, only winning arguments.
In an otherwise aimless editorial for last week’s TES, Ed Dorrell writes of the ‘neo-trad nu-blob’ and claims that they worship a saintly Michael Gove (which is all a bit random given that Gove is now in charge of the legal system). Dorrell does this for a reason, of course. He is judging that it is what the people who read the editorial will like. No doubt many of those who complain about the state of debate, the negativity and unkindness, will cheer this othering without noticing the irony.