TribalismPosted: October 7, 2016 Embed from Getty Images
For some involved in the education debate, there is a lot to agonise about. I have been told, for instance, that I am not political enough; that if I want to convince people of my position then I need to be less extreme in my view that teachers should use explicit instruction all of the time. If you are in the habit of reading my blog then you will know that this is not my view. It is a projection.
I recently read a very thoughtful blog post by Bryan Penfound where he describes the existence of an in-group and an out-group. He writes about calling-out a member of the out-group in order please members of the in-group: A form of tribalism.
It is true that we all have our biases. We feel cognitive dissonance when someone disagrees with us. We delight in being able to prove opponents wrong and we find it easy to imagine that they are bad people. The converse of this is that we feel affirmed by those who agree with us and we are quick to assume that they are good people.
But if you are writing blog posts attacking ideas in order to please other people then you are doing it wrong. If someone has a public platform and uses it to make statements about education that you disagree with or think are harmful then you have every right to refute those statements, particularly if you have a reasoned argument or supporting evidence. This is not tribalism; it is a contribution to a much needed debate.
Unfortunately, education generally lacks this kind of critical challenge. This is why non-teaching consultants with half-baked ideas can make so much money from us. Everyone is too polite. And this is why you see such extreme reactions to criticism: it is because criticism is so unusual.
I don’t think debate necessarily leads to tribalism. My views on education are shared by many whose views on politics are quite different to mine. And I find myself at odds with those who would otherwise be my allies on issues as diverse as Scottish devolution, free/charter schools, the legacy of the enlightenment and the vacuity of superhero films.
I’m not interested in being political. I would prefer to be anti-political. I think we’ve all had enough of spin and manipulation. I believe that they are far less persuasive than people think. I would draw a broader thesis here but this is not the place.
With me, what you see is what you get. If I write that I agree or disagree with an idea then it is because I agree or disagree with that idea: nothing more and nothing less. And I’m probably wrong a lot of the time.
You can make your own mind up.