ResearchED Melbourne 2017 sparks witch hunt

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I have been loosely involved in researchED Australia over the last couple of years. For the first event in Sydney in 2015, I suggested a couple of speakers. It was me who recommended that Kevin Donnelly be invited to take part in a panel discussion. At that time, he and Ken Wiltshire had just completed a review of the Australian Curriculum commissioned by the federal government and so he seemed like a perfect fit for such a conference. What research evidence had informed their review? Others didn’t see it that way. Donnelly is a noted social conservative and so, rather than come along and challenge his views, a number of people stated that they would boycott the event.

Last year the storm was more muted and it mainly just involved people expressing surprise and annoyance that they had not been invited to speak. This year has seen the temperature rise again with a group of Australian academics fanning a full-scale Twitter witch hunt.

In the promotional material, someone spotted that one of the things researchED looks at is, ‘the lies you may have been told during training’. ‘Lie’ is an emotive word and ‘myth’ would probably have been a better choice in this context. However, it is clear that this statement does not claim that all trainee teachers are told untruths and it does not suggest who might be telling them. In my experience, trainees are just as likely to be told dodgy things by other trainee teachers and by their placement schools as they are at university.

Nevertheless, this clause was seized upon and interpreted as a statement that university lecturers lie to preservice teachers:

The Australian College of Teachers (ACE) was copied in to this tweet – they are partnering with researchED for 2017 and so the intention was presumably to exert some pressure.

This pattern continued with the Australian Council of Deans of Education being tagged in a subsequent tweet:

One academic decided to send the offending clause to her own Dean and tweet about this:

The outrage continued with various people mounting their high horses and demanding an apology while a number of rather bemused bystanders asked what the fuss was about.

Eventually, events took a surreal turn. I wrote a blog post that was totally unrelated to researchED about a new Brookings report on preschool education. This was then called ‘toxic’ and a couple of researchED presenters and a think-tank were copied in with the following statement:

Again, I can only assume that the intention of this was to apply pressure.

So what is this all about? Why all the fuss? Why does researchED present such a threat to this group? After all, it is only a conference and it often hosts discussions that thrash out different opinions. I don’t really know what is at the root of this animosity and could only speculate.

More surprising, perhaps, is that one of the antagonists spoke at last year’s event. Since then, she has expressed concern that neither Tom nor I attended her talk. This can be a difficult issue because researchED events have a number of talks scheduled simultaneously and so it is not possible to see all of them.

Anyway, I suppose this fuss must mean something. ResearchED is an edgy event – an event that some people clearly would prefer you not to attend. So why not come along and find out why? One day of the annual ACE conference is given over to rED – the 3rd July. There is also an event at Brighton Grammar on the 1st July headlined by John Hattie. Read about it here. It would be great to see you there. I’ll be the one with the broomstick and the black cat.


9 thoughts on “ResearchED Melbourne 2017 sparks witch hunt

  1. There is a lot of group think in education with insiders and outsiders – despite 18 years teaching, post grad qualifications, 4 books and reviewing the national curriculum I am considered an outsider. I’ve got no problem with than but it is of great concern that educators and those in control deny open and public debate where the search is for truth and evidence of what actually works and what can be best done to assist, teachers and students. After being attacked for years for complaining about falling standards I’ve been proven to be correct and recently received on Order of Australia fro services to education. Best wishes.

    1. Dr Donnally – Clearly the Progressives are not secure enough to challenge anything you have said/written so they resort to the old argument …Ï wont read/listen to him because he’s on the Right”. As someone with leftist leanings I am ashamed/embarrassed when I hear this said. I once posted a link to an amazing speech by Michael Gove and all the teachers told me that they would not read ANYTHING written by a person like him! I wonder how they can consider themselves critical thinkers.

      Although I can’t say I agree with everything you say I have certainly found myself agreeing with you more often then many of the teachers I encounter particularly in regards to knowledge in the curriculum and quality literature.

      1. I don’t think progressives know what critical thinking is – they seem to assume that it means being critical of things they disagree with as opposed to the actual intellectual meaning which is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of ideas/theories, etc. They can and will never critique their own ideas.

  2. Writing On The Wall?

    Perhaps these professors and Deans in teacher education feel threatened?

    It was just three years ago that Daisy Christodoulou (UK) wrote her book based on her disappointing teacher training — Seven Myths About Education. The book, by the way, was highly praised by E D Hirsch who called it a “game changer”!

    Now, last year a professor in Sweden claims that teacher training there “harmed” teachers and urges professors to apologize —

    This month, in the USA, Bruce Deitrick Price, writes about the old book, 1953 — Quackery in the Public Schools, by Albert Lynd. This quote from the article is telling:

    “Lynd concludes that “[t]he educationists create their own demand through their influence on definitions of teacher qualifications.” In other words, the people at the top dictate that everybody must jump through certain hoops and must pay repeatedly for the privilege.

    “Lynd speaks of “endless multiplication of courses,” “[e]ver more elaborate course requirements,” and “shameless course-manufacturing and course-breeding.” The result according to one critic is “oceans of piffle.” But finally, it all has a purpose: forcing everyone to accept the Party Line and generating income for the Establishment.” The reader comments give some flavor of what Americans are saying about teacher training.

    Thanks, Greg, for revealing some of the nervousness being expressed in Australia’s teacher training industry.

  3. Think it was best said on West Wing “If they’re shooting at you, you are probably doing something right.”

    The echo chambers that social media creates is dangerous to good discussion. I’ve been happy to see Greg’s controversial posts that make me question my deep held philosophies of teaching. I’ve often voiced my dissent and appreciated that responses have generally been about the topic and not personal, that have strengthened the conversation.

    Keep at it Greg, your well researched voice should be heard as much as the “progressives” if we hope to get better at learning.

  4. I attended edRESEARCH Toronto. Tom Bennett was present in every session I attended, albeit brief. There were a variety of approaches presented and it was very respectful for everyone. Not sure if that’s a Canadian thing (polite Canucks) but thought I’d share

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