Despite having understandable qualms about mob rule, I suspect few people shed a tear when a statue of Edward Colston, slave trader, was toppled from its plinth and unceremoniously dumped in the harbour in Bristol. But then, Winston Churchill’s statue in London was defaced and there are now suggestions that, among others, statues of Baden Powell and Sir Francis Drake are living on borrowed time.
And then it started with old British comedy shows. Few shed a tear, I suspect, over Little Britain and Come Fly With Me, with their overtly racist tropes. But eyebrows were raised at The Mighty Boosh and The League of Gentlemen.
I am not sure where this will end and I suspect a backlash is coming of some sort. All of which, sadly, will likely play into the hands of right-wing political parties and candidates.
Nevertheless, we are currently at the high watermark and as with all frenzies of this kind, some people have spotted the opportunity to settle a few scores.
Teach Like a Champion, and its expanded second edition, are books that many teachers have found extremely useful. Doug Lemov, the author, has spent a great deal of time observing effective teachers and, from this, has distilled and refined a number of highly effective strategies. This is not a randomised-controlled-trial (RCT) approach to research, it is more a mix of process-product research and ethnography. In other words, its the kind of research that university faculties of education probably should spend more time doing.
Lemov’s methodology has been particularly helpful lately. When my school made the shift to remote learning as a result of a COVID-19 lockdown in my state, it was Lemov’s blog that we visited to help figure out our program. There were no remote learning RCTs to draw on and really Lemov, and his detailed observations of remote teaching across his network, were all we had. Lemov had our backs and for that, I would like to take the opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude.
Anyone who’s been to a teacher education college and who picks up a copy of Teach Like a Champion, will immediately notice a contrast between Lemov’s specific and detailed observations and advice, and the kind of nonspecific ideological navel-gazing that constitutes much of the content of education courses. Lemov’s is a practical guide, written for teachers. It is not interested in condemning neoliberalism or quoting French philosophers, which often appear to be the means for advancement in the academy, it is interested in helping teachers to become more effective.
You can just imagine the resentment this generates among a subset of education professors. In years gone by, the only information trainee teachers would have access to about education would be carefully filtered by their institution. Now, through social media connections, teachers from opposite sides of the globe can communicate and recommend articles and books to each other – books such as Teach Like a Champion. I imagine a professor bristling as a student mentions Lemov’s name.
And so Ilana Horn, a maths education professor, decided that the time was right to attempt to cancel Teach Like a Champion:
Apparently, it is somehow racist:
Tell that to the teachers at Michaela Community School who have used Lemov’s techniques with extraordinary success, opening up exciting opportunities for Michaela’s diverse student population:
I am calling this behaviour out. I am not accepting this attempt to cancel Teach Like a Champion. I do not know how much attention people pay to negative reviews on Amazon and Goodreads – I suspect books like Teach Like a Champion achieve success via teachers recommending them to each other – but I am not going to stand by and watch someone instigate a petty campaign against a book they don’t like under the cover of activism. This is not activism.
If you have read Teach Like a Champion then please do as I have done and log on to Amazon or Goodreads and leave a review explaining your thoughts. If you screenshot your review and send it to me on Twitter, I will retweet it to my followers. If you haven’t read it yet then please consider ordering a copy.
Let’s turn this cynical attack into raised awareness of Teach Like a Champion and a sales boon for Doug Lemov.
Update: It looks like Amazon may have suspended reviews. If so, head over to Goodreads and put a note in your diary to go back to Amazon in a week or so to post your review.