On not playing the game

In yesterday’s post, I argued against US college professor Ilana Horn’s call for her followers to give Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion negative reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I hit a nerve – my Twitter mentions were flooded with teachers saying just how good Teach Like a Champion is.

However, as might be expected, a couple of other college professors appeared and challenged me. Mike Steele asked why I had not addressed Horn’s criticisms of Lemov’s book:

The answer is longer than a tweet. The reason I did not address Horn’s criticisms is the same reason a person may hesitate at a fairground before playing that game where you have to throw the hoop over a prize. The game is rigged.

I’m not sure I like the word ‘epistemology’ but it is relevant here. An epistemology is the agreed set of methods with which a field of inquiry establishes truths about the world. I am not convinced that there a lots of different, yet valid, epistemologies and I am not even sure it is right to call the kind of critical theory lens used by Horn an ‘epistemology’ because it is hard to see how it could be used to establish truths. In order to establish truths, there must be some mechanism for testing arguments and I don’t think there is.

For instance, how could I demonstrate to Steele’s satisfaction that a book is not, “steeped in colonizing viewpoints.” I don’t think I could. I suspect any attempt would be met with the response that I needed to do more reading and with references to my gender and perceptions of my race.

Could someone with different personal characteristics challenge this claim? No, that possibility is also excluded because in the critical theory paradigm, racism can be internalised:

The fact that something cannot be refuted superficially seems like a strength. It must be true! And it certainly has great rhetorical power. However, when you remove the possibility of refutation, you remove the possibility of testing ideas and seeing how strong they are. You remove the possibility of dissent. You enter a totalitarian world where the powerful can assert what they wish and everyone else can just shut up.

So I am not going to play that game. It is better to deconstruct it so that others become aware of how it is rigged.


4 thoughts on “On not playing the game

  1. Michael Pye says:

    Just to check are you aware epistemology is one of the five traditional branches of philosophy? The version your railing against is merely one of it’s wayward children. I’m worried you have decided not to eat out because someone made you have to many McDonalds!

    The core ideas of the field are actually sensible and perfectly agreeable. Hell Karl Popper’s ideas fall under this branch.

    Sorry if you already knew this.

      • Michael Pye says:

        I know your critisim is limited.

        The relativist idea comes out of a realisation that different fields acquire and structure knowledge differently. We also know such knowledge is socially constructed.

        Ironically the issue occurs because they are replacing the internal epistomology of practitioners (designed to solve shared domain specific problems) with an external one designed to solve social ones. I assume that’s what you mean when you say it is not valid.

  2. Chester Draws says:

    Steele even admits it helped many teachers. Yet you still have to defend it!

    Apparently it doesn’t have to be good, it has to be perfect.

    Those of us in the real world know that every teacher, every theory of teaching and every book on teaching has flaws. But we also know that some are better than others. A great book on teaching should not be cancelled unless by a better book. Let the nay-sayers write that book, and then we’ll recommend it instead.

    The progressives are so far off being able to produce a book that helps real teachers teach better (as opposed to preach more) it’s laughable.

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