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.