Edu-Twitter can be a dark place. There is a vociferous minority of, predominantly the UK, teachers who exalt a particular brand of right-wing ideology that sits uncomfortably with the more enlightened majority in the profession. These neo-traditionalists, or pseudo-trads, take their inspiration from Michael Gove and thus hold a very narrow view of the purpose of education. Their over-zealous evangelizing, tendency to “troll” those who disagree with them, and to “hunt in packs” is akin to the methodologies adopted by Nigel Farage, and his far-right UKIP, during the BREXIT referendum. Fortunately, the pseudo-trads remain something of a non-entity in the real world, but that does not mean we should underestimate them. After all, most liberal-minded people underestimated the dangerous fascists Nigel Farage and Donald Trump. Most worrying is that some of the pseudo-trads seemingly have the ear of the Westminster government. Although their influence within the teaching profession is negligible in staff rooms across the UK, it is growing at the political level. We should not forget that whoever controls education shapes the world.
Fortunately, the pseudo-trad nonsense seems to the exclusive domain of the political right in the UK. It hasn’t permeated into the international sector, where there is a consensus that more progressive teaching methodologies are most beneficial for students. Those on the progressive end of the spectrum don’t dismiss the importance of knowledge, as many “neo-trads” claim. Those who have the ability and skill to use various teaching methodologies are not oblivious to cognitive science. They are aware that knowledge underpins learning, but the imparting of knowledge, without understanding or being taught to evaluate or synthesise, only prepares students to win pub quizzes in their adult lives. I concede that much of the 21st-century learning rhetoric is cliched but that in no way undermines the importance of the skills advocated. The skills of working collaboratively, thinking critically, communicating effectively, problem-solving and working creatively are not revolutionary ideas, but they underpin good pedagogical practice today as they have done for decades. Throughout my career, spanning more than two decades, I have observed that those who “can” teach through various methodologies and seek to inspire students to a love of lifelong learning, whilst those who can’t teach fall back on the dictation of notes. Moreover, those who teach with methods advocated by pseudo-trads almost always have the most discipline problems and tend to blame the students. Perhaps they might be somewhat more reflective, and then they might realise that they bore their poor students, and thus they are the cause of the subsequent misbehaviour!
As a school leader, I am more than happy to see teachers utilising various pedagogical styles. There is room for more traditional methodologies and progressive. The most versatile teacher can use an array of methods to ensure to meet the needs of all students. It seems ludicrous to argue that there is a “best way” to teach. Often the way a teacher plans a lesson depends upon the subject being taught or the particular content being delivered. Students are empowered by being exposed to a variety of methodologies and exposed to life’s rich tapestry. The pseudo-trad agenda has led to a false dichotomy on #edutwitter. By being more evangelical than Ben Carson, those on the educational right are shutting down debate and stifling creativity. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to education, and the sooner these people wake up to that reality, the better.