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Optimism

July 30, 2009

 

“And I expect the future of humanity or the human animal, the human species, to be in ethical and political respects, much like the past. There’ll be new inventions, new knowledge … but basically the future will be like the past, history will go on. Oddly enough, when I tell people like that, they say, ‘You mean we’re all doomed?’ I say, initially I became rather puzzled by it, what I’m saying is that we carry on coping the way we did in the past.’ [and they say] ‘Do you mean we’re all doomed?’”

From John Gray in a radio interview here http://www.abc.net.au/rn/philosopherszone/stories/2008/2284016.htm

“My question is, does anyone actually do much work trying to identify the causes of bad behaviour in individuals and sort of the problems rather than just implementing the sanction. Do you feel you actually understand behaviour management or do you simply understand sanctions. … Your blog [i.e. this one] seems a little depressing and negative at times. Maybe this represents your experiences of dealing with pupil behaviour.”

From “busy_little_bee” on the TES forum here http://community.tes.co.uk/forums/t/336148.aspx

It should be easy to tell the optimists from the pessimists. Optimists believe things will get better, pessimists believe they will get worse. By this definition I am an optimist. I write this blog not to say “we are all doomed”, but to say “this must stop” and to encourage others to help stop it. I am angry, not depressed, and my mood is only ever as bleak as the reality around me and I am easily cheered up by the opportunity to change that reality. The belief that currently things are simply not good enough is an optimistic belief. Even the belief that our next education initiative (whatever it may be) is doomed by its own inherent stupidity is not pessimism when it is accompanied by the belief that improvement can be brought about if we were to stop wasting time on what is stupid.

This is why it never ceases to amaze me to be accused of any type of negativity. This happens with people on the internet who are shocked that anybody could challenge the latest bright idea, or that efforts to “reform” badly behaved children could be anything other than a complete success. It happens with students who cannot believe that I expect them to work, learn and behave in my lessons and am not satisfied with only getting one or two of the three. It has happened with people in the schools I work with who think that is unreasonable to be upset by SMT dishonesty or incompetence, or by the fact that we systematically fail children. From their point of view optimism is how they describe complacency. It is positive to think that things are already good enough. A problem is only a problem if we identify it as such. If you have a picture in your mind of just how good schools could be; just how satisfying our working lives could be; just how much of a difference teachers can make, then you are a cause of unhappiness. How dare you get teachers to think about their working conditions! How dare you get people to think that children, particularly working class children, could learn or behave! How dare you think that we could do better than APP or SEAL or any other imposed initiative! How dare you think!

There is only one part of education that I am not optimistic about. I am not optimistic about attempts to perfect human nature. The moment I know that a scheme, or an aim, is based on the idea that students will be changed on the inside, then I know that we are wasting our time. The moment that education is meant to be a replacement for religion; when it is to tamper in the stuff of people’s souls; when it is meant to result in some secular form of salvation, then I do feel dread. When we are meant to be changing our students from underclass to Übermenschen by talking to them, whether this is through therapy or philosophy, then I do despair. But, like John Gray, even here I am not claiming that we are doomed. What I am claiming is that the people of the future will be much like the people of the past and that we need to cope with that. If that is too much of a nightmare to face, if it is unthinkable that our pupils will be human beings in a world like our own rather than inhuman citizens of a utopia, then I guess I could be accused of pessimism. But then I ask: why can’t the Utopians go away and set up their Utopia somewhere far away from me? Why do they have to commandeer my classroom as part of their doomed project? If the future is to be so inhumanly wonderful why do we have to be conscripted into it? Why is my scepticism a form of pessimism, when I am resolutely optimistic about how good the future can be so long as we stop trying to build it on the sand of a denial of human nature?

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72 comments

  1. Children without an academic bent, and I believe them to be in the majority by the time they get to 14, will never enjoy learning via the National Curriculum. Indeed, their daily enjoyment depends upon subverting it to their own entertainment and self-satisfaction, or even better, that of others too.
    Either we give them somthing to do that is of interest to them, however ultimately pointless, or we force them to put up with it. Both methods have worked in the past – many a young lad has proved an excellent bell-hop or sweeper-upper for minimal wages – and a good hiding can often make the game of misbehaviour not worth the candle. But let’s not pretend that attempts at jollying them along, making the curriculum toe-curlingly “relevant” or appeasing them at the expense of kids who do want to learn are solutions.


  2. But let’s not pretend that attempts at jollying them along, making the curriculum toe-curlingly “relevant” or appeasing them at the expense of kids who do want to learn are solutions.

    I hope that you aren’t suggesting those are my solutions.

    That said, I do not accept that there is a large category of children who will never value learning. Teenagers are very malleable indeed when they feel the herd won’t back them up. Unfortunately, our system at the moment aims at integrating them into the herd, and then wondering why we can’t control them.


  3. “The belief that currently things are simply not good enough is an optimistic belief.”

    Love this line. I’ve never quite thought about optimism from this perspective before, so thank you. Very nicely done.


  4. It worries me that the government today was trumpeting the fact that exclusions are down as if this shows that the fight against poor behaviour is being won. Surely it shows the reverse; less exclusions mean more of the “challenging” pupils are being allowed to get away with it.


  5. “The moment that education is meant to be a replacement for religion; when it is to tamper in the stuff of people’s souls; when it is meant to result in some secular form of salvation, then I do feel dread.”

    I do not think I have ever met a teacher who saw teaching as a replacement for religion, as a means of tampering with peoples souls or a method of secular salvation. To my knowledge I have never met a teacher who wanted to change human nature. Some kiddies respond positively when they appreciate the harm they have done. This does not change human nature but it does change human behaviour for the better.


  6. “I hope that you aren’t suggesting those are my solutions.”
    Heaven forfend!
    I agree, there are ways of sneaking some learning in that don’t instantly provoke the “Oppose and Resist” stimulus in uninterested adolescents, but you just can’t risk them if you’re a hostage to grades. This is even more pressing in mixed-ability classes.


  7. “I do not think I have ever met a teacher who saw teaching as a replacement for religion, as a means of tampering with peoples souls or a method of secular salvation. To my knowledge I have never met a teacher who wanted to change human nature.”

    I didn’t specify teachers (although some do believe the propaganda) and I guess you may just be appealing to pedantry.

    However, when I hear a promise of giving somebody a “fulfilling life“, or to promote “positive human development [into] effective social groups and societies” or even to make people “be able to make successful relationships, to be capable of being (and disposed to be) loving and kind … to live, as much as they can, without fear or insecurity … to be happy” I do not see learning objectives. I would identify such things as a plan to change human nature and save the world from sin.

    Care to guess where those phrases come from?


  8. Indeed you did not specify teachers. Having read the entry above I wanted to make the point that:

    I do not think I have ever met a teacher who saw teaching as a replacement for religion, as a means of tampering with peoples souls or a method of secular salvation. To my knowledge I have never met a teacher who wanted to change human nature. Some kiddies respond positively when they appreciate the harm they have done. This does not change human nature but it does change human behaviour for the better.

    Who is it that makes you feel dread, or was this a rhetorical expression of your greatest fears.


  9. “Who is it that makes you feel dread”

    Anyone who suggests any of the crap I referred to above.


  10. Quite possibly nobody then. Quite possibly a rhetorical expression of your geatest fears.


    • “Quite possibly nobody then.”

      I just gave you examples of exactly that, and you weren’t even interested enough to ask where they came from.

      How you turned that into “nobody” is a little confusing.


  11. ‘Care to guess where those phrases come from?’

    I didn’t.

    ‘Anyone who suggests any of the crap I referred to above.’

    This did not indicate anyone in particular, therefore it could be that you don’t know anyone who has suggetsed any of the crap you referred to above. Until you indicate someone who has suggested any of the crap above it could quite possibly be noone.


  12. giving somebody a “fulfilling life“

    ‘I would identify such things as a plan to change human nature and save the world from sin.’

    You must have led a sheltered life.

    Was this an example of …’replacement for religion; when it is to tamper in the stuff of people’s souls; when it is meant to result in some secular form of salvationeplacement for religion; when it is to tamper in the stuff of people’s souls; when it is meant to result in some secular form of salvation’

    Sorry I didn’t spot the link.


  13. “This did not indicate anyone in particular, therefore it could be that you don’t know anyone who has suggetsed any of the crap you referred to above.”

    Well yes, I suppose I could just be making things up.

    Of course, that does kind of beg the question as to why you are bothering to read a blog by someone who you think is just making things up.


  14. “Sorry I didn’t spot the link.”

    You don’t think that providing a fulfilling life to your students, might be expecting a bit much from, say, an hour of geography a week?

    You don’t see anything messianic about the belief you can give hundreds of people; people who aren’t your friends or members of your family; people who may not even like you, a fulfilling life?

    Frankly, I suspect most of us fail to give even those closest to us a fulfilling life. It’s a bit much to expect to give it to the people we work with.

    Hmmmm. You are going to be one of those people who posts comments expecting me to explain in ridiculous pedantic detail every opinion they don’t agree with, aren’t you?


  15. When someone does see the point you are making it does not mean that they disagree with you. You have no oblgation to explain anything. You have invited discussion and sometimes that might mean that you have to explain.
    You are of course correct that I probably cannot on my own give a student a fulfilling life. I can however contribute to a pupils education whic can in turn lead to then leading a fulfilling life. I can also contribute to giving them a poor education which might well contribte to them not leading a fulfilling life.
    There are clearly others who are part of the development of children to young adults. I see this as a team effort within school. The combined contribution school can make is potentially very significant contribution either positive or negative.
    I don’t see this as ‘a plan to change human nature and save the world from sin.’

    ‘The moment that education is meant to be a replacement for religion; when it is to tamper in the stuff of people’s souls; when it is meant to result in some secular form of salvation, then I do feel dread.’

    I think most would agree with this, but I do not see it happening personally although I agree with the sentiment. Are you suggesing a general trend for education to replace the role carried out by religion n previous centuries or a plot by individuals/groups to set policy which will force schools to take on this role. Therefore although I agree, this is only a hypothetical concern. If you are suggesting that this is happening and you could provide one or two examples than I might change my view. In principle, I agree.

    As an aside, surely human nature, if there is such a thing, would be an issue of genetics.


    • “I think most would agree with this, but I do not see it happening personally although I agree with the sentiment. Are you suggesing a general trend for education to replace the role carried out by religion n previous centuries or a plot by individuals/groups to set policy which will force schools to take on this role.”

      I am suggesting that schools are being told to do the job of religion, or even the job of God. I do not believe that we can teach people the things I listed except by teaching some kind of religion or pseudo-religion.

      Isn’t that what I said?


  16. “When someone does [not] see the point you are making it does not mean that they disagree with you.”

    No.

    But it’s true with you isn’t it?

    Your reaction to points you don’t agree with is to refuse to try and understand what is being said, isn’t it, and then argue from that position.

    It’s not as if you started by saying “what does that mean?” you simply went straight in to declaring that no teacher believed the thing I was condemning without even finding out first what I was referring to.

    “You are of course correct that I probably cannot on my own give a student a fulfilling life. I can however contribute to a pupils education which can in turn lead to then leading a fulfilling life.”

    I would suggest that personal fulfillment takes more than education, and that enabling people to be fulfilled is more in line with religion than teaching.


  17. Not at all?

    ‘Who is it that makes you feel dread, or was this a rhetorical expression of your greatest fears.’

    ‘Your reaction to points you don’t agree with is to refuse to try and understand what is being said, isn’t it, and then argue from that position.’

    In fact quite the opposite.

    You did not provide examples in response to my previous reply so I decided to ak the direct question. You still however did not answer and still have not.

    I was looking for examples which might enable me to see where you were coming from.

    I think I am starting to see where you are coming from with this comment.

    ‘I would suggest that personal fulfillment takes more than education, and that enabling people to be fulfilled is more in line with religion than teaching.’

    As somone who has no religious belief, along with a large proportion of the UK population I think that the contribution to be played by religion should be and is minimal.

    I believe that personal fulfillment comes from self, friends and family and society, possibly in that order. For some people religion cuts across that stuff. I think school plays its part in enabling personal fulfillment as education is a key part of the jigsaw that is life, and with the current setup a much more important part than religion. (talking England here)

    Examples would be useful.


  18. ‘I am suggesting that schools are being told to do the job of religion, or even the job of God. I do not believe that we can teach people the things I listed except by teaching some kind of religion or pseudo-religion.

    Isn’t that what I said?’

    Didn’t see this post.

    You may have said that but I am only now gaining some understanding of your post.

    I am not sure which things were you refer to as listed, but as I said above I can start to see where you are coming from. Who do you believe is telling schools to do the job of religion/God?

    Do you not think that human nature is more an issues of genetics?


  19. “You did not provide examples in response to my previous reply so I decided to ak the direct question. You still however did not answer and still have not.”

    Which direct question did you ask? Finding a direct question in your multitude of comments is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

    “As somone who has no religious belief, along with a large proportion of the UK population I think that the contribution to be played by religion should be and is minimal.”

    My point here is that “fulfilment” is badly defined without a religion. You need to believe human beings have a purpose in order to fulfil it. From the point of view of a particular religion then such a purpose can be identified. From the point of view of a secular society then there is no such purpose. To even talk about “fulfilment” is to adopt a religious, or pseudo-religious, viewpoint in which human beings have a higher purpose.

    Understand?


  20. ‘Who is it that makes you feel dread, or was this a rhetorical expression of your greatest fears.’

    This is the one I asked …

    So who is telling schools to do the work of God, bearing in mind the question only makes sense if one has a belief that there is a God.

    ‘From the point of view of a particular religion then such a purpose can be identified.’

    Here we have it then.

    ‘From the point of view of a secular society then there is no such purpose.’

    Indeed from a secular perspective a definition of fulfilment related to God would make little sense. To describe fulfilment in terms of maximising potential would however serve the purpose in my view. Happiness arising from using/maximising potential would be a good grounding for further detailed description I think.

    ‘To even talk about “fulfilment” is to adopt a religious, or pseudo-religious, viewpoint in which human beings have a higher purpose.’

    No need to debate this one here I think. I could quite easily describe a wide range of potential conditions for fulfilment with reference to religion. No higher purpose.

    I am starting to see where you are coming from now.


  21. Do you not think that human nature is an issue of genetics?


    • Haven’t really thought about it. I don’t think that it would be helpful to talk in terms of genes for human nature (genetic reductionism is not helpful) but I’m not suggesting a means of inheritance that is natural but falls outside of genetics.


  22. “So who is telling schools to do the work of God, bearing in mind the question only makes sense if one has a belief that there is a God.”

    We seem to have a problem here. You simultaneously tell me that I have misidentified a phenomena while at the same time asking me more details about the phenomena that you claim doesn’t exist.

    Can we just stick with one point at a time. Do you accept that the promises I highlighted in black are more to do with religion than education? If not, can we deal with that first?

    “Indeed from a secular perspective a definition of fulfilment related to God would make little sense.”

    I didn’t relate it to God. The belief that human beings have a purpose is not confined to theistic religions. The point I am making is that a secular society cannot talk of the purpose of human beings. There is no single purpose where there is not a single philosophy answering the deep questions of religion.

    “To describe fulfilment in terms of maximising potential would however serve the purpose in my view.”

    No, it wouldn’t. Potential means “what can be done”. It is a useless term without some judgement of what human beings should do.


  23. I don’t see the problem but so be it.

    ‘However, when I hear a promise of giving somebody a “fulfilling life“, or to promote “positive human development [into] effective social groups and societies” or even to make people “be able to make successful relationships, to be capable of being (and disposed to be) loving and kind … to live, as much as they can, without fear or insecurity … to be happy” I do not see learning objectives. I would identify such things as a plan to change human nature and save the world from sin.’

    I assume you mean the things highlighted in the paragraph repeated here. Some of them are more to do with families and relationships outside school than school, but for me none of them have any link to religion at all.

    The purpose of humankind or lack of it has no bearing for me. The lack of a purpose for humankind does not prevent an individual from leading a fulfilling life in all sort of ways.

    “To describe fulfilment in terms of maximising potential would however serve the purpose in my view.”

    from you…’No, it wouldn’t.’

    You are getting all self absorbed again. Din’t you read, let me repeat:

    To describe fulfilment in terms of maximising potential would however serve the purpose in my view.

    I think an individual can lead a fulfilling life whether they have a belief in god or not. I believe an individual can lead a fulfilling life whether they believe that humanking are here for a purpose or not.
    I think fulfilment comes from within the individual.

    I beleve most people who believe they have led a fulfilling life would not be at all concerned that you might tell them that they have not.

    Now for the big one, the one you seem to be avoiding at all costs.

    So who is telling schools to do the work of God?


    • You appear to have just ignored what I said.

      I have not claimed that individuals cannot have fulfilling life without believing in God. I claimed that deciding what is a fulfilling life is something religions do, and not something secular schools can do, because it involves deciding on the meaning of life.

      You appear to have just repeated your comment about “maximising potential” without responding to what I said about it. Be aware I will treat repetition as an attempt to disrupt the comments system.

      Finally, I said I will deal with the issue of who made the claims in bold after we have finished establishing what I said about the claims. Remind me if I forget to do so, but please don’t accuse me of evasion simply because I decide what I get to discuss, and when, on my own blog.


  24. Do you not think that human nature is an issue of genetics?

    ‘Haven’t really thought about it. ‘

    Maybe you should, seeing as you seem to be so concerned about human nature e.g.

    ‘There is only one part of education that I am not optimistic about. I am not optimistic about attempts to perfect human nature.’

    ‘Why is my scepticism a form of pessimism, when I am resolutely optimistic about how good the future can be so long as we stop trying to build it on the sand of a denial of human nature?’


    • I am not a reductionist. I don’t thinks things are necessarily best understood by explaining where they come from or what they are made of. Thinking is not better understood by talking about neurons. Driving is not better understood by talking about car-making (or about molecules). Human nature is not better understood by talking about genetics.


  25. ‘I am not a reductionist. I don’t thinks things are necessarily best understood by explaining where they come from or what they are made of. Thinking is not better understood by talking about neurons. Driving is not better understood by talking about car-making (or about molecules). Human nature is not better understood by talking about genetics.’

    As things stand in 2009 I would probably agree that thinking s not better understood by talking about neurons. I would also aree that driving is not better understood by talking about car making.

    However you overstate your case to suggest that one the basis of these wo examples you can infer that human nature is not better uderstood by talking about genetics, because it may well be.

    However you have missed (avoided) the point. I don’t want to understand human nature better by talking about genetics.

    ‘There is only one part of education that I am not optimistic about. I am not optimistic about attempts to perfect human nature.’

    I might suggest, as others do, that there is not such thing as ‘human nature’ at least not a generic human nature. I might suggest that ‘individual nature’ exists and that individual nature might be constrained by enetics. I have no real wish to understand how or why (your reductionism).

    On the basis that we can’t reliably change individual nature in 2009 via genetics maybe you have no need to worry about “the powers that be” acting like god and trying to change human nature. Maybe reverse engineering human nature via behaviour and experience may be possible in the future.

    So although human nature is not better understood by talking about genetics, maybe we could assert that you have no need to worry about those wretched utopians, as human nature won’t be changed. Having said that you haven’t identified anyone yet who is actually trying to change human nature other than those who want to change human nature.

    Don’t sweat the small stuff, start thinking about other parts of human behaviour you can do something about.


  26. “I might suggest, as others do, that there is not such thing as ‘human nature’ at least not a generic human nature.”

    You can indeed suggest it, but it would obviously be wrong. There is a common human condition, which includes our moral imperfection, and hundreds of years of trying to identify causes for it external to human beings have failed to create even one saint.

    “Having said that you haven’t identified anyone yet who is actually trying to change human nature other than those who want to change human nature.”

    I will be identifying the source of those quotations in due time. Moaning about it is not going to make it happen any sooner.


  27. “I will be identifying the source of those quotations in due time. Moaning about it is not going to make it happen any sooner.”

    What is gained by being all mysterious about your sources? It is fairly obvious that the quotations you identified come from some sort of directive/advice for schools that you are going to hold up as an example of how teachers are being asked to assume the role of god. Why not just tell us where the quotes come from? Going “haha, it is my blog, I’ll tell you when I am good and ready” is just plain irritating. Somebody asked you directly where a quote came from. That seems a reasonable thing to do in a discussion, and you invite discussion.


    • Not that it’s any of your business, but I have decided to discuss them properly in a future blog entry and I do not want to write too much here that will then be repeated later.


  28. It seems my posts are now censored, unless there has been a technical blip.

    I trust you will have emailed me to explain why you have censored my post.


    • Sorry, I thought it was clear from here:

      http://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2009/07/30/optimism/#comment-1983

      that I was not going to allow you to clog up the comments system with posts that were largely repetition of what had already been posted.

      (Since then I have also removed another post because it contained your email address, and I was unsure that you actually wanted that published.)


  29. after each post there is a line which says….Your comment is awaiting moderation

    Form this I understood that the post would not appear in the blog. As the post had been censored I thought you might wish to explain, but I guess not.

    Should I assume that you will in future simply delete all of my posts, only those you do not agree with or have I misunderstood you again and have you made yourself clear.

    Please explain.

    I should also explain that the poster “q” as nothing whatsoever to do with me. I do not know them.


    • “Your comment is awaiting moderation” simply means that moderation is switched on. Everybody currently gets this, it’s not just you.

      I only moderate things which disrupt discussion (or for reasons of privacy or legal requirement). As I said before, I think comments which repeat existing text can be disruptive. After warning you, I have stopped posts from you which are largely repetition of existing comments or entries. I have no intention to stop posts for any other reason.


  30. teachingbattleground

    To censor posts simply because they question the validity of your statements lowers the value of this blog.
    I shall take a summary of the comments you have made here and share them on a number of other educational blogsand the TES website. The internet is here to develop and widen discussion, I hope you will join in any discussion regarding these issues and I am sure, as one who believes in discussion you will not object to me linking to your blog where necessary.
    I look forward to talking to you again in the future.


    • “To censor posts simply because they question the validity of your statements lowers the value of this blog.”

      Just to repeat, I have only withheld comments where they were largely repetition of existing material, after warning you that I would do so.

      I have done so because I feel such posts disrupt discussion.


  31. The main thrust of my discussions on other blogs will be “Does God and religion play any part in the management of behaviour in schools”, and if not, given current behaviour problems should they?

    I believe that to start using religious faith to understand and deal with issues of poor behaviour is an interesting one.

    Your comments here give some insight into what can happen if one starts to do just this.

    It has been interesting to discuss these issues with you but clearly your willingness to discuss these issues openly is limited as shown by your reluctance to explain some of your ideas.

    I wish you all the best in the future.


  32. theassessor,

    for goodness sake, I might disagree with Andrew on a number of points but you have entirely misread his argument. He is not claiming that religion has any part in management of behaviour at schools (though clearly it does in some schools). He is making the case that for schools to seek to “[give] somebody a “fulfilling life“ is beyond the remit of a secular educational establishment precisely because in order to do so the school would have to determine what a ‘fulfilling life’ was – and that is a question of values and mores which should not be set by the state.

    It is a question for which answers are normally claimed by religions (or secular equivalents like humanism) but it is a normative question and one for which each individual, guided by their own conscience, must seek their own answer.

    It is typical of the sort of government, and hence schooling system, which we have that officials believe they can determine the nature of a fulfilling life for everyone and thereby ensure that everyone leads such a fulfilling life.


  33. For the majority of the population of the UK, the success they achieve in their life will depend upon the influence of their family (which I explained earlier) and close friends and their achievements at school, further/higher education and in employment/career.
    For many, their success in school will be a major influence on what they choose to do after they leave and this will have an impact on the extent that they feel they have led a fulfilling life.
    I have never, I repeat never, heard anyone say that school will provide a fulfilling life. I have never in any school that I have been to heard anyone suggest that school would define a fulfilling life.
    I do the best I can, every day that I each, to ensure that the pupils I teach do their best. I am confident that my pupils doing their best will help them lead fulfilling lives.

    Nobody needs god, religion or humanism to tell them whether they have led a fulfilling life, to suggest otherwise seems to me to be a little foolish.

    I, as an atheist can tell you whether I have led a fulfilling life, because it is my judgement and relies upon my definition of a fulfilling life.

    Clearly a school cannot promise a fulfilling life, such a notion is clearly stupid and no teacher I have ever met has thought that they were promising a pupil a fulfilling life.

    It is possible for a school to do their best for each and every pupil which in itself will contribute to each pupil leading a fulfilling life should the pupil make the right decisions etc etc

    “Fulilling life” for most has no link to relgion at all and to suggest it does seems to me to be simply ridiculous.

    I would make the same claim for the other things he quoted in “black”.

    I believe andrew’s faith colours his judgement, and leads him to overstate his case.

    “Fulfilling life” is a judgement for the individual which has nothing whatsoever to do with religion.

    I could be completely wrong. andrew may not have a relgious faith at all. even if this is the case however, fulfilling life is not an issue of religion or god and schools should do their best to ensure that pupils are given the best opportunity to develop a fulfilling life.


    • You still seem to be attacking the strawman that I have said something along the lines of “only religion provides a fulfilling life”.

      I haven’t. I have simply pointed out that to decide what is a fulfilling life is to say what the purpose of life is, and that is something relgions do. Not religions exclusively, but it is appropriate for a religion and is not appropriate to be a curriculum aim.

      I don’t see what is so difficult to understand about that point.


      • Quote 1
        ‘To even talk about “fulfilment” is to adopt a religious, or pseudo-religious, viewpoint in which human beings have a higher purpose.’

        or
        Quote 2
        I am suggesting that schools are being told to do the job of religion, or even the job of God. I do not believe that we can teach people the things I listed except by teaching some kind of religion or pseudo-religion.

        Definition:Pseudoreligion,, or pseudotheology, is a generally pejorative term applied to a non-mainstream belief system or philosophy which is functionally similar to a religious movement.

        Definition:fulfil – meet: fill or meet a want or need
        Definition:fulfilling – Which causes fulfillment; emotionally or artistically satisfying
        Definition:fulfillment – a feeling of satisfaction at having achieved your desires

        Quotes 1 and 2 certainly seem to say that fulfillment is the territory of religion.

        Fulfillment can be seen as an individual achieving their personal goals, needs or wants. There is no reason whatsoever that I can see, why a curriculum aim could not be to facilitate one leading a fulfilling life.

        Having facilitated 6th formers achieving their potentialand subsequently gaining university places I feel that I have done just this. I have 6th formers return to school during breaks telling m that they are very happy and they are leading fulfilled lives. I have in part facilitated
        this. Just one small example.

        The point is not difficult to understand at all, it is simply wrong. I seem to have your support in this if one reads the quotes.


  34. “Fulfillment can be seen as an individual achieving their personal goals, needs or wants. There is no reason whatsoever that I can see, why a curriculum aim could not be to facilitate one leading a fulfilling life.”

    Your definition of fulfill is very different to mine. You seem to mean “satisfying” more than “fulfilling”, in that “satisfying” allows for the possibility that it is simply a matter of meeting desires, whereas simply getting what you desire is not what is normally meant by “being fulfilled”.

    That said, while your definition does remove the “higher purpose” element, it makes even less sense as a curriculum aim. I have met students who have a desire to learn nothing and their goal is to avoid taking any responsibility ever. I hope that I have done nothing to satisfy (or as you say “fulfill”) these desires or personal goals.

    Your quibbling over definitions simply replaces education as religion with education as hedonism. Hardly an improvement. Hardly worth spending days arguing over.


  35. i am an optimist- I have worked in schools that get discipline right- with the minimum of ‘appeasment’ and turn troubled youngsters around.

    the more this message gets across to parents and politicians- the more schools can employ these traditional techniques and make better provision for students.

    its not rocket science:

    To support: IEPs, mentoring, encouragent, praise if earned, certificates sent home etc

    Sanction: Detentions, Contracts, Exclusion, Isolation, Expulsion

    OK, sometimes a real hard nut might take 3 exclusions, 5 isolations and 10 detentions to ‘break them’ but it works 99% of the time. (and it breaks the parents too)

    As a result, everyone wins, teachers are happy, classes dotn get interrupted, parents seldom complain about behaviour, students make wonderful progress.

    We often get sent kids expelled from other schools- it normally takes a term and at least one exclusion to ‘cure’ them.

    More and more people are cottoning on to the idea and politians are sitting up- there are votes in this… so I am optimistic.

    As to whether this constitutes a salvation for some kids?… I would say it is of sorts


  36. I looked up fulfillment and provided several definitions which were representative of definitions found. I did this hoping that you would not simply come back with “your definition is not the normal one”, but you did however.
    The fact that you know of a pupil who didn’t want to learn in no way diminishes the argument for having a curriculum aim of facilitating pupils to achieve their goals now does it, this is simply poor reasoning. I taught a pupil who wanted to be a solicitor but he didn’t think she could make the grade. She did and now as a solicitor she leads a very fulfilling life.
    Just because there are some who choose not to learn and will not take responsibility, doen’t mean we should scrap this as an aim, ths would be letting down those who do.
    We might have an aim to make all convicts employable on their release. Just because one conflict doesn’t want to get a job on release dosen’t mean we should scrap the whole plan.
    I am just pointing out that we don’t need a higher purpose to be fulfilled and that we can make a big contribution to pupils leading fulfilling lives by that which we do in school.
    I am an optimist.
    “Your quibbling over definitions simply replaces education as religion with education as hedonism. Hardly an improvement.”
    I never quibble about definitions (I never quibble about anything), so if we define hedonism as the pursuit of maximum happiness, then actually even if you were correct then it would be a pretty good swap. But education as religion is a non starter so we don’t need to worry.
    Not worth spending days arguing over, I couldn’t agree more. So if we discount religion as being irrelevant we can get to schools helping people lead more fulfilling lives, which I am sure most teachers would think would be a geat place to start when designing the curricula they deliver.
    I am sure if any teachers reading this think that it is wrong to suggest that schools can contribute to pupils leading more fulfilling lives they will be quick to post, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating as my old dad would have said.Of course we cannot force all pupils to lead more fulfilling lives that is a no brainer ut lets not throw away the baby and the bathwater.


    • “I looked up fulfillment and provided several definitions which were representative of definitions found. I did this hoping that you would not simply come back with “your definition is not the normal one”, but you did however.”

      As your definition is not the normal one, what else could you expect me to say?

      “The fact that you know of a pupil who didn’t want to learn in no way diminishes the argument for having a curriculum aim of facilitating pupils to achieve their goals now does it, this is simply poor reasoning.”

      Traditionally when claiming that something is poor reasoning it is normal to explain what is poor about it. It seems to me the above is the simplest way to explain an obvious point: education is not about satisfaction of all goals. Education has its own goals.


      • OK let’s go for it. Quoting you…

        “I have met students who have a desire to learn nothing and their goal is to avoid taking any responsibility ever. I hope that I have done nothing to satisfy (or as you say “fulfill”) these desires or personal goals.”

        quoting me…..

        Fulfillment can be seen as an individual achieving their personal goals, needs or wants. There is no reason whatsoever that I can see, why a curriculum aim could not be to facilitate one leading a fulfilling life.

        The case of the pupil who does not want to learn is a trivial and irrelevant one. If a pupil will lead a fulfilling life by learning nothing then maybe they should be allowed to do so for the moment, or maybe they should be educated in the value of education, but this does not require me to teach them and I might argue that most who would learn nothing are not leading a fulfilling life and will not withut a change of attitude. I do not see this as a religious issue. Of course education is not about the achievement of all goals, it is about facilitating people leading fulfilling lives. It would be up to educators to decide how this would be best done.

        Providing a trivial example in opposition is not good reasoning.

        We use resources to support people to learn those things that will lead to them leading a more fulfilling life. Of course we also appreciate that people will do good and evil and for those who lead fulfilling lives via evil we will tend not to educate in this direction.As this line of agument arose fom the issue of whether the purpose of education necessitated religious input we should at this point that this is not necessary or even better.
        Speaking as one who has no religious faith, I can see that there are elements of religious faith that might inform the development of the goals of state education but there would seem to be no great reason to suppose that the religious input is either necessary or an improvement.
        Secular society will produce similar goals I feel.
        I isn’t so much the education system doing the work of religion or god, but an education system doing what society needs and education system to do. As I said earlier, the term pseudo religion only makes sense if you accept concept of relgion so talking of the state developing an education system that facilitates pupils leading a fulfilling life is not pseudo religion unless you come t the thing from a position of religious faith I think.

        If you say to me that the state intervening to facilitate a more fulfilling life is pseudo religion I would clarly see where you are coming from, but I disagree. While I maintain my atheist view and you continue to have a strong religious faith I don’t see that we will ever agree. As one who believes that religious faith should have no place (other than an advisory one) whatsoever in the running of the state, I see less involvement not more.

        In the sense that OA’s definition is the normal definition I couldn’t disgree now could I, it goes like this.

        If we take as fact that OA’s definitionis he normal one, your definition disagrees with OA’s, therefore your definition cannot be the normal one.

        My “explanation” of fulfilling reflects largely relevant definitions found in online ictionaries.

        I simply looked up several online dictionaries and picked those first few defitions that had anything to do with goals and achieving them. There were thousands more similar. None of them said anything to do with “higher purpose” or some purpose indicated by religion.

        Now incorpratng some of the finer points of buddhism in education, I can see some benefit there but this is for another day.


        • “The case of the pupil who does not want to learn is a trivial and irrelevant one… Providing a trivial example in opposition is not good reasoning.”

          Actually providing a counter-example is about the least controversial form of reasoning there is. (And if the counter-example provided is trivial it just indicates the absurdity of the original claim.)

          “I simply looked up several online dictionaries and picked those first few defitions that had anything to do with goals and achieving them.”

          Now this is bad reasoning. Looking up unusual definitions that are compatible with want you want a word to mean is not a good way of finding out what a word means in the context provided.

          “…this line of agument arose fom the issue of whether the purpose of education necessitated religious input”

          In which parallel universe did this happen?

          I said something was bad because it resembled religion. That was when you lost it for reasons that are quite beyond me. Everything else has only been in your mind, and my patience with this is beginning to run out.

          Weren’t you planning to take this somewhere else?


          • Actually providing a counter-example is about the least controversial form of reasoning there is. (And if the counter-example provided is trivial it just indicates the absurdity of the original claim.)

            LOL

            Noone mentioned controversial, simply that providing a trivial counter argument is not very powerful.

            Now this is bad reasoning. Looking up unusual definitions that are compatible with want you want a word to mean is not a good way of finding out what a word means in the context provided.

            I explained to you that I searched for definitions in online dictionaries. Some definitions were not related to goals or objectives, I simply took the first few that were. Imply that I am a liar if you wish but it does you no credit. I do agree that if I had done so it would have weakened my argument, which is why I did not.

            In this parallel universe…

            “I do not believe that we can teach people the things I listed except by teaching some kind of religion or pseudo-religion.”

            “The moment that education is meant to be a replacement for religion; when it is to tamper in the stuff of people’s souls; when it is meant to result in some secular form of salvation, then I do feel dread.”

            This and …

            “we stop trying to build it on the sand of a denial of human nature?”

            You provided some examples which it appeared to be your take on human nature but you never really made that clear and you said…

            “I would identify such things as a plan to change human nature and save the world from sin.”

            I understood your argument to be..

            Schools are being told to facilitate pupils leading fulfilling lives…that this is not possisble …. and that leading a fulfilling life (amongst other things) can only be provided by religion…

            I understood from this that you were suggesting an input from religion here.

            I understood that when you said this…

            “I do not believe that we can teach people the things I listed except by teaching some kind of religion or pseudo-religion.”

            If you are not arguing that religion is the best place for educating people to lead a fulfilling life and that people are trying mis-guidedly to get schools to do this then I have misunderstood you.

            I believe the area in which we disagree is that of a “fulfilling life”. I believe schools can facilitate this. I also believe that religions can facilitate this but I do not see a place for religion in modern society.

            You talk about schools attempting to change human nature and this is not possible as this is the realm of god and religion.

            So, religious faith appears to permeate everything you think and say. You occasionally nail your colours to the mast but more often not.

            I am indeed sharing the contents of the blog with others and some interesing discussion is being generated. I am generally not referring to you by name as that would be unfair. Main issue thus far is the way in which blogs can de-academicalise academia and they are not peer reviewed and often read by self selecting audiences. How easy it is to give a veneer of scholarship when in fact none exists.

            I do however feel the need to respond when you make unreasonable statements or post incorrect interpretations/quotations.


  37. You are still arguing against a strawman, and by writing long posts full of quotations in order to do so you are making the discussion in the comments close to unreadable.

    I’m pulling the plug on this one.


  38. “Main issue thus far is the way in which blogs can de-academicalise academia and they are not peer reviewed and often read by self selecting audiences. How easy it is to give a veneer of scholarship when in fact none exists.”

    Ignoring the thinly disguised insult. I have spent a number of years in academia and to confuse blog posts with research articles seems increbily naive at best. For starters, their purpose (I hate to use this word as the above discussion shows you seem to not understand it) is different let alone the style and content.

    What is more interesting is going the other way and considering the way in which the best blogs tend towards the academic style. Bloggers which put the time and effort in to research the issues which they are discussing and present references to the appropriate sources along with clear and concise arguments tend to produce the best blogs. This is most likely because it is the best way to present an idea.

    Of course, there are bloggers who do attempt to back up opinions with dubious quotes and false arguments but again they are easy to spot.

    One is able to look up their references and check for yourself that the reference says what the person is claiming it says. You would be surprised at how often this simple check actually works.

    Another option is to come up with a counterexample, while this can be very difficult to do. A simple counterexample shows instantly and clearly that the original idea is wrong and leaves absolutely no room for error.

    I am also interested in where the quotes that oldandrew gave above came from, any chance of enlightening us?


    • Come now Augustine, you know that providing a factual counter example only shows that the original idea is wrong, if the original idea was asserted to be general rule, true in all cases. You are being a bit naughty here I feel.

      But that aside, you make some good points here, an be fair I have said on another thread here that oldandrew is to be congratulated for what he has achieved on the blog.

      This post was in no way intended as a thinly disguised insult. Everyday I see pupils at all levels going to the internet, including blogs and taking information that they believe to be factual because they see it on a blog.

      “One is able to look up their references and check for yourself that the reference says what the person is claiming it says.”

      This is exactly what I have done here Augustine and I disagree with the way that oldandrew selectively extracts information from some of his sources and sometimes his interpretation. It it these isues that I think are the interesting ones.

      Like oldandrew and everyone else I also dislike it when threads descend into nit picking about odd words. Do you not agree though that if noone challenges the validity of what is posted on blogs, they can never come close to being academic or schololarly.

      My concern in education is that people too often take as true the writings of others which are supported by referenced sources. VAK and multiple intelligences are two of the worst examples in my view.


    • augustine

      The real augustine would be turning in his grave at the standard of your argumentational skills.

      Maybe you should pick a different username.


  39. Sorry about this but I just re-read an I think I would clarify.

    To refute a factual statement that is true in all cases, a factual counter example in sufficient eg. it is, they are, it is not possible.

    For a statement that is claimed to be possible but not nessarily true in all cases, a counter example simply reduces the number of cases rather than refuting it in all.


    • Oh for pity’s sake, just man up and admit you were wrong.

      You sound like Sir Humphrey.


  40. in my experience, the brighter the students, the less respect they have for any interference in the spiritual aspect of their lives- particularly in the school environment.

    most students hate pshe lessons or RE lessons thinking them a waste of time.

    they get annoyed because it doesnt lead to qualifications, doesnt give them skills that are usful later in life and covers topics they usually have no interest in.

    i suppose the goverment has tried to replace the sunday service moral lecture with citizenship across the curriculum.

    i have no real beef with that. i think debating and role play and the discussion of complex moral issues is useful to kids.

    I think it does have an impact actually – I’m sure my revulsion of racism or violence is something drilled into me from primary school- I vaguely recall such lessons. I didnt get that from my parents so school has a massive role here- getting kids to respect others.


  41. “To refute a factual statement that is true in all cases, a factual counter example is sufficient eg. it is, they are, it is not possible.

    For a statement that is claimed to be possible but not nessarily true in all cases, a counter example simply reduces the number of cases rather than refuting it in all.”

    I simply reworded my statement from the previous post to make it clearer oldandrew, I didn’t chge the meaning.

    I am always very happy to admit when I am wrong, but on this occasion this was not the case.

    If one considers issues of agumentation then this, as an idea, really is quite straightforward. It realy isn’t profound.

    For once in your life oldandrew, read the firt two paragraphs and tell me if you disagree. If you do say why.

    One difference between you and me oldandrew, is that you continually make positive statements without justification. I do not.

    A second diference is that you quibble about silly little issues to avoid answering questions and to avoid the big issue. I only do this when talking to you. You do this often with different posters.

    “A simple counterexample shows instantly and clearly that the original idea is wrong”.

    This assertion of augustime’s is quite clearly an error of logic and I simply explained that this was the case.

    Do you understand?

    I think not.

    Why is it oldandrew that I find myself looking at the TES website today and you are making the same sort of statements and other posters are making the same sort of comments on your arguments and yur logic?

    Look at the first two paragraphs and explain where the error is. You won’t will you can’t.

    Explain where I am wrong here and I will happily apologise. You won’t, as I cannot find a single exemple anwhere of you having justified your accusations of poor logic, not one.


    • Bored to tears.

      A counter-example disproves a statement. I can’t even begin to imagine how to explain that to you if you genuinely cannot grasp it, although your wriggling suggests you do now understand that you were shown to be wrong.

      But this latest performance is worse than ever. Do you really think that we haven’t all noticed that “possible but not nessarily true in all cases” is actually another way of saying “wrong” when you said it the first time?

      It is bad enough that you thought this sort of thing would fool anybody in the first place, but trying to cover it up with further blustering is just insulting.

      You were wrong on a point of basic logic. We can all see it. Get over it.


  42. For someone who argues so often with so many people on so many forums, your argumentation skills are very poor oldandrew.
    You ought to nail the basics before trying to get into the difficult stuff.


    • Whatever.


      • “Whatever”

        Sounds very Vicki Pollard, which isn’t that far from the ruth now is it?


  43. OK…let me explain…and it really isn’t that difficult.

    Argument……….
    The best way to design a curriculum is to have outcomes that meet the aspirations of pupils.

    Counter example…..
    I now a pupil who doesn’t want to learn anything therefore obviously meeting their aspiration is not appropriate. From this we deduce that meeting the aspirations of pupils is not the best way.

    This is not good logic. All this shows is that in this case it was not a good wy to proceed. This in no ways proves that it is still not the best approach to curriculum design.

    I notice that you didn’t do what I asked. You did not explain my error using the first two paragraphs. You did not because you cannot.

    You can still do so….go ahead…where is the error?


    • “The best way to design a curriculum is to have outcomes that meet the aspirations of pupils.”

      Er… that wasn’t your argument.

      We were discussing a curriculum aim, not some kind of rule of thumb that would enable us to achieve some other aim.

      Your efforts to wriggle are moving from comedy to tragedy here.


  44. Do you think that the whole blog will come crashing down around your ears if you try to actually substantiate your accustaions oldandrew.

    “Come now Augustine, you know that providing a factual counter example only shows that the original idea is wrong, if the original idea was asserted to be general rule, true in all cases. You are being a bit naughty here I feel.”

    This is what I said. This is what I clarified. In what respect is there an error of logic here?


  45. For one who says so often “Understand?”

    You really don’t do you?


  46. For one with a religious faith you are remarkably intolerant.


    • Okay, I have let these insults through, just so anybody still reading knows that you have genuinely lost it.

      I will not be letting any more through. I think you need to find somewhere else to have your breakdown.


  47. This reminds me so much of my days in academia. When I used to test the basics of logic to first years there always used to be three types of students:
    1. those who got it straight away;
    2. those who realised they didn’t understand it; and
    3. those who thought they did understand it but just spouted nonsense.

    The third category were the ones who were the most difficult to teach because if someone is really convinced that they are right then they will never learn.

    The assessor, you unfortunately, fall into the third category. Either you have never been taught logic or have completely failed to grasp it. I can only suggest that you find someone who studied mathematics or computer science, though mathematics is better, at a top ranking university and ask them to explain it to you.

    “The real augustine would be turning in his grave at the standard of your argumentational skills.”

    That’s nice, glad your arguing has reduced to the ad hominem level.

    “Everyday I see pupils at all levels going to the internet, including blogs and taking information that they believe to be factual because they see it on a blog.”

    Isn’t this just a failure of what the children are taught and / or the children not the bloggers? Certainly throughout my school life, academic life and professional life we were taught to evaluate sources before we used them.

    “This is exactly what I have done here Augustine and I disagree with the way that oldandrew selectively extracts information from some of his sources and sometimes his interpretation.”

    I think I have missed this entirely. Could you point out where you have disagreed with how he selectively extracts his information? By which I mean quoting out of context, not just quoting.

    “Do you not agree though that if noone challenges the validity of what is posted on blogs, they can never come close to being academic or schololarly.”

    So blogs should be challenged so that they come close to being academic or scholarly? That’s a very odd view. Is it an attempt to justify yourself? You are arguing with him so that the blog can improve?

    “My concern in education is that people too often take as true the writings of others which are supported by referenced sources. VAK and multiple intelligences are two of the worst examples in my view.”

    Well I never said anything about my points guaranteeing the correctness of the idea just that it was logically consistent with your current set of ideas and that by properly referenced it could at least deserve further investigation. I’m definitely not going to give you a simple list of steps that tell you whether an idea is true or not. I’m not even convinced one exists.


  48. Just in case anyone hasn’t realised it, “the assessor” is actually “busy_little_bee” from the quotation at the start of this thread. He is somebody who already had a grudge against me over another argument on TES.

    The large quantity of comments (under both that name, and the name “foot soldier”), including many that I have not published because they were simply abusive, and the further comments on that thread I linked to above, suggest that his agenda is simply to cause harm to this blog. I am not planning to publish further comments from him (even if he manages to post anything that isn’t full of ad hominems), because I am fed up of reading through long essays to find out if there is anything in them that isn’t simply repetition or abuse, so please be aware of this if you were planning to follow up any of his comments.


  49. Well done for tolerating him for so long.



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