Archive for December, 2013

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What’s Essential in the Education Debate Part 3: Refutation

December 12, 2013

Previously I looked at the importance of a commitment to truth and a rejection of unreasonable methods of disagreement in the education debate. In this blogpost I will look at how claims and ideas can be reasonably rejected.

Here I start asking the most serious questions about what we can know in education, as wanting to know if one is wrong is at the heart of caring about truth. It is also here that we can see that claims that we can know nothing are most obviously false, because while we can rarely be certain we are right we can often recognise when people are wrong. What types of thought can be employed here varies depending on what is to be refuted, but I would suggest the following are key (and in, my highly subjective, experience are needed in roughly this order of priority):

Philosophy/logic. The most common wrong claims in education are those we know to be wrong because they are simply incoherent or contradictory. If somebody says they are not arguing against the teaching of phonics and then describe phonics as “barking at print” then we know that something they have said is untrue or badly expressed. The reason I bring philosophy into this rather than leaving this at “logic” is because very often we have to pick apart what is meant by certain words, phrases and ideas in order to identify what is incoherent or inconsistent about them. So for instance, the idea that lessons don’t need to be fun and that learning should be based on play are contradictory only when we look at what is meant by “play”. Because analysing meaning is so key we should be very wary of those who dismiss an argument as “semantic”. Very often it is only by looking at precisely what is meant that we can identify that ideas are incoherent or have been expressed by somebody who did not know what they were saying. Even the more historical form of philosophy, where we look at the history of ideas and what has been argued about them in the past, can help identify logical and conceptual problems with claims. That logic is such a key method of disproving claims in education both illustrates a lack of rigour in the discipline, but also gives us reason to be weary of those who demand evidence in every argument. Some claims are so inherently flawed they would be wrong in all possible worlds, and we don’t need to even look at the world to show them to be wrong. This is not, however, the end of the contribution philosophy might make to discussing education; there is also the matter of ethics. A large number of claims in education are, when explored thoroughly, actually claims about values. While I don’t believe moral philosophy can resolve all moral disagreements, it can certainly cast a light on incomplete or implausible moral theories of which there is no shortage in debates about education.

History. Remarkably, or perhaps not remarkably given the state of education as an academic discipline, a lot of claims in education are actually supported with little more than narrative accounts, such as claims that an idea is new (and should be tried because of it); claims that contemporary developments are unprecedented and require a new educational philosophy, or simply stories of what has allegedly failed in the past. While there is a limit to the confidence with which we can assert anything about the past based on the methods of the historian, much education debate is presented as completely ahistorical to the point where it can be rejected on the basis of a little historical context. A quick look at this blogpost by Daisy Christodoulou  and the many examples I have provided in the comments would indicate how often educational progressives simply ignore the history of their own educational philosophy in favour of an alternative account of history in which they are the underdogs challenging the establishment with new ideas.

Cognitive Psychology.  It may reflect on the state of the education debate rather than my priorities that we have got this far down the list before considering the contribution that can be made by science to education. It is only after we have analysed ideas and stated them as clearly as possible that we reach the point where they may be judged in light of empirical evidence. So many ideas in education hinge on theories about how the mind works and, therefore, the knowledge we have from psychology about how the mind works can often give us grounds to reject claims, particularly those which describe objectively observable properties of the mind. There are many empirical demonstrations which show that thinking is facilitated by knowledge. There are countless studies of the circumstance under which we remember effectively that contradict some of the deeply held convictions of many in education (for instance, claims that we can expect remember best when enjoying ourselves, or when finding things out for ourselves). There are many other results regarding our motivation and our capacity to absorb information. While there are no doubt plenty of limitations to experimental psychology and the theories inspired by it, there are plenty of ideas in education that can be safely rejected as incompatible with reliable and replicated experimental evidence or, at the very least, cast into some doubt by the lack of supporting evidence. However, we should be careful as not everything that passes for “psychology” has a sound empirical basis or, in some cases, remotely resembles a science.

Empirical studies of teaching methodsUnfortunately, we are far from having an agreed methodology for trials of educational techniques and methods. Sorting through studies to find what is reliable information gathered in a sensible way seems close to impossible. What, however, we do have is some limited grounds to make comparisons between methods. I would suggest that we can use empirical studies in the following ways.

  1. In the case of phonics, the empirical evidence, including much that was gathered by those who sought to disprove the effectiveness of phonics, is so overwhelming as to ensure we can dismiss phonics denialism.
  2. In those cases where the studies of interventions agrees with what we would expect from cognitive psychology we can, at the very least, shift the burden of evidence back to those who argue otherwise. So, for instance, we should demand that anybody promoting discovery learning or problem-solving learning provide firm evidence that it works. In such cases we have no good reason to think it would work or that it has worked.
  3. Many claims in education are themselves about what the empirical evidence shows and, therefore, can be directly refuted by the empirical evidence. This is particularly likely to be the case where claims involve “magic bullets”, methods which are meant to have been shown to be incredibly effective. The more overblown the claims, the more likely it is that they can be refuted by the empirical evidence, or even just a lack of evidence.

Common sense/tradition. I consider these two together, as one is simply what people would think in the absence of a particular theory and the other is what was thought before a particular theory was adopted. Knowledge of what has been done traditionally, or what ordinary people would expect to be done, is not worthless. It is, of course, easy to come up with counter-examples to the value of common sense/tradition, such as the unreliability of the common sense, traditional belief that the sun goes round the earth, but that would simply show that in certain questions (like those involving physics) scientific evidence is more likely to be accurate than common sense/tradition. However, that people and institutions have tacit knowledge built up from and filtered by experience  cannot be denied and existing institutions and practices may have survived because they are effective, even if we don’t have direct evidence that they are effective. For this reason, I think that when making decisions about practice in general, then in the absence of evidence or a sound argument either way, we should default to common sense and tradition rather than novelty or imaginative theories. Change for the sake of it, without any commitment to evaluation, is a mistake. Too often in education it is assumed that new ideas are better than old and the leadership is the ability to make arbitrary changes. We should pay attention, but not slavish devotion, to what is obvious and what has usually been done. Not because this will always be right, but because the counter-intuitive and the innovative should be supported by a sound argument.

I am not going to justify the following point in detail, but as things currently stand I am not aware of any sound argument or evidence for or against any educational practice emanating from neuroscience, sociology, psychometry, geography, comparative politics, critical theory or genetics. There is no a priori reason why studies of data from some (but not all) of those fields shouldn’t produce useful results, I just haven’t seen any that didn’t raise more questions about cause and effect than they answered. As for educational economics, I think it probably has contributed useful research but it has been more relevant to policy makers than educators.

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What’s Essential in the Education Debate Part 2: Reason

December 7, 2013

In my previous post I considered the importance of valuing truth in making arguments in the education debate. Here, I look at the importance of reason, and in particular, how vital it is to disagreeing with a claim.

As well as those who have no enthusiasm for truth in education debate, there are also those with no particular regard for rational argument. At its core, the issue is still the same one of truth. If claims are contradictory, arguments fallacious or inferences poorly thought out then false claims can be supported as easily as true ones. Those expecting to argue over education should be familiar with the most common informal fallacies, or at the very least be willing to look them up when required, yet I still encounter those who think it unfair or underhand to point out that their argument is invalid. There are even those who think it particularly unfair if the fallacy has a Latin name like “tu quoque” or “ad hominem” as if one’s mistakes are somehow acceptable if the name for them was established at a time when Latin was more widely used.

In particular, if you wish to challenge something it is vital to know what is, or isn’t, rational grounds for disagreeing. In my experience, the most useful and convenient tool for providing a simple reminder of how to argue rationally against something, is the essay How to Disagree by Paul Graham and the following graphic summarising it:

Designed for the internet age and ranking methods of disagreement according to their rationality, this seems a particularly good starting point for education debate as it is common to see some of the lowest forms of disagreement dominating debate. Here I will start from the bottom of the triangle and work my way upwards, exploring how it is particularly relevant to debate in education.

Name-Calling: Probably the most obviously flawed form of “debate” but common in education discourse, particularly on the internet where it is usually the method of first resort for trying to shut somebody up immediately they appear. The general rule in education appears to be that, as long as you aim it at the right target (usually Michael Gove, but sometimes Michael Wilshaw), abuse is utterly acceptable. Expressions of hatred, usually abusive, aimed at Michael Gove have become so common that Frank Furedi coined the term Govephobia for it. Beyond the colourful phrases thrown at Michael Gove though, but it is hardly rare to see insults thrown at anyone who dares dissent from the progressive line. Complaints about advocates of knowledge being “Gradgrinds”, Victorian or from the 1950s fit firmly into this category often apparently in the belief that it constitutes an argument in itself.

Ad Hominem: This type of argument is one which ignores the content of what somebody says in order to describe why they might hold the opinion. It is of no validity as an argument in that who happens to say something does not tell you if it is true or not. Unfortunately, this line of argument, although considered ridiculous in many academic disciplines, is common in education. (As an example, it is staggering that an article like this could be written by a professor in any academic discipline.) There are “critical” readings of education policies and beliefs which seem to pigeon-hole the opinions of others according to ideology and position rather than truth or reason, there is also a conspiracy theorist mentality which claims to know what is really behind any given policy. The political right are accused of wanting to privatise everything, and the political left of wanting to dumb down, regardless of what is actually being proposed. Sometimes people put such effort and ingenuity into labelling and “explaining” the hidden motives of others that you end up wondering what they could achieve if they actually addressed what people actually said. So common is the ad hominem argument in education debate that people who take part in it anonymously through social media are often seen as having an unfair advantage and attacked for being anonymous in debates which have precisely nothing to do with personal experience.

Responding to Tone: If there is nothing wrong with what somebody has said, it is common to simply attack either the fact that they said it or the way that they said it. Tone is notoriously difficult to judge on social media and people often interpret rudeness where there is none, particularly if they are not used to the sort of debate where people express opinions freely. We all, also, interpret people’s tone in light of what we already know or think about them, However, and this goes beyond debate on social media, the worst objection to tone argument used in education is to describe arguments against an opinion or practice as an attack on a person. So common on it that it has almost become received wisdom that certain individuals (Gove or Wilshaw again) keep “attacking teachers”. Virtually any criticism of anything anyone does in education, no matter how many teachers would agree whole-heartedly with the criticism, can be reframed as an attack on teachers or a teacher. We are then encouraged not to support the attack on teachers (or a teacher). Two recent examples of this were Sir Michael Wilshaw’s criticisms of heads and governors who use stress as an excuse for doing their job badly and Michael Gove’s criticisms of a website suggesting that year 11s write about the rise of Hitler in the form of a Mr Men book. The former was presented as a claim that teachers in general are not subject to stress; the latter as a personal attack on the creator of the website.

Contradiction: This is the point at which we move from worthless arguments to one that may have some limited value. So much of our education culture is based on accepting the assumptions of progressive education as if they are uncontroversial that simply telling the truth, without an argument, can have an impact. Certainly, one of the most positive reactions I get from some people about my blog is “I hadn’t realised we could think those things”. Contradiction is, for this reason, not without value. It can be enough to get somebody thinking and to realise that they are wrong. More importantly, it is vital in cases where something is falsely presented as uncontroversial. In this blogpost I listed the following claims that are often simply assumed to be uncontroversial, where actually arguments against them exist:

  1. Children learn better when they are happy.
  2. A good lesson is entertaining.
  3. Good lessons result in good behaviour.
  4. Behaviour is determined by the relationship between student and teacher.
  5. Lessons need a variety of activities.
  6. Learning will result from discussion between students.
  7. Children are more interested in topics relevant to their lives.
  8. Knowledge and understanding can be distinguished and taught separately.
  9. Children like using technology.
  10. If you teach well, your students will like you.

In cases such as these it can be useful simply to say that some disagree. However, in the case where we are already aware that a particular claim is controversial merely expressing contrary views adds nothing. Worse, if too many people do so, it can look like an attempt to drown out the views of the opposing side.

Counter-argument: A lot of the time people simply haven’t heard the arguments for the opposing positions. There are certain positions, supported by solid arguments, which are, in themselves, a counter-argument to a lot of what you hear in the education debate. Blogs are very often useful for this, as a place to collate arguments over particular points that you know other arguments might depend on. So for instance, I might refer back to back blogposts such as It’s Not Just Me as a counter-argument to claims that poor behaviour is rare or to What OFSTED Actually Want as a counter-argument to claims that we are free to teach as we like. And sometimes, if something’s cited often enough, it is worth collecting the counter-arguments together in a blogpost. However, there is probably one link that I use more than any other; one resource that everyone needs to be familiar with before they can make an informed argument about teaching. This 2006 paper “Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: an analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching” by Kirschner et al is a counter-argument to most progressive education theories. Whether it is convincing or not is, of course, open to debate but the argument it makes is one that, if accepted demolishes, countless other arguments.

Refutation/Refuting the Central Point: I’ll deal with these together next time, as they are the same thing varying only by how well-targeted they are.

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Edublog Awards 2013

December 7, 2013

I have been nominated in the “Lifetime Achievement” Category in the Edublog awards. If you have a Twitter or Facebook login you should be able to vote below or by following the link.

Lifetime Achievement 2013 – Edublog Awards

View more lists from Edublogs
You might also want to consider voting for:
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Blogs for the Week Ending 6th December 2013

December 6, 2013
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Liz Truss’s Textbook Speech

December 2, 2013

Education minister Liz Truss made a speech today which included the following defence of textbooks:

I want to start, though, with a defence of the textbook. Not just because I’m currying favour with publishers. Nor because I’m nostalgic about my dog-eared copy of ‘Tricolore’. But because the humble textbook represents something quite powerful. A textbook is a map, a guide. It’s a single thing you can pick, that starts off with basics and builds more and more on top, giving you what you need to know. That’s a beautiful idea – knowledge and understanding, there for the taking.

And think about how we use the word ‘textbook’. Call something textbook and you’re saying it’s the right way to do something. A textbook cricket shot. A textbook driving manoeuvre. One of the Oxford English Dictionary’s definitions is ‘exemplary; accurate’ or ‘instructively typical’. There’s an entire social meaning around the word ‘textbook’.

So it’s odd that almost uniquely in the developed world, in England, textbooks have fallen out of fashion. Buried deep in the 2011 TIMSS study – an international comparison of maths and science teaching – is an analysis of use of materials. Seventy-five per cent of teachers in countries studied use textbooks as the basis of instruction for 10-year-olds [fourth grade in TIMSS]. In Germany, it’s 86%. Poland – 78%. Sweden – 89%. Korea – 99%. In England – it’s 10%. We are an outlier. And in science, across the world, on average 74% of teachers use textbooks as the basis of instruction for 14-year-olds [eighth grade]. In Korea, it’s 88%. Hong Kong – 87%. Malaysia – 83%. Chinese Taipei – 92%. In England – it’s 8%.

Why is this? Why are textbooks unloved in England? I think it’s partly progressive education philosophy – exemplified by the Plowden report of 1967 – with its concept of child centred learning, and idea there’s no best way to teach.

I am sympathetic to this, but it misses the reality on the ground. The reason we are scared to use textbooks might relate to progressive ideology, but owes more to how it is enforced than its intellectual influence. In particular, like most things in education it comes down to the actions of OFSTED. I’ve tried using a textbook exercise in front of an OFSTED inspector, they do not like it. In their pro-groupwork phase working from a textbook would have been a mortal sin. If they have moved on from that, they now seem to want evidence that work is tailored to individual needs, so using the same textbook for a whole class seems to be right out. Mike Cameron on Twitter nailed this exactly by doing a search for the phrase “much over-reliance on textbooks” on the OFSTED website.

Here are some examples:

While teaching is mostly good there are times when it loses ‘crispness’ and clarity and tasks are not challenging enough. Despite their willingness to complete their tasks, pupils do not always achieve as much as they could do. Sometimes an over-reliance on textbooks and commercial worksheets limits pupils’ own responses.

St David’s Primary School (Ministry of Defence), July 2013

Year 11 mathematics lesson seen by inspectors, teachers use whiteboards effectively to illustrate and focus on teaching points. Conversely, in some lessons, there is too much reliance on worksheets, textbooks and uninspiring resources

Institute of Islamic Education, independent school, September 2011

Teaching in the academic subjects is not as effective as in the performing arts. This is because teachers are not adapting lessons enough to extend the understanding and skills of all pupils, especially more -able pupils. In some subjects, there is an over-reliance on textbooks.

Barbara Speake Stage School, June 2013

Almost all students have a very positive attitude to mathematics and are keen to do well. They respond best when given opportunities to discuss their mathematics and be more actively involved in lessons. This does not happen in all lessons and students report that they sometimes spend too long working from textbooks and worksheets emulating the methods and
techniques they have been shown by their teacher…

An over-reliance on textbook-based approaches sometimes results in students’ fragmented experience of the mathematics curriculum…

Too great a reliance is placed on pathways through textbook schemes to meet the needs of different groups of students.

The King David High School, Ofsted 2012–13 subject survey inspection programme: mathematics

An improvement in the teaching is teachers’ reduced reliance on textbooks and worksheets. A recently acquired textbook-based scheme of work still forms the basis of teachers’ planning but is being adapted more readily to suit pupils’ needs. The school has rightly identified that Key Stage 2 pupils would benefit from more opportunities to learn and practise skills in exciting, real-life contexts.

Holy Trinity CofE Primary School, Ofsted 2010–11 subject survey inspection programme: mathematics

Martin Fitzgerald, mathematics coordinator, is responsible for the work of the team of 12 teachers. He works closely with Derek. He emphasises that the department ‘… now works at the opposite end of the spectrum from “text-book lessons”. The danger with that approach was that pupils seemed to be making secure progress because they became adept at answering the questions, but they were seldom able to make that all-important massive jump when asked to apply their learning in real situations. An over-reliance on textbooks kills any hope of realising high expectations because it leads to pupils becoming dependent on the teacher. We knew we had to move on from that.’

OFSTED good practice report, Allenbourn Middle School, January 2012.

I could go on.

Added to this, of course, the government has also been keen to increase the power of headteachers to remove teachers they disapprove of, and, with performance-related pay, reward those they do approve of. How many headteachers are going to be rewarding teachers who rely on OFSTED unfriendly methods of teaching like using textbooks? How many would rather remove teachers who insist on using textbooks rather than entertaining the kids? The government, once more, seems keen on sabotaging its own objectives. Until they are willing to take on OFSTED they might as well refrain from expressing views about teaching. OFSTED, and not OFSTED at its best but the fear of the worst possible inspector, determines how we are meant to teach, and that isn’t through using textbooks.

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What’s Essential in the Education Debate Part 1: Truth

December 1, 2013

A few weeks ago, in a post about educationalists and their opinions, I made the following observation:

… there is a problem in education research that there is no agreement over epistemology; no identified methodology which we can expect educationalists to use. That does mean one can never assume beforehand that an educationalist has ever paid any attention to the logic of, or empirical evidence for, their position in a way we might expect from academics in some other fields.

At the time, there were those who chose to interpret this remark as being a claim that I had personal access to the one true methodology for determining truth in education and even tried to imagine what that method might be and attack it. However, I was making no such claim, and I would be the first to admit that determining the truth about matters relevant to education can be complicated. My view is not that I have the best possible methods, but I do think some methods are worthless yet, nevertheless, are accepted in education. While other disciplines may produce results or research that fall below the expected standard, education has no set of standards to be expected. Accordingly, any expertise in education is potentially expertise in using methods that are unreliable. In education, any argument claiming to be based on educational research or evidence collected by educationalists, or for that matter any argument phrased so as to sound like it involves specialist knowledge unavailable to the lay person, deserves special scrutiny.

Of course, if you raise the question of the quality of education research, you are likely to be faced with the following argument: all research is biased or flawed in some way, therefore you cannot dismiss research because it is biased or flawed. While there is some truth to this, it misses the obvious point that some biases, and some flaws, are far more serious than others. More importantly, some research will seek to avoid the flaws and biases and some will willingly incorporate them. This is what I wish to explore here, the point at which arguments which claim to be based on “research” can be safely ignored. I wish to ask what has only the outward appearance of proceeding from genuine scholarship but has none of the substance. This is not an attempt to explain how we might tell reliable and unreliable research apart (if that is what you want I would recommend this book) but an explanation of the principles that underlie the differences between arguments which claim to be informed by research. The two principles are: a respect for truth and an adherence to reason. I believe these are the absolute minimum values people should subscribe to if they hope to make a positive contribution to debate. Here I will discuss the importance of truth, in my next post I will discuss the importance of reason.

Now it may seem obvious that, when conducting research or arguing from it, we wish to establish something which is true but there are those who seem unconcerned about this. There are those who resort to obfuscation in debate even around this point. However, while it might be fun for sixth form philosophers to argue that there is no truth and there might be deeper issues around what it means for our statements to correspond to reality, one assumes that anybody claiming anything has some grasp of what it would mean for their claim to be true. What is more common, and more insidious, is indifference to truth. Claims and arguments which are made for effect without any regard to whether accepting them would lead to, or obstruct, a greater knowledge of the world. The philosopher Harry Frankfurt identified the word for this, and the word was “bullshit“.

…the fact about himself that the liar hides is that he is attempting to lead us away from a correct apprehension of reality; we are not to know that he wants us to believe something he supposes to be false. The fact about himself that the bullshitter hides, on the other hand, is that the truth-values of his statements are of no central interest to him; what we are not to understand is that his intention is neither to report the truth nor co conceal it. This does not mean that his speech is anarchically impulsive, but that the motive guiding and controlling it is unconcerned with how the things about which he speaks truly are.

It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.

Any argument, or any research, that would enable one to reach conclusions independently of whether they happen to be true or not can be considered bullshit. We can all be wrong, but some methodologies lack any mechanism by which to avoid being wrong. While almost all errors of fact or reasoning can lead to the acceptance of an untrue claim,  I think there are three key questions that should be asked of all claims which are presented as reliable due to research or evidence.

Are we distinguishing between opinion and evidence? Too much education research is simply opinion dressed up as scholarship. This is a particular problem where research is classed as “qualitative” and based on personal observation. It’s not that an informed opinion is worthless, it’s that the informed opinion of a researcher who has visited a school writing up their views in an academic journal or dissertation is unlikely to be worth any more than the informed opinion of a teacher, or anyone else with prolonged access to a school. If anything, the need to write according to a pseudo-academic framework is likely to make somebody’s opinions less reliable and more prone to bias because of the need to fit observations to pre-existing theory. More generally, it is common in educational debates for somebody to claim to know what “the evidence” says, only to then quote opinions.

Was the evidence cherry-picked? I never cease to be amazed how selective people are in what they count as evidence. There is so much poor “evidence” that it is fine to ignore some of it, but you have to ignore it according to clear principles for rejection. The worst examples I have seen of cherry-picking are from among phonics denialists. There is no getting away from the fact that the evidence for the effectiveness of phonics is the strongest that exists for anything in education (perhaps in the whole of the social sciences), yet there are those who reject it and yet still complain that others ignore the evidence. Many people writing about education seem to have no criteria for what makes research reliable other than “do the conclusions agree with me?” (The website Local Schools Network seems particularly prone to this.) The recent trend towards calculating “headline” figures for effect sizes based on multiple meta-analyses has also revealed how selective researchers can be with evidence. How different studies are grouped into categories can make all the difference to the effect size.

Is this an argument from authority? It is well-recognised that a claim should not be accepted as valid or true simply because of who it is that makes the claim. This is why academic research is usually judged blind in peer review. However, in life, we don’t have time to become experts in every field and evaluate ever claim. We do rely on experts to tell us things we could not confirm for ourselves. In education this is a real problem. As a result of a lack of recognised methods,  “expertise” in education is always a highly questionable construction. There are some educationalists who are considered experts on educating people in an academic discipline who:

  • Have no degree in that academic discipline.
  • Have very fuzzy and idiosyncratic ideas about the nature of that discipline.
  • Write books containing inaccurate and poorly researched information.
  • Consistently propagandise for a particular point of view.
  • Conduct empirical research where the methodology is so unscientific as to make the results worthless.

None of this will stop somebody working in a university education department, or becoming a professor, or even an internationally prominent academic. One of the most dangerous, undemocratic suggestions in education is that policy be handed over to the experts and one of the practices most destructive to rational debate in education is to cite as reliable the opinions of those who have risen to prominence in education only by virtue of having those opinions. There are plenty of teachers out there who are more sincere, less ideological, more knowledgeable and more concerned about truth than many academics (not that power should be handed over to teachers either).

We cannot be given reason to accept a claim by any argument which is dependent on classing opinion as evidence, cherry-picking evidence or arguing from the authority of educationalists. Next time I will consider the importance of reason and how we might argue rationally against a claim.

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