How to Argue for Progressive Education

June 10, 2014

A few weeks back, just after the publication of Progressively Worse, I noticed how few serious attempts there were to argue for progressive education on the basis of anything resembling empirical evidence, or coherent reasoning. Out of frustration, I tweeted a guide to arguing for progressive education in the way is it normally done on Twitter and in blogs.

Here is the full list:

  1. Disagreement with a progressive is a personal attack.
  2. Personal attacks on traditionalists aren’t personal attacks.
  3. If all else fails, object to the tone of somebody’s argument.
  4. Claim nobody really disagrees with you and anyone who says they do is wrong.
  5. Anyone who disagrees, hasn’t understood (but make no attempt to remedy the misunderstanding)
  6. Disagreement is only acceptable from certain types. Non-teachers or new teachers are not allowed.
  7. Anyone who disagrees with you, just doesn’t care as much as you do. Which is a lot.
  8. Education debate should be beyond politics.
  9. If you disagree with me, then you have the wrong sort of political views.
  10. Claim anyone who disagrees is oppressing, harassing or restricting professional autonomy.
  11. Claim that your views are based on science.
  12. Claim science doesn’t apply here.
  13. Object to a word used in an opposing argument, but reject all alternative words for expressing the same idea too.
  14. Observe that anyone disagreeing thinks they are right and imply this is a bad thing.
  15. Claim to agree with the opposing argument, than continue to act and talk as if you don’t.
  16. Have a conversation with another progressive about how wrong the opposing argument is.
  17. Have a chat with another progressive about how vile the person disagreeing with you is.
  18. If anything you said was too offensive to defend, claim it was satire or irony.
  19. Complain that, while logically correct, the opposing argument is not really persuasive.
  20. Deny all knowledge of the debate you are having (including your own position and arguments).
  21. Claim, without justification, that the flaws in your argument apply to the opposing argument.
  22. Claim it works for your students. (Provide no evidence).
  23. Accuse anyone who is not convinced that it works for your students of calling you a liar.
  24. Lie.
  25. See below:



  1. 26. Claim loudly that everything Michael Gove does is wrong, terrible and the embodiment of evil, even if:
    a) it’s the exact opposite of something he did at some point in the past, which you then said was wrong, terrible and the embodiment of evil;
    b) it’s something you yourself have in the past enthusiastically approved;
    c) he cures cancer and ends world poverty.

  2. 27. Block comments you don’t want on the pretext the person needs to think about it more.

  3. 28. If, at any point, you feel you are out of your depth in your arguments and/or making a fool of yourself, consider resorting to the use of a sock puppet as “back up”.

  4. Number 19 reminds me of this

  5. All of these “arguments” looks very familiar to me. I hear many of them any time I am stupid enough to talk politics with anyone from “the left”.
    Once they start shouting it quickly it comes down to their hatred of “the establishment”, “the government” “the Tories”, “the bankers” etc, and their belief that children are intellectually expendable cannon fodder in their own political schemes.
    I quote from a Socialist/Labour parent: “I don’t care if my children learn nothing at school, as long as they vote Labour”. They went to a “progressive” school, so that is exactly what happened. No “qualifications” at all, and welcome to a lifetime of unemployment, or if they are really lucky a string of futile soul-destroying menial jobs with zero security and pathetic wages.
    As Uncle Joe no doubt would have said, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.
    Somebody please prove me wrong. Please?

  6. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  7. Progressive or traditional – The attached link is an example of a fair and unbiased argument for progressive education. http://www.wingraschool.org/who/progressive.htm

    • That is not unbiased or fair. Some of it is soft twaddle, such as the ‘school is a part of life’ bit. Some of it creates a dichotomy where none exists. Some of it is preposterous – which teacher honestly thinks ‘school is a task to be endured’? Unless that means endured by the teacher, of course!
      By the way, I was concerned that this was supposed to come from some rag for Independent Schools, but felt a lot happier when I saw it is from some American rag for indies. When have we ever wanted to copy their system?

  8. “Non-teachers or new teachers are not allowed.” Nor are more experienced teachers or retired teachers or university professors … unless they are education professors who profess fealty to progressive Education.

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