Politician’s Logic and The College Of TeachingFebruary 11, 2015
I was recently reminded of the politician’s logic described in the above clip:
Something must be done, this is something, therefore we must do it.
It stemmed from a number of conversations about the College Of Teaching on Twitter, and the argument of this blogpost by Tom Sherrington.
Even if the status quo is terrible, people will defend it inadvertently by resisting change and preventing initial ideas from living a while before they’re fully developed…
It sets out a process by which the College could come into being from the initial founder stage through to the mature membership stage. If this road map is followed, it would be possible to have an influential College of Teaching fully run by teachers delivering on a number of areas relating to teachers’ professional lives – within five years. I personally don’t have a better idea than this and I don’t know of one; I don’t like the status quo so I’m very happy to support his proposal…
It is also my experience that it’s a mistake to try to seek total agreement or have rules that are too tight before you get started; the experience of running a new initiative in practice will always throw up new possibilities; if you get too bogged down at the start, you never get going. It’s like kids arguing about the rules of a game for so long that they never actually play it…
…But if we’d be much much better off with a CoT then it’s worth fighting for. I don’t think that message comes through strongly enough – not yet. At this stage, I’d say it’s more important to promote the Why of a College of Teaching, above the Who or the How…
If the ongoing debate leads to a better process and a better outcome, that’s great. Let’s have the discussion in that spirit. But if the debate simply adds weight to the inertia; not offering any alternative except the status quo, then that’s what we’ll get. That’s what we’ll deserve – and the chance will have gone.
Ignoring the ad hominem implication that anyone who objects to a plan to spend more than £10 million of public money on a loose and unaccountable assembly of interest groups, is somehow simply resistant to change, this argument amounts to:
We need a change from the status quo. This is a change from the status quo. Therefore, we should support it.
I suspect that this logic might indeed win over some of the politicians and the public will end up bankrolling this project. But let me be utterly clear why this won’t win me over. The status quo of having no professional body for teachers has existed for a grand total of 3 years. Prior to that there was a professional body called the General Teaching Council of England (GTCE) which existed for 12 years and which few teachers had a kind word for. So, the creation of a new professional body is not a once in a lifetime proposition, not a radical departure, but a second attempt at something that was tried and failed in recent memory.
Once we actually recall this little bit of history, we remember that the status quo of not having a professional body for teachers was deliberately chosen over an option (the GTCE) that was seen as worse than the status quo. If we accept this as the case, then the precise details of the proposal do matter. If any professional body will do, then why was the GTCE not good enough? When the discussion of a College of Teaching started, the desire not to repeat the mistakes of the GTCE was a key theme. Only as it became clear that teachers would have as little, or even less, say over the CoT as they did over the GTCE has the GTCE disappeared from the argument.
Now, of course, it could be the case that the people arguing for uncritical support for the CoT proposal, would also have opposed the abolition of the GTCE. Perhaps they genuinely do think that any professional body is better than none. But if so, then they are keeping quiet about it. If not, then there is no excuse for suggesting anybody else accept the CoT proposal on the grounds that any professional body is better than none. For myself, I know from experience that having a professional body for teachers that is not accountable to teachers is worse than the status quo of having no professional body. And for that reason the issue of who will make up and run the CoT is not a “detail”; not something that can be adjusted later, and not something that can be decided by non-teachers and left for teachers to swallow.