11 Years Of Blogging

October 25, 2017

Yesterday was the 11th anniversary of my first blogpost.

I haven’t done very much blogging this year, although I’ve started again recently. I’ve tended to spend more time on Twitter as that reaches a wider audience and there has been good reason to keep active there, as it has become more hostile to anyone opposed to progressive education.

In fact most of my news for the year would have to be about the social media fightback by progressives. After years of losing ground, there seems to have been a major change of tactics among progressives. Instead of claiming to be the authorities who are being ignored by upstarts, they have rebranded themselves as victims of oppression by evil right-wing traditionalists who must be opposed by public shaming and abuse.

When in December, an Australian educationalist argued that criticism of learning styles was a racist attack on the poor, I dismissed it as an irrelevance. 

But actually this became pretty indicative of the rest of the year. Progressives stopped appealing to their own authority, and started trolling. Anyone who had a different perspective was a racist and a bully. Every school that tried to tighten up on discipline was engaging in child abuse. Every school that departed from progressive education was denying SEND students of their human rights. That, alongside personal abuse, and claims that those who opposed them were the true bullies, became the dominant progressive narrative of the year. Initially, I documented this (also here) calling on the “mainstream” progressives to disown the trolls. By the end of the year a lot of the previously “mainstream” progressives had adopted the same tactics. I’ve had to block more people in the last year than the rest of my time in Twitter put together. Progressives who work as consultants or lecture on university courses appear to have concluded that, as long as their hatred is focused on educational traditionalists and individual schools, it won’t harm their careers to call people names on social media.

There has also been a rise in the number of people trying to get tweeters into trouble by tagging in their employers or pretty much any authority figure into tweets. People tagged into hysterical condemnations of traditionalist edu-tweeters this year include the NSPCC, the Norfolk police and, my own favourite, one tweeter even reported me to Marvel Comics and the actor Benedict Wong (from Doctor Strange). My advice to any non-progressive edu-tweeter, be very careful about entering any kind of debate if your employer is mentioned in your Twitter bio or you are using your real name.

It would be easy to dismiss this stuff if people who behave like this weren’t influential in education, but as I said, but a lot of hostility and even some abuse, has been from people who work in teacher training. I’ve written a couple of posts this year about educationalists who try to silence debate

This has focused my attention on what people actually encounter when training to teach.

Other topics I’ve covered this year have included:

Behaviour Consultants


Michaela School

The Great Debate

Some good things from this year:

Anyway, thanks to everybody who has been supportive, particularly my other half, Gwen, who completely supports my avenging, and my colleagues at work who have shown a real interest in social media.

Here’s looking forward to another year of blogging.



  1. Twitter may reach a more people than blogging, but 140 characters isn’t enough for so much as a decent sound-bite, let alone an appeal to reason. It is, however, more than adequate for shaming, insults and downright lies.

    I think everyone of a traditional inclination in education should abandon twitter to the hate-merchants, who soon enough will be bound to fall out among themselves, which will at least be fun to watch. Considering what happened to David Didau recently, I’m suprised that anyone wants to feed the trolls.

    We’re winning the war of ideas, and we’re even winning where it counts–in real, existing schools. Blogs serve an extremely valuable function in terms of publicising our successes, exchanging ideas, and conducting civilised debate where we disagree. Welcome back!

  2. It’s only in the past 3 years, that I’ve followed you Andrew, and so I haven’t seen all the battles that you’ve fought, and all the things you’ve had to go through to get to here. I always find your explications and perspectives on an area thought-provoking, and am keen to appreciate the myriad grains of truth buried-within.

    You know I do query and disagree with you on Twitter, but also strive to find balance, and query other perspectives too. The only person who has blocked me, for example, is one of your arch ‘opponents’! I am resistant to ever dismissing your comments out of hand, simply because they are coming from you.

    Consequently, please take these two candid thoughts as well-meaning:

    Firstly I can’t help but feel that you have inadvertently helped to raise and organise a stronger army for you to fight against in the past year or so. Yes, there are many people who will disagree with various beliefs you have from a range of perspectives, but by labelling anyone who doesn’t tick ALL the boxes of traditionalism as a ‘Progressive’, and anybody who gets emotional and insults you as a ‘Troll’, I have been able to observe a process of ‘Othering’ which has helped crystallise and unite opposition to you, and in some cases create a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don’t think it’s simply that some people have started to reveal their ‘true’ colours, I think you’ve helped radicalise them.

    Secondly, I can’t help but feel that the wider debate has matured to the point whereby you’re simply not going to make much further ground unless you can start following ‘Rapoport’s Rules’ (espoused by Daniel Dennett, who’s no slouch when it comes to debating) http://www.rightattitudes.com/2017/06/16/rapoport-rules-criticism/

    I do definitely enjoy engaging with the genuinely funny, and carefully analytical Andrew that I chat with on Twitter, and I am grateful for your continued engagement with me.

    • This seems to be a recurring theme n your comments to me, where you attribute the words “progressive” and “traditionalist” to me and then criticise them. This is actually the vocabulary that has developed over a century or more by all sides. If you don’t like it, tough. It’s not going anywhere.

      As for focusing opposition by expressing my opinions, it’s worth remembering where we were when teachers didn’t express their opinions. People would be trained without even hearing there was another perspective to progressivism. Traditional teachers were graded by inspectors and managers as inadequate and forced out of their jobs. Those who tried to expose the behaviour crisis in schools were struck off. Things have moved in the right direction and the biggest worry is not, that the trolls have something to unite against, but that the education establishment would happily turn the clock back if they got the chance.

      • Thank you for spotting my recurring them Andrew. As I’ll keep repeating, applying stark binary labels to people who have beliefs spread across a normal distribution just doesn’t get you beyond a certain point in winning arguments. You are right about things having moved in the right direction, but without a more respectful recognition of why people don’t believe as you do, the pendulum will simply swing again. In this, I like Martin Robinson’s approach.

        Perhaps it’s true that there’s no other way you could say things, and label things, which wouldn’t also result in a backlash. Perhaps Jonathan Haidt is right in “The Righteous Mind” and I am indeed being naive.But in that case, it just shows the absurd cyclical nightmare that is human ideological debate.

        • Are you really arguing that the only choices are that we relabel concepts to suit you (and those who would try to obscure the history of the debate) or that we cannot hope to make progress?

          May I suggest another alternative? We keep going with honest debate until people realise it’s the only show in town?

          Incidentally, Martin Robinson is very keen on accepting the debate so we learn from the conflict. The fact then when he argues for this he doesn’t express a view on which side should win, should not be interpreted to mean that he sees himself as above the debate or has any sympathy for those who would deny the debate.

          • No, I’m not arguing any of that Andrew. It’s the labelling of PEOPLE rather than the individual ideas that make up the broad palette of beliefs that they hold that is the problem. I absolutely agree that Martin accepts the debate and has a position in it – as do I – but he doesn’t label the teachers – rather he labels the individual ideas. This is why he doesn’t become subject to quite so much personal antagonism, and (in my opinion) stands a better chance of people thinking receptively about what he’s saying. For example his blog yesterday explicating Progressivism was a beautiful thing which shows the many strengths and attractions to it. (i.e. Rapoport’s rules).

            I do think also though that the history of the debate has given the false impression that there can only be these two philosophies, and only the two extreme positions can be labelled. If all political debate only ever used the words Communist and Capitalist to describe people, would that be particularly productive?

          • There is a flaw in the thinking here, namely that ‘othering’ and generalising about groups, persisting in using unclear labels to ascribe pretty bad stuff to two simple and convenient groups (and certainly not as used by the ‘classics’ who used them) is somehow part of a debate.
            What is part of a debate is the *features* and *beliefs* that are purportedly part of those labels. The different viewpoints. I suggest you focus more on that aspect.
            Or not, of course, I can fully understand it’s hard to go back on what you so passionately defend.

      • Congratulations!

        Your conceptions of prog or trad are *not* those used by the original users of it. If only they were then we would have something to go on; now it’s an amalgamation of allsorts, with opaque ‘definitions’ that are changed and expanded as it suits.

        I would also say re prog/trad it’s not just ‘expressing opinion’ but also dismissing challenges regarding the main tenets of many of your arguments, namely this opaque not-even-a-binary.

        • I agree with Dewey and even Alfie Kohn about the definitions. Who is it you think I disagree with?

  3. I cannot thank you enough for your 11 years of writing. When one feels like a lone wolf and is treated like a pariah it’s easy to question my own take on education. It seems that I haven’t been all by myself in my quest after all. And by those who say it better than I do.

  4. “No, I’m not arguing any of that Andrew. It’s the labelling of PEOPLE rather than the individual ideas that make up the broad palette of beliefs that they hold that is the problem.”

    Which is fine.

    Until you get onto Twitter and writing “people who promote ideas that follow the tradition of progressive education” takes up a lot more characters than writing “progressives”.

    “I do think also though that the history of the debate has given the false impression that there can only be these two philosophies, and only the two extreme positions can be labelled.”

    And here you seem to back to objecting to the terms used to describe the ideas. I really have no interest in this. The terms are there and established. If they are inaccurate or, in a given sentence, they are ambiguous, then point it out. But if people who believe in progressive education just want to avoid others being able to Google their ideas, or want to pretend to be neutral in debates where they’ve taken a side, then that’s tough.

    • It is not about the label as ‘short cut’ to a coherent set of ideas. That coherent set is an illusion. It is not even in the original use of the term(s). I also know you have no interest in discussing that. Only reason I ever started about this is that you nevertheless were willing to ‘other’ or judge ppl based on whether they accepted your ‘definitions’. A nice rhetorical mechanism, whether intentional or not, that forced ppl to choose: agree debate on *your terms* or disagree and then suggest it just proved your point and deem them prog just for that reason.
      But ok, enough, you love using vague labels that help you make your points. Lovely.

      • I have never refused to argue over the definitions. The problem is some people seemed to think that definitions are wrong if they don’t like the way the words are used, even when they correctly describe how the words are used.

  5. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

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