Analogies and Realities
The problem with Tim’s comparison of the traditional vs progressive debate with the French Revolution is that the analogy is based on a lack of knowledge and understanding of both.
UPDATED: (His comments below state that such a comparison was not his intention, the link to the blog is above).
Traditionalists were not one of the ‘factions’ that started the ‘revolution’ in education alongside the progressives.
The analogy only makes sense if describing a situation in which different factions within the progressive movement were all turning on each other. For example, if the debate were between those inspired by Dewey, as opposed to Freire, Piaget or AS Neill. Or maybe those who advocate for discovery learning, project based learning or flipped classrooms. This isn’t happening.
Any comparison between traditionalists and the Ancién Regime does not stand except for the fact that they did not want the system to change, and the neo-trads are not equivalent to those supporting Napoleon (though Gove was short, I guess).
As for the references to ‘terror’ – hardly. Bullying, for sure, but that was the only way that progressives have been able to impose their will over the decades.
As Jarlath O’Brien pointed out on his blog about inclusion, we do already have a range of schools, whether we agree with this situation or not.
I wouldn’t argue that progressives want a one-size fits all system, simply schools that will give them the autonomy to do what they think best but without any kind of accountability imposed on them. Therefore a system with both traditional and progressives schools will not do because in theory it restricts their ability to teach how they want where they want. Parental choice only seems to crop up when criticising overly traditional schools.
The two arguments I have heard from the progressive camp are:
a) What about parents in areas with only one local school?
b) Schools should engage with parents.
Both of these arguments are an attempt to suggest that progressive schools are the ideal default option.
A progressive parent living in a village with one traditional school is facing the same issue as a Jain living in a village with one local C of E school. A choice has got to be made. As for schools engaging with parents, there is a limit to that too. A Catholic school does not have stop saying prayers because an Atheist parent objects.
No analogy is perfect but the truth is that some of the objections to traditional schools simply deny the reality of the system that already exists. I have seen progressive Headteachers ignore the wishes of parents who wanted the school to firm up on discipline. It’s disingenuous of those who criticise Michaela, for example, when they equally don’t budge on their behaviour policy. It’s true that progressivism is less coherent than traditionalism in education but that is because of the lack of intellectual and rational thought at its heart. It’s just a hodge podge of different ideas which are valued purely for the fact that they are different to traditional methods.
The recent jitteriness from progressives really makes me wonder what it is exactly they have to be afraid of, other than the fear that they will be subjected to the same treatment as traditionalists in the past. A system where schools are open about how they educate children – like School 21 and Michaela, actually means that teachers are less not more likely to be treated badly because of the way they teach.