Teachwell | Playing the Ball (Part III)
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Playing the Ball (Part III)

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The first two parts of this blog series are here and here.


Traditional = Male and Progressive = Female. Fact?

Sue’s asserts that recent educational developments have been ‘masculine’ in terms of language – e.g. mastery, grit and in content – e.g. more academic and intellectual. This move towards a more ‘traditional’ education is compared unfavourably with the current ‘progressive’ education system which is more ‘nurturing’ and  ‘child-centred’, ‘soft’ and ’emotional’. She reiterates the fact that gender is biological, then confusingly both states that we should accept masculine and feminine traits while also accusing them of straight-jacketing men and causing the problem. 


If traditional teaching is masculine and progressive is feminine then the natural route to go down is to have single sex schools where boys and girls are taught differently and by their own gender. For boys to study in a progressive environment is thus ‘unnatural’.


Except it isn’t really because as stated before men could usefully be a bit more feminine, so progressive education for all! Hurrah!!


However, teaching has been a predominantly female profession for decades. Hundreds of thousands of women taught in a traditional way to both boys and girls. There is no evidence that these female teachers were adopting ‘masculine’ traits or that the girls taught grew up to be more aggressive, violent, etc. If they were then how did they manage to hide this in a far more  conformist society than ours now? How did it escape the notice of all those people? Why did no-one stop it?


That grit, resilience and being intellectual are ‘masculine’ traits foisted onto poor unsuspecting children, including boys is considered abhorrent because apparently these are negative traits. Better to give up if the going gets tough and adopt an ‘ignorance is bliss’ attitude.


Anyone undermining the idea of women being intellectual deserves nothing but contempt from all of us who have demonstrated our capacity to be just so. My male and female primary teachers were fiercely intelligent and academic in their outlook and had high ambitions for us all. Feminists the world over have fought for the right to be educated and have an equal outlet for their intellectual abilities. If it were a man stating these arguments would it be acceptable?


The issue here is about ideology and attitudes to education not sexism in any way shape or form. Those of us who have encountered the progressive crowd in schools, especially primary, know how we are pushed to adopt characteristics and traits so that we can ‘fit’ into the system. Those of us who want more disciplined, academic environments are actively discriminated against and bullied in these progressive environments. It is mainly by women, but I would argue men too, and the negative effects are felt by both men and women, but I would say women have a harder time in that they are seen to be acting ‘unnaturally’.


The very people who argue for Sue’s right to be progressive, argue against Kathrine Birbalsingh’s right to be traditional. The attacks on her and Janet Hilary over the summer for not conforming to the progressive stereotype were shocking at times. All because they don’t fit into the neat boxes. The ongoing obsession with Quirky Teacher’s identity and gender only further highlight the inability that some people have of seeing the points made as valid in their own right.

The Real Deal?

What has taken place is an attempt to try to oppose the current changes to the education system, which many of us teachers – both male and female, deem necessary by framing it as sexist. It is a desperate smear where other arguments have failed. 


I see this as a preemptive strike against any recommendations that might be made, how could anyone ask a sensitive, emotional, nurturing woman to implement a ‘no excuses’ culture? Pass the smelling salts someone.


Truth is if the behaviour is not a problem then I can’t see how any recommendations would affect any teacher. Do what you do.


If it’s not working, then we need genuine alternatives and a deeper look at issues relating to behaviour. I have blogged on this issue before.


The way that progressives deal with behavioural problems is too much about them and their needs, it is based on their assumptions of what children with difficult backgrounds are going through and how they need to be helped, rather than the reality.


I have seen my own attempts to counter this narrative, and those of others who have grown up in difficult circumstances, brushed aside. Nothing that dents the romantic Rousseau inspired view of children is valid. Even when the harm done is plain for all to see. This damages the teacher, pupil and the rest of the class. All the while we are going through one failed strategy after another, the child (and his/her family) are not receiving the support and help they actually need, based on their circumstances not a set of assumptions held by people who have no experience, and little ability to empathise, other than in relation to stereotypes presented.


Let’s just call a spade a spade here. There are men and women who agree with a more traditional teaching style and there are men and women who don’t. This is not about sexism, it about how we think children are best taught. 


If there are people who genuinely believe and can prove that gender is biologically determined then they need to prove it with evidence. Equally they need to explain why their cultural norms of rigid ideas relating to masculine=male and feminine = female are different to that of other cultures, if indeed these are associated with biologically determined traits.


Lastly, if those who truly believe in the superiority of the ‘progressive’ methods need to meet the evidence against them straight on rather than reaching for the emotive terms and smearing others with false accusations of what are serious matters. It belittles the issues of sexism to be used to justify the continued use of teaching methods and ideologies that have been disproved, debunked and which have failed to enable thousands of children to achieve their potential. 

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