I recently had a discussion with @headguruteacher (whom I massively respect!) about recent trends in education and my concerns over the increase in traditionalism/Conservatism. I argued that traditionalism (in teaching) and Conservatism are connected:
Conservatism is any political philosophy that favours tradition (in the sense of various religious, cultural, or nationally-defined beliefs and customs) in the face of external forces for change, and is critical of proposals for radical social change. Some Conservatives seek to preserve the status quo or to reform society slowly, while others seek to return to the values of an earlier time.
I argue that teaching is certainly political. While it is true that a teaching ideology may cross various political ideologies, it feels to me that many traditionalist teachers share many elements of Conservative (Thatcherite) ideologies, in particular the view that one should have automatic respect for authority.
So what does Tom mean when he says: 'I’m fairly trad in my approach.' What do I mean when I talk about traditional teaching? I think we may, crucially, have different meanings:
For me, traditional teaching is not about a given pedagogical approach, such as teacher-talk, nor is it about the teacher as authority on their subject. I agree with Tom when he says:
It is not about a transmissionist view of learning; I agree that a teacher can and should stand at the front of a room and explain things to students (along with a range of other pedagogical approaches).
So what do I mean when I talk about traditional teaching? For me, traditional teaching is about traditional values, about maintaining and reinforcing the social order. It is about authority and control. It is about students deferring to the authority of the teacher and the institution.
For me, traditional teaching is about the teacher as 'Father and Judge'. It is about the teacher controlling who gets to speak and when, as the sole arbiter of what is (morally and factually) right and wrong.
For me, traditional teaching is about denying students agency, denying them freedom. It manifests in pedagogies that constrict the movements of their limbs and insist that their eyes follow the teacher around the room. It is the ethos of no-excuses. It is about discipline and punishment. This will almost certainly result in resentment, and confirm the already-disaffected child’s position as the inferior Other.
For me, traditional teaching, as I understand it, is the de-humanization of education, the regulation of the child, the managerialism that currently governs our schools.
At best, it is the benevolent paternalism of One-nation Conservatism. At worst, it is the (political?) belief that giving a detention to a seriously underprivileged (poor?) child without a pencil will eradicate what Margaret Thatcher called the ‘dependency culture’.
Comments welcome :)