I have long wondered at the abuse that educationalists get when they dare to question the status quo. There are teachers out there who will defend the current system at all costs.
Despite the stats that demonstrate just how badly our current system fails its pupils AND its TEACHERS, some teachers march on, certain that what the current system does is not only right, but worth defending. Sometimes that defence will include insults, threats of violence, wishes of death, that the critic should have no children (as in the most recent Twitter spat involving Katie Ashford, one of Michaela’s staff).
What is fascinating is that the perpetrators feel they are morally justified in inflicting the abuse.
They seem to think that because the critic has criticised a practice or a curriculum or a system, the critic is criticising THEM. They then seem to believe that this criticism justifies all types of behaviour towards the individual who dared to question the status quo. I can think of one Michaela hater whose behaviour, if we knew who he was, would be worthy of police action. The harassment has been so intense, prolonged and determined that I worry about his mental health and I worry about my staff and whether one day he will meet one of us leaving school. Jo Cox’s terrible end remains at the front of my mind when my teachers receive death threats.
We have been broken into, had protesters outside handing inflammatory flyers to our year 7s, had hundreds, if not now thousands of emails and letters sent to our school, some with threats, some with simple insults, and some just telling us how much they hate us. We’ve even had guests visit our school who deliberately target our children telling them that they couldn’t possibly like their school.
I have had office staff in tears because it is very hard reading bile about their school that they love. Presumably the people sending the abuse do not consider the office worker who is just doing a job, opening the post, constantly terrified at what might jump out at her.
I presume that all of the abuse that we get is not just from teachers. Although I am always astonished at how much comes from teachers. Surely teachers know that the current system is failing our children and our TEACHERS?
Is it not obvious that change is required? Tom Bennett said in a tweet recently that one shouldn’t assign blame. But it is only in pinpointing what is at fault that one can ever hope to address the correct issues and make change. To do anything else is to just wail in the wind. Perhaps what he meant is that one shouldn’t blame any individual. And of course that is true. There are many factors that cause the current system to fail and one should be seeking them out, not insisting that the system is perfect as it is, and attacking anyone who dares to question it.
Why not be open to change? Open to a better education system that will better serve the children we claim to love?
The number one problem in education is that there are too many people actively defending the status quo. If we could just admit that there is a problem, that the education system could make changes to improve things, then we might be in a position to discuss what they are.
There is a difference between blaming something rather than someone. You can call it something else – pinpointing responsibility – whatever you like. BUT one has to point the finger at something, or else the conversation is utterly pointless. This business of saying ‘all methods work’ or ‘all methods are equal in value’ is bizarre. Clearly some methods work better than others, no? Is it a crime to try to seek them out?
Ever since I started teaching, it was made clear that dissent was not allowed. I think things have improved in the last few years in this area, but it remains the case that there are far too many people unwilling to criticise the current system or current practice. If one cannot reflect, question, consider and discuss, and CHANGE ONE’S MIND, then our education system is doomed.
At Michaela we are even planning a conference (on June 17th) based around the ideas that we have changed our minds on. We change our minds every day about all sorts of things. We do so because we are interested in what works, not in a particular ideology.
There is nothing wrong in being critical of methods that do not work as well as other methods. Indeed, such criticism is what stimulates improvement.