Filling the pail

A hyperindividualism meme. There is little evidence Einstein said this – see Quote Investigator

Hyperindividualism is perhaps the most damaging aspect of educational progressivism.

Kate Walsh of the National Council on Teacher Quality in the US describes, “the belief that every student is so unique that the best teaching practices cannot be applied” as, “a fierce ideological obsession“. In Walsh’s view, this leads to the rejection of the idea that there may be a best way of teaching early reading. In turn, this therefore leads to a rejection of systematic synthetic phonics which is, as we know, the best way of teaching early reading.

Hyperindividualism is behind everything from the obsession with differentiation, despite the lack of evidence for many practices that are given this name, to the rejection of fair and consistent behaviour policies. The theoretical basis changes over time – it used…

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Tech-free school

The Quirky Teacher

A couple of days ago, I was with a few fellow governors and as we waited for a meeting to start, the conversation turned to technology and its alleged benefits. You see, the other governors were all older than I and they had some great school stories to tell. I was able to join in a little as I had my own stories about the time I went to a mad private school on Bodmin Moor. I loved that school because it was just pure academic focus interspersed by joyful play and I really flourished during the short time I was there. To the outsider though, that school would’ve seemed backward, out-of-touch – it was completely tech free.

So, I dared to say to my fellow governors that if I were to have my own school, ideally a free school, it would be completely tech-free. The more I thought about…

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Relationships between Charity Boards and Executive Teams Matter

Governing Matters

On 6th February 2019 I attended an event “Building a Strong Relationships between Charity Boards and Executive Teams” organised by the consultancy and advisory firm, Gallanach. I found out about this event through Mike Bath. Mike and I follow each other on twitter and often discuss school/academy finance and governance. As academies are charities, the discussions during the evening are directly related to academy trustees and the school leaders but as the discussion focused on governance it is also applicable to maintained school governance. For this reason, in this post, I will be using “governors” rather than trustees when I talk about school governance.

The event had presentations from Ian Joseph, Managing Director Russam GBS and Trustee of Kidscape and Sarah MaGuire, CEO Partnership Support Group. The evening was facilitated by Norman Blissett (Director, Gallanach). There was discussion around lots of areas affecting governance, most…

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The Point Of Classics

Pocket Quintilian

The week of the Sydney Latin Summer School is my favourite week of every year. Teaching my favourite subject to old and young alike, in the company of my good friend and colleague, the boundlessly knowledgeable John Coombs, is an unalloyed pleasure. During this year’s edition, my mind also turned to the question of why we still teach this language that has not been used even as a means of written communication for several centuries. Many people derive enjoyment from it, but when it comes to a place in the school curriculum, that’s not quite enough.

Recently, a seriesofarticles has appeared on the libertarian-ish Quillette website, dealing thoughtfully with many of the issues surrounding the legacy and importance of classics as a discipline. This has perhaps become more topical lately with the culture war weaponisation of the term “Western Civilisation”, and the occasional use of classical imagery in…

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Education Is Not Activism

Pocket Quintilian

A recently-published Australian book on education has been receiving rave reviews from the great and good on social media. I haven’t yet read the book so I can’t offer any comment on its content, but a section of the book’s conclusion caught my eye when one of the authors quoted it on his Twitter feed.

The cry that “all teachers are activists” and “education is a political act” is hardly a novel one; in fact, such a sentiment was virtually de rigueur among both academics and fellow students during my own teaching degree. Over the years I have come to disagree with it strongly, and it is worth explaining why.

Those who make such statements are occasionally inclined to take refuge behind the malleable definitions of words like “activist” and “political” when the less savoury implications of these sentiments are pointed out. But if such statements were not intended to…

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Gender Stereotypes and School: Handwriting

Trans Teacher (in Training)

In July 2017, I went into two schools and conducted some research for my master’s thesis. Now that my thesis has finally been submitted and accepted, I have decided to share some of my findings.

Part of my analysis involved ranking the participants by the quality of their handwriting, which was done using comparative judgement – a much more suitable method for subjective tasks such as art and writing than, for example, grading with the use of rubrics, and often more reliable (Pollitt, 2012 (1); Whitehouse & Pollitt, 2012 (2)). The downside of such a method, especially when using a small sample, is that the ranking does not necessarily accurately reflect the true variation between the quality of examples. For instance, the examples ranked third and fourth could be very different in quality, while those ranked fifth and tenth could be very similar if most of the examples are very…

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Paul Bloom, Against empathy: the case for rational compassion


Paul Bloom is not opposed to empathy per se; he accepts that empathy can awaken our generosity and inspire us to care better for others.  What Bloom has a quarrel with is the idea that the ability to share in someone else’s emotions makes you a better person in a moral sense.  As a spur to doing the right thing, Bloom prefers ‘righteous rage’ to empathy.  This he credits with propelling forward the women’s liberation and civil rights movements. What are the merits of ‘righteous rage’ (anger coupled with sound reasoning)?  It is ‘highly motivating, difficult to manipulate, applicable wherever injustice is found, [and] easier [than empathy] to insulate against bias’.  There are many components to Bloom’s argument for adopting a more reasoned response in difficult or unhappy situations, listed below are those that I found most striking.

  • No one has a universal ability to empathise.  You can only really…

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