More nuance please

This morning I was accused of being rude to @daisychristo by saying that I had not heard any of the ‘myths’ she uses as chapter headings for her new book (available on Kindle (which is available as an app for all major devices)).

I was subsequently advised that I couldn’t really take part in the discussion until I had read the book (I might be exagerating that aspect of it but that is certainly how it felt).

Here’s a more reasoned account of why I challenge the premise of the book. I have written this as I would not want someone I have never met to think I was being rude about their (note to DfE – this is how you use the word correctly) work. Twitter is a poor medium for someone as wordy as I can be.

Lets take one of the title headings: “The 21st century fundamentally changes everything”. Maybe I do lead a restricted life, but I have not heard this asserted in this way. It is often suggested that “The 21st century changes how we should educate children” or ‘The 21st century changes things” but these are more nuanced statements.

What does it actually mean? I have always taken the “21st Century” bit to primarily mean the changes in technology and the (supposed) differences in capability between the generations in its use. There is a debate to be had about this. For example, are there “Digital Natives”? Can’t kids just Google everything? Shouldn’t we just “Flip the classroom”? I could go on.

There is no binary answer to any of these questions. Digital Natives? Yes, they exist, but they aren’t defined by their generation (I claim to be one myself). Google everything? Well, not everything, but some things are Google-able if you have the knowledge (in both factual and digital literacy terms) to correctly interpret the results. “Flip the Classroom”? Well for some topics in some subjects for some children some of the time I would say its appropriate. Do the existence of of any of these factors mean we don’t need teachers? Of course not. Does it mean that teachers might need to consider some aspects of their practice to see how it could be enhanced by any of these factors? Of course it does.

My argument with this, and other chapter titles, is that they are stated in absolutist terms (and I have blogged about this before). I can see how that makes for a more marketable book (and that is not a criticism of the book or the writer) but it does mean that people should not be so touchy (and this is not a criticism of the writer) when that premise is challenged (however inelegantly).

Consider the opposite of the chapter title above. “The 21st Century changes nothing”. Its strikingly obvious that this is not true. So there must be some degree of truth in the original title, just not in the way it is stated. It is quite possible that the book makes similar points to those raised above but in the absence of the text I only have the chapter titles to go on when considering what the content might look like.

Any discussion about education and how to make it better is to be welcomed. My personal view is that the discussion needs to be a lot more nuanced that it often is. Absolutism is the enemy of reasoned debate.

I guess I’m probably going to have to read the book now.