First of all, pop quiz. Which well-known educator has 7,212 Twitter followers and follows 5? Can you find a more extreme example?
Education is a rather tribal affair. You have reformers, bureaucrats, unions, innovators, personalised-learning lovers, etc. Here is a pretty standard Twitter exchange.
@teamA_leader1: “We must think of the children first, and stop defending bad teachers”.
@teamA_leader2: RT @teamA_leader1 “We must think of the children first, and stop defending bad teachers” <– So true! #edchat #edTeamA
@teamB_leader1: RT @teamA_leader1“We must think of the children first, and stop defending bad teachers” <– Here we go again, #pathetic.
@teamB_leader2: RT @teamB_leader1: RT @teamA_leader1“We must think of the children first, and stop defending bad teachers” <– Here we go again, #pathetic. <– agreed, disgusting #edTeamB #edchat
This will generally be followed by more abuse thrown around within each team, until someone gets a bit extreme. At this point someone in the opposing ‘team’ will retweet this extreme abuse and add on “<– see! bunch of unprofessional, rude morons”
It’s very easy to do this. In fact it makes you feel better about yourself and your beliefs, and avoids any of that unpleasant cognitive dissonance. In fact, as I’ve written before, the whole process just gets you more entrenched in your own views, and makes it significantly less likely that the two sides will engage constructively with each other.
Look at any conflict or disagreement, and you’ll be unlikely to find anyone who won the argument by repeatedly shouting one-sided arguments. In fact you’ll find that everyone has to compromise just a little, examine their own beliefs, and find common ground.
So whether it’s educators in the USA hurling abuse at Michelle Rhee or Diane Ravitch, or UK teachers and politicians making fun of Michael Gove or Christine Blower, then this pattern doesn’t move us on.
Go and take a look at your Twitter follower list now and find 10 people who specifically disagree with your most fundamental beliefs. Then, actually take some time to understand them, and even engage with them.
In the end, there is no answer that will improve everything for everyone. Education is, and will always be, a compromise. Perhaps you may need to concede that e-learning may not be the best way for all students to learn. Maybe you might concede that there are some legitimate cases where tests and grading might just help students progress, or perhaps you may have to admit that focusing even harder on data might not actually make your school a better learning environment.
Whatever you decide, don’t be an education fundamentalist.
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