My response to Michael Fordham’s excellent post, “Is traditionalism [in education] right-wing?”

Here is my response to Michael Fordham’s excellent post, “Is traditionalism right-wing?


Thank you, Michael, for a thoughtful and well-reasoned piece. Your point about conservatism as conservation is an important one: it is not connected to political beliefs or policies, just as pedagogy and political beliefs are not equivalent. Gramsci teaches us that, clearly. (To be honest, though, conservatives like Oakeshott place a great deal of emphasis on conservatism as a psychological disposition. In that regard, I, despite my social democratic politics, am also conservative.)

There is a point where I might split some hairs. You argue, “I do not happen to think that the process of teaching, the particular methods I use, can necessarily be understood to be traditional per se. Take the idea of children sitting in rows in a classroom. I don’t sit children in rows because that is how children sat at some point in the past (true though that might be): I sit children in rows so that I can look at their faces when I am speaking to them without them having to turn their heads.” I use rows myself, and for the same reasons you do. The only people who say we use rows “because it’s always been done like that” are progressivists who are looking to score a cheap point. But there’s no point in denying it: 100 years ago educators tended to value individual concentration much more than they do now, hence their use of rows. I am a traditionalist because I share many of the same values as older educators. Therefore, my pedagogy is traditional because it mirrors an older time when these pedagogical values and practices were hegemonic.

In any case, you do eloquently point to a continuing challenge for “modern traditionalists” in education. It’s something we must all be mindful of as we struggle to make our voices heard.

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  1. on February 17, 2017 at 12:48 am