In support of ‘trad’ educational micropopulism (mostly)

2 min read

Yes, there has been some utter guff drivelling out of university schools of education in recent decades. Weakly conceptualised research, ideas and approaches that have little empirical justification and spurious ideology. I completely agree with the traditionalist using a grassroots social media-based activist base to challenge this.

I was, as a teacher, subject to the National Strategies (from the early noughties). New Labour’s centrally bureaucratised approach to teaching and learning. It included models of practice, the infernal three-part lesson and endless assessment. It was de-professionalising and invasive.

I am not inherently opposed to populism. I see it as a part of liberal democracy, it is the means by which institutions are forced to adapt and respond to the needs of people.

One caveat though. If you adopt a populist strategy it is important to be clear who the unjust elite are. Trad micropopulism largely identifies progressive academic elites as the authority in suppressing the teacher and foisting unscientific approaches on them. The real power though is not the academic elite, although they (I mean me and we) should not be let off scot-free. The elite that we should all turn our focus on is those that have control over capital, resources, infrastructure and media. It is the flow of capital and the distribution of resources that much more strongly define teachers’ experiences of their work than does the odd teacher educator promoting ‘learning styles’ or group work.

There is a danger in characterising the progressive academic as the ‘unjust elite’ in a populist rupture since it aligns with some pretty extreme far-right tropes about cultural marxism and the promulgation of culture wars. Here is where we can get buried in unproductive identity politics. I use the term identity politics here advisedly. I recognise fully that identity as political motivation is an important aspect of challenging existing representations. However, changes in representation without systemic changes to society do not in themselves lead to social justice.

For more on this issue see my article in the British Educational Research Journal

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