Are you “a progressive”? Let’s hope not. I was one for yonks. Where did it get me? Nowhere. Genteel poverty at best. We don’t want that kind of thing, not in our modern classrooms. “Progressive” for politicians is only pejorative, like “liberal” for Tea Party Republicans. The subtext suggests a whiff of the permissive, the loony, the louche, the left, metrosexuality, Marxism, moisturiser – all concomitant on a general lack of rigour.
Right thinking types are keen to trot out this dog whistle word – like Nick Gibb, present Tory MP for Bognor Regis and former charted accountant and schools minister. Nick is not a man to allow a comprehensive inexperience of the classroom to obviate his copper bolt certainties. Only last week he opined that “progressive” can lead to “child-centred education”. Surely not a bad place to start? Apparently not. It can lead to “play-based” classrooms. Enjoyment. Creativity. He’s had an ample sufficiency of that kind of thing. He goes on. There’s only one thing worse than “progressive” teachers. What, pray?
“Progressive” teachers of teachers – “academics in the education faculties of universities”. We don’t want any of their tedious, hardcore thinking on the topic. It might give our pupils ideas. Nick’s never been keen on their PGCEs, especially from the more “rubbish universities”. Those beady, superfluous eggheads can ruin you. They did for me. They made me a “progressive”.
The Institute of Education in my day was too clever by half, what with the likes of professors Stuart Hall and Harold Rosen. Still is. Last year it was judged World Number One for Education, but we know they’re all commies, peddling that progressive stuff, the Wrong Stuff. Our modern gurus like Govo, Farrago and Gibbo seem to think so. What’s required is the Right Stuff – a muscular Christianity, some robust Victorian Values and a little cheap, strident patriotism. It’s all the go. We don’t want all that politics, class, gender studies, linguistics and epistemological bollox. It only confuses our pupils.
What we want is Blind Obedience, the essential Transferable Skill for the global marketplace. We want dogma, not doubt. Nick is certain that Systematic Synthetic Phonics is the only method to teach reading. Michael Rosen, son of Harold, and another commie, progressive bastard, has rather dismantled all this, suggesting it can all too often prompt a mere “barking at print”.
But what does the former Children’s Laureate know? There’s always seemed to me many ways of teaching. But what do I know? The modern fashion is for the past. The regressive. You better embrace it. If you want to make progress, don’t let on that you might be one of those wrong ‘uns, a “progressive”.
Ian Whitwham is a former inner city London teacher.