Friday, April 29, 2005

Dealing with a Duff: or, explaining my own poor writing skills

Recently, I wrote a few remarks on education. Phew, that was much more dangerous than I anticipated. Chiefly, it seemed to stir D Duff to write not only a response to those remarks but to fulminate on them for some days - finally blogging a lengthy riposte. I have added my comment to that, but just wanted to add a note here in response to his final remarks:
My ever-astute reader will have noticed already that nowhere in Rullsenberg's vapourings is there even the hint that education might be concerned with placing facts inside hitherto fact-free heads, and ensuring that these facts are understood and remembered. That used to be called 'teaching' back in the days when teachers were not concerend [sic] with the next revolution.
Duff, I don't have any problem with pupils being taught facts, and I am happy to put it on record that, yes, of course education has to teach stuff. But even Dickens recognised that facts can only go so far in educating people (Are you supporting a Gradgrindian education?) I don't have any problem with criticising systems of education that teach people how to think about the social relations of Bronze Age Britons but which leave such people unable to identify when the Bronze Age was. But a system that only teaches when the Bronze Age was fails to teach valuable thinking skills: that such labels are applied later, are disputable, and do not on their own help us to explain what occurred during a period of history. Reduced to definition as The Bronze Age, the complexities of the people, skills and societies it refers to can often be lost: how does that help us understand the meanings of history?

Additionally, without wishing to elide education and training/employment, it probably is worth stating that beyond a certain level of basic skills, employers don't care how many facts are in a person's head; but they do care about their ability to think and assess evidence, to evaluate courses of action and take decisions based on such investigative skills. And a facts-only education scarcely provides such skills.

I'm probably now going to get slated by other blogging colleagues for taking the time to tackle the thoughts of Duff and Nonsense, but as I'm feeling in a generous mood I am cutting slack all ways round. Normal ramblings on culture and social issues will resume soon, and the Duffs of the world are no less welcome to rant or ignore about these as they see fit. I'm just not promising they'll all get a response like this.

3 comments:

Clare said...

Hear, hear. Facts and analysis. Both should be taught. Obvious, surely?

David Duff said...

Please, Miss, can you tell me, exactly, what a "thinking skill" is? Thank you.

David Duff said...

Lisa (you see, we're already on terms, and one wonders where this will lead, what with her brains and my looks) asks "[a]re you supporting a Gradgrindian education?" To which I can only respond by falling to my knees and and sobbing, "Oh yes, yes, please, more Gradgrind - and no more touchy-feely empathy for the little brutes and brutettes."

Thus, Lisa and her friends will know instantly that I am a hopeless basket-case suitable only for a nurse Ratchett - see, I can do American, too. Thus, they will float on through their professional lives, as smoothly as a punt on the Cam, all agreeing with each other on the need for "stimulating thought, enquiry, awareness and debate". Er, until someone actual disagrees with them and offers a debate. At which point, so Lisa warns us, anyone foolish enough to enter such a debate will "[be] slated by other blogging colleagues for taking the time to tackle the thoughts of Duff and Nonsense.."

It's a funny old world. Now who said that ...?