Routledgefalmer Guide to Key Debates in Education

Routledgefalmer Guide to Key Debates in Education

Routledgefalmer Guide to Key Debates in Education

Routledgefalmer Guide to Key Debates in Education


Education is never out of the news. It is not just an obsession with politicians and journalists but has become the main focus of ordinary people's lives. But there is no real debate about any of the issues reported in the media. Debating is out of fashion. No one raises the question of what has gone wrong when the entire political project of a society is seemingly reduced to 'education, education, education'. The aim of this lively and challenging book is to provide the stimulus for further thinking about key educational issues by exposing and explaining the assumptions behind this obsession. Over forty contributors, all experts in their fields, have written short, accessible, informed and lively articles for students, teachers and others involved in education. They address broad questions that are central to any understanding of what is really going on in the education system. Topics covered include: the new relationship of the state to education; the changed nature of schools; whether teachers are afraid to teach; the problems with circle time, anti-bullying strategies, citizenship education, and multiple intelligences; the retreat from truth and the demise of theory in teacher training, and much more. Everyone learning to teach in primary and secondary schools and further education colleges will find this book relevant to their programmes. In particular the book would be useful for students on Education Studies courses.


Education in Britain is contested territory. Calls for the theory and practice of schooling to be 'taken out of politics', for restoration of the consensus about ends and means claimed to have existed in the early post-Second World War decades, are increasingly seen as unrealistic.

What happens in classrooms and campuses is now too important for the lives of individuals, for the management of the polity, for the health of the economy, for the stability of society, to be other than a central concern for governments, employers, workers, families - indeed, for everybody.

Labour set its top three priorities as 'education, education and education'. A Conservative claimed his party had similar priorities - although not necessarily in the same order. So there is no disagreement about whether education matters, but plenty about how best to put that commitment into practice.

Ours is a society of competing interests and diverse circumstances. We share a common commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes and to the rule of law. We live in a democracy, in which governments have regularly to be elected. Inevitably, education is now increasingly an area of vigorous and sustained debate.

Two cheers, then, for debate. But there are also risks in considering educational issues in these terms. Perhaps calls for education to be de-politicised are a response to these risks. Debate is necessary. But debate is not enough.

Debate involves taking sides. It is not the job of the pros and the antis to do justice to the arguments of their opponents. Each must set out their own case convincingly enough to command a majority.

In the politics of democracy, debate is a means of reaching decisions. If these are to be successfully implemented and to achieve their objectives, the debate that leads up to them must be informed by close reasoning on the basis of carefully gathered and evaluated evidence, within traditions of public knowledge that embody appropriate and rigorous tests of truth.

Beginning teachers need to be aware of what is being debated, not in order to be recruited to a particular cause, but to be encouraged to think about the basis of particular convictions or beliefs - their own as well as other people's.

They need to acquire a career-long commitment to informed enquiry about themselves, their role in society, the subjects they teach, the children whom they strive to educate. Only by these means can their choices be well-founded, their actions constructive, their commonplace decisions well judged - and their own participation in debate made effective.

Faced with a need to speak or to act, and to do so quickly, none of us reaches for a historical, philosophical, sociological or psychological textbook or research report. Yet without some familiarity with and respect for what can be learned from such sources, and awareness of the assumptions and presuppositions reflected in our

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