Illusion of knowing…

I am off to Vancouver on Wednesday to present a paper entitled the illusion of knowing.

The paper was written some time ago and  the central point is that the education system is predicated on a robust forms of knowing and accurate decision making when it appears this is far from true.

However rather than ackwlodge this, the whole school system and social structures from government to pupil operate through  a series of often implicitly negotiated illusions through rules, routines and sanctions. Indeed, in writing the paper, I was aware (at least I think I am) of my own compliance, coercion and collusion within the rituals of a conference submission and presentation. Such collusions represent a continuum of collusion and it is the successful navigation through such a continuum that represents achievement in many aspects of education.

The paper goes on to make several other points but in digging around I came across  Jacob Bronowski’s work again which I hadn’t read for some time. In terms of my thinking for this paper one particualr quote resonates with the concept of illusions and it comes from the Ascent of Man television series (1973) when Bronowski is standing in a small pool of water at Auschwitz,  and says, “Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And it was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance …” then slowly walks into the water with his shoes on, saying, “We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power”.

The illusion of knowing proposes a way forward through reconising the state of unknowing and links to Wittgenstein’s: What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence (1922).

Zembylas (2005) has stated that unknowing presents a curious element of redemption; in the lack of knowledge, the meaning of its absence is found. As such it is an ethical responsibility of all educators to acknowledge the position of unknowing.Therefore a pedagogy of unknowing embraces reflection, otherness, listening (not just hearing) and uncertainty. Such a pedagogy challenges the power-based relationships which dominate western education systems and questions assumptions about the goals of education, whilst challenging the notion of epistemic certainty (Ennis, 1972).

Pragmatists may scratch their heads in the consideration of such propositions, yet starting with a deficit model of vulnerable thinking and engaging with the challenging of boundaries of conventional thinking should be central to the aim of education. As a consequence, teachers should not seek to ease learner transitions across boundaries, through promotions of illusions and coercion, as the engagement of pedagogies of discomfort is of greater value than the illusions of accomplishment that are proliferated through current models of achievement.

Interesting times for education – end of GTC for England?

These are interesting times for those of us in education with the new coalition government sweeping through with some immediate and radical changes. Academies, QCDA and BECTA were all high on the agenda – with the words ‘watch this space’ saved for the General Teaching Council (GTC).

And so on 2nd June 2010 it was announced on the DfE (I forgot to mention this subtle but significant change in name) website that the GTC was to be ‘scrapped’ (their words not mine).

This is a significant move – not least because myself and colleagues have been researching into the GTC for the last 18 months – so we didn’t quite know how to react to news. However the ‘scrapping’ in our opinion presents more questions than answers. Telling was part of the announcement:  “this Government trusts the professionals. That’s why we want to give teachers greater freedoms and reduce unnecessary bureaucracy”.  This could come back to haunt the government as does this mean that other professional regulatory bodies are equally not needed? So long General Medical Council!

Trust is very strong word – but a question we have been pondering is when does someone become a professional – presumably this is now increasingly important as this is the stage  that someone can then be trusted? Now some further questions would include – what happens to ensure the trust isn’t abused- will there still be a code of conduct – if so where will this reside and wasn’t this the main issue with the GTC, as in the code was perceived  to be at the forefront of what the GTC did and overshadowed what they actually attempted to achieve.  So our work continues – watch this space…