Don't stigmatise an independent researcher

30th January 1998 at 00:00
Dr Stuart Martin, as a teacher, attempts to dismiss my analysis of what has gone wrong with the new qualifications framework in New Zealand on the grounds that the report was commissioned by the Business Roundtable (TES, Letters, January 16).

He sees this as a left-versus-right issue. But do these terms have any relevance as applied to education nowadays - if they ever did?

New Labour is, if anything, hotter on standards and seemingly more open to privatisation than the previous Conservative administration. But were the terms ever meaningful?

Consider these two quotations, one from the Marxist Gramsci, the second from the "conservative" philosopher Oakeshott: "(Studying) is a process of adaptation, a habit acquired with effort, tedium and even suffering. If one wishes to produce scholars, one has to start at this point and apply pressure throughout the educational system in order to succeed in creating those thousands or hundreds or even dozens of scholars of the highest quality who are necessary to every great civilisation."

"(Education is) the transactions between the generations in which newcomers to the scene are initiated into the world which they are to inhabitI To be initiated into this world is learning to become human and to move within it freely is being human, which is an 'historic' not a 'natural' condition. "

Which is which? It does not really matter because, as Michael Irwin has interestingly shown in a detailed comparison, they are saying essentially the same thing. (The first is Gramsci.) Dr Martin may not like what I have said. This does not, however, justify the attempt to stigmatise an independent researcher with an irrelevant label. If he wishes to counter my thesis he should address the central argument: that modules expressed as outcomes are not a magic formula for handling all qualifications issues.


Brunel University Twickenham, Middlesex

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