Lessons from the Seventies

29th October 2004 at 01:00
The opening paragraphs to Dr Andrew Cunningham's article caught my attention more than the remainder of the text which I dismissed as right-wing rant.

Dr Cunningham refers to the "trendy teaching" methods of the Sixties and Seventies as "crackers", claiming that "experimental" teaching is a total waste of time "as every sensible parent and teacher has known for years".

The article is illustrated by a photograph of Terry Ellis, the headteacher of the William Tyndale primary school which was notorious at the time for promoting such methods.

While we could debate the merits of progressive methods in the light of the Tyndale experience, it is important to make one or two points.

After the regimented and autocratic teaching and learning climate which prevailed in this country for decades, the pioneers of "progressive" and child-centred learning challenged the dominant orthodoxy and attempted to at least open a debate which regarded democratic and non-autocratic learning as desirable and for the benefit of teachers, pupils and, indeed, humankind.

Compare that time with what we have now - a top-down, centrally-controlled education system which succeeds in promoting compliance and obedience for both pupils and teachers. There is no room for challenge and no desire for debate at any level.

The curriculum is skills-based with achievement based on a tick-box mentality which does nothing to promote anything approaching intellectual thought.

Of the two, I know which I would regard as favourable.

Margery Thorogood

21 Albert Street



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