Reframing the ‘Progressive’ vs. ‘Traditionalist’ Debate in Education

One of the unfortunate side effects of the 2007-8 global economic crash has been our decade-long slide into intolerance of the unfamiliar and unknown. Rival groups trade blows over their proposed solutions to economic problems, which inevitably spill over into increased polarisation in other politically-charged areas, such as education.

To my dismay, over the past five years in particular, I’ve seen an unhelpful and unhealthy bifurcation in educational discourse into “traditional” and “progressive” camps. Proponents of each approach never fully explain their position, instead defining it as the opposite of whatever “outrageous” statement has been made by one of their opponents.

This is not only a juvenile way to act as educators, but it also goes against the wider enterprise we are trying to encourage. We should be willing to debate with others without name-calling, belittling, or labelling others in a pejorative way. Over and above refusing to engage in such “debates,” I’ve been looking for a way to reframe them in more positive ways.

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