Lunatics, caning, dumbing down and Shakespeare by rote – can they really think that?

strawmanStraw men are rife in the debate on education. Anyone who has tried to stand up for student voice and been accused of ‘letting the lunatics run the asylum’ (as we have), or has defended the importance of knowledge and been told that they oppose skills, will recognise this fact.

We are proposing a series on this blog that highlights ‘straw men’ arguments when they occur in the educational debate – so we’re asking for input from our readers!

Why do I think this is important? It’s because I’m so bored of spending so much time disavowing positions I never held (see the Campaign for Real Education’s wonderful description of what ‘progressive’ means) before being able to engage in a debate – and there are real debates to be had.

It’s easier to assume that because someone believes in relevance they are against Shakespeare, or that because they advocate Shakespeare they are for teaching by rote, but I simply don’t believe it is true. Such characterisations make the conversation harder to have, and most of the time we probably all agree on more than we think – or like to think.

Once a week we will highlight a straw man from among your suggestions and try to understand what is actually going on in the said debate. Please send us examples when you see them!

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