Lees 2007: Embracing complexity for social justice

In this, the second of the readings we were given with the title ‘Beyond Positivism’, Patrick Lees argues for ‘hybrid spaces’ where different ways of thinking about education and research exist for mutual benefit, and an acceptance that standardised educational models cannot lead to equity.

Lees gives a detailed explanation of the impact of narrowing research and policy trends, and the expectation from government that research will provide ‘hard answers’. He leaves it up to us to ponder why government might think this is the best approach. Are they stupid? Do they think we are stupid? Not necessarily. But I do think our government is very much under the thumb of the commercial press, and fearful of public reaction. There may also be an aspect of the government wanting to be told exactly what to do, because they haven’t a clue themselves, don’t want to mess up and/or be seen as weak. Maybe they just desperately want to do ‘the right thing’, which presupposes that a ‘right thing’ exists. Or they don’t want to be responsible for making a bad decision. Possibly a combination of the above.

I genuinely feel that the current system of democracy in this country is failing horribly. Political rhetoric is now indistinguishable from the rhetoric of the tabloids; packed to the rafters with divisive sensationalism. How is it possible to have an inclusive, respectful and collaborative public education system when our political system is exactly the opposite? What would it take to bring in sortition?… £150 to register the Sortition Administration Consortium as a political party, £500 plus ten signatures to register each candidate, then… bang! Take over the commons and bring in random selection to government. I wonder what the rationale for the £500 fee is? Assuming it’s not to cover the administration of the election, I think there are fairer hoops to make candidates jump through, especially these days when online petitioning is so efficient.

And back in the room… Given that we’re clearly stuck with our current system of government for now, what’s the best way forward? Should educational researchers start to play the policy-makers at their own game by framing the outcomes of their research in a form that government are comfortable with; inventing new statistical indexes (the community cohesion index?) and asking questions that sound like hard answers… would the policy-makers notice? Would they care? Even this approach wouldn’t achieve what we really want, which is for everyone to accept how darned complex everything is, and that one size doesn’t – and never will – fit all.

It may be the case – as implied in the Sloan 2006 reference – that nothing will ever change unless we stand together as a community and refuse to collude with the policy-makers’ demands for simplistic and standardised approaches. Which is tricky, given where the research funding is coming from.

Gove-Reforms-GCSEs-Tweet-1It is somewhat depressing that this paper was written in 2007, when Michael Gove was still the Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, and the true extent of the ‘middle class education for all’ movement hadn’t yet been revealed…

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