The speed with which children were abandoned shows how little we value education, argues Education Forum organiser Gareth Sturdy in Spiked…

In the space of a year, the government’s response to Covid-19 has attacked the foundations and purposes of our education system. It has exposed the education establishment’s attachment to social mobility as mere pretension. It has eroded the distinction between home and school life, and has confused education with passing on information. But this transformation could only take place because for a long time now education has been built on sand. Now that those weak foundations have been swept aside, as a society we do not have coherent or even agreed ideas on what should replace them…

Read the full article on Spiked.

A national ‘great debate’ in England would be more effective than imposing free speech champions and threatening fines, writes Dennis Hayes for Times Higher Education…

You might be tempted to say that today’s announcements from the Department for Education (DfE) indicate that academics in England have lost the war for free speech and academic freedom. It is certainly startling that the government has felt the need to resort to threatening universities and students’ unions with fines if they don’t actively promote free speech. But the truth is that universities never even fought a skirmish in defence of free speech, never mind a war.

Instead, with the exception of some notable individuals, academics passively watched free speech and academic freedom disappear though institutional indifference and fear of challenging the political consensus on campus.

Institutional indifference begins at the most senior levels. This is not an attack on vice-chancellors. Many express strong support for free speech and academic freedom, both personally and in public. What they must ask themselves, however, is whether they know enough about what is happening at lower levels in their institutions to ensure that free speech and academic freedom are upheld…

Read the whole article at Times Higher Education. (Free registration required).

Reflecting on the shift to online learning during the pandemic, Education Forum founder Dennis Hayes argues that important arguments around online learning, face-to-face teaching, and the importance of education itself have still to be won.

If someone had said back in 2019 that most university teaching could go online within a few months, no one would have believed it. They would have been told that it would take years for academics and universities to prepare.

The pandemic of 2020 showed that it was possible to move teaching online fast. A pragmatic decision made necessary by a government lockdown changed university teaching almost overnight.

Some excellent university technicians facilitated huge technical changes to teaching. This was very impressive, but it was merely a technical shift that had no basis in professional or curricula development. The argument for online learning had not been won.

A few universities went ‘online only’, but others went for a blended approach. The blended universities recognised that students wanted face-to-face teaching. But this was another pragmatic decision aimed at keeping students and avoiding the conflicts that erupted over fees and accommodation costs at the online-only universities.

The blended approach worked, even if it meant only three hours on campus each week and ended only when the government imposed further lockdowns, but it had no basis in professional or curricula approaches. The argument for face-to-face teaching had not been won

Continue reading on University World News.

Jacob Reynolds, in the latest Education Forum column for Teach Secondary magazine, takes issue with the position adopted by some protest movements that if you’re not saying anything, you’re siding with the oppressors…

Amid the protests surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement last year, there’s one element I found especially interesting – the insistence that ‘silence is violence’.

I should state from the outset that I don’t bring this up out of any antagonism I have with the BLM movement. My reason for examining it here is that I believe this phrase neatly sums up a political philosophy found across many wildly different movements, from Extinction Rebellion to anti-lockdown protestors.

It’s the idea that when it comes to big political issues, there is only one way to think and one right answer.

It follows that the quiet work of reflection is at best unnecessary, and at worst, positively dangerous. It’s an attitude that perhaps chimes with the contemporary classroom where active, even noisy participation is in vogue. Silence might be enforced in the exam hall, but teachers who enforce silent reading in class are most likely seen by their peers as quaint relics from a bygone era.

Another increasingly common refrain in the world of education is that words can be as violent as actions, be it in the context of hurtful bullying or racist speech.

However, the newer ‘silence is violence’ dogma takes things a step further, in that it’s not just what you say, but what you don’t say that can now be seen as violent…

See TeachWire for the full article.