An immersive art

May 23, 2013

One can only support the broad thrust of John Furlong’s piece on the dangers facing educational academia (“In pursuit of the truth”, 2 May). Probably the main difficulty facing this field is that many onlookers in politics and the media assume that its problems are fairly shallow. They regard good teaching as a practical knack, and organising it as a piece of cake.

Such views are mistaken. If education is to be effective in the 21st century, it needs to take into account profound changes in human cognition produced by digital technology, the disintegration of previous norms of culture (the work ethic, the virtue of patience) and a level of linguistic, social and attitudinal diversity among school cohorts unlike anything known in the past.

But first, educational academia needs to get its act together and recognise the size of the task it faces. A change of gear is required, up to the level of intellectual rigour needed. There has been far too much pussyfooting about managerialism in education, a howler of equivalent proportions to Lysenkoism in biology.

Too much credibility has been given to the simplistic nonsense that so- called evidence-based education is the answer. The underlying assumption here is that good teaching is a technique that anyone can acquire if they learn from the “right evidence”.

The trouble is that in its main essentials teaching is not a technique. It is much more a whole-psyche art form (as mime is a whole-body art form). Factors of the greatest potency are involved here - the clarity of society’s values, the clarity of an institution’s values, the clarity of a teacher’s values, the implied inclusivity needed to win over today’s diverse student groups.

Chris Ormell


You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

United Nations peace keeper

Understanding the unwritten rules of graduate study is vital if you want to get the most from your PhD supervision, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration (5 January 2017)

Fixing problems in the academic job market by reducing the number of PhDs would homogenise the sector, argues Tom Cutterham

Houses of Parliament, Westminster, government

There really is no need for the Higher Education and Research Bill, says Anne Sheppard

poi, circus

Kate Riegle van West had to battle to bring her circus life and her academic life together

man with frozen beard, Lake Louise, Canada

Australia also makes gains in list of most attractive English-speaking nations as US slips