Seven Myths about Education – Introduction

This is an introduction to my book, Seven Myths about Education. It will be published on March 5th 2014 by Routledge.  Click here to preorder if you are in the UK, and here if you are in the US.

My book is called Seven Myths about Education and it pretty much does what it says on the tin. There are seven chapters and each chapter discusses a different myth about education. I had the idea of structuring a book like this because so often in conversation about education I found that the discussion would end up being about one of these ideas. For example, I’d start to have a discussion about why knowledge was important, and before long the person I was talking to would suggest that knowledge wasn’t important because we all have smartphones now (that’s myth 4). Or I’d be talking about how important it was for pupils to learn subject content, and someone would suggest that what you really learnt from school wasn’t the subject content, but the transferable skills (myth 5). I have structured each chapter in the same way. First, I try to explain clearly the theoretical evidence behind this myth. Second, I show the practical implications of the myth, and I show that such practice is prevalent in English schools today. Third, I explain why it is a myth. In the days before publication I will be giving a short summary of each chapter. Here are all seven.

  1. Facts prevent understanding
  2. Teacher-led instruction is passive
  3. The 21st century fundamentally changes everything
  4. You can always just look it up
  5. We should teach transferable skills
  6. Projects and activities are the best way to learn
  7. Teaching knowledge is indoctrination

Another of the reasons for structuring my book in this way was because I would so often hear two linked – and I think contradictory – criticisms. Very often, I’d give a brief outline of what I thought about education and explain what that meant in practical terms – for example, teaching discrete grammar lessons. I would then get two responses, often from the same person. First, the person would say that most schools do what I am asking already, so what I am proposing isn’t anything new – eg, they would say, all schools teach grammar anyway. Second, they would say that I was backward looking and wanted to take education back to the 19th century. Self-evidently, both these criticisms cannot be true. If all good schools already do what I am asking, then I can’t be advocating a return to the 19th century. If I am advocating a return to the 19th century, then schools can’t all be doing what I am asking.

In actual fact, both criticisms are wrong. Most schools don’t teach grammar the way I advocate and I don’t want to take them back to the 19th century. But the logical confusion of these two criticisms makes it quite hard to explain this.

Similar criticisms would emerge whenever I tried to give an example of something I thought was wrong. So, I might say that a lesson where pupils learnt about Romeo and Juliet through making puppets was not very effective. Again, I would get two criticisms: first, the person would say that I was attacking a straw man and that nobody really taught like that. Second, they would say that making puppets to teach Romeo and Juliet was very effective. Again, you can’t really make both criticisms. If you think that I am attacking a straw man, then you are implicitly conceding that teaching Romeo and Juliet through the use of puppets is not effective. So going on to argue that such a method is effective is contradictory. Again, both criticisms are wrong. Making puppets to teach Romeo and Juliet is not an example of a straw man; it is an example which has been cited as best practice. It is also, in actual fact, ineffective practice.

The message I took from these criticisms was that it wasn’t enough for me to prove that such practice was ineffective; I also had to prove that the lessons and practices I was criticising were in fact fairly widespread. So that is what this book attempts to do.

0 responses to “Seven Myths about Education – Introduction”

  1. […] This blog post summarises chapter 4 of my book Seven Myths about Education. To read the introduction to this sequence of posts, click here. […]

  2. […] I’m responding to a blog posted today by Joe Kirby in which he reviews a forthcoming book by Daisy Christodoulou called the Seven Myths About Education, which she also has been blogging about. […]

  3. […] This blog post summarises chapter 5 of my book Seven Myths about Education. To read the introduction to this sequence of posts, click here. […]

  4. […] This blog post summarises chapter 6 of my book Seven Myths about Education. To read the introduction to this sequence of posts, click here. […]

  5. […] This blog post summarises chapter 7 of my book Seven Myths about Education. To read the introduction to this sequence of posts, click here. […]

  6. […] which he reviewed a book by Daisy Christodoulou called the Seven Myths About Education, about which she also has been blogging. I said I liked the RD Hirsch analogy, that both Daisy and Joe use, of knowledge and skills in the […]

  7. […] Daisy Christodoulou’s preview of her recent book, Seven Myths About Education, I was especially struck by Myth 6- that projects […]

  8. […] Daisy Christodoulou’s preview of her recent book, Seven Myths About Education, I was especially struck by Myth 6- that projects […]

  9. […] for this reason that each chapter of my book begins with an analysis of a common education theory, and then an analysis of the practice that […]

  10. […] published on March 5th 2014 by Routledge. To read the introduction to this sequence of posts, click here. Click here to preorder if you are in the UK, and here if you are in the […]

  11. […] published on March 5th 2014 by Routledge. To read the introduction to this sequence of posts, click here. Click here to preorder if you are in the UK, and here if you are in the […]

  12. […] published on March 5th 2014 by Routledge. To read the introduction to this sequence of posts, click here. Click here to preorder if you are in the UK, and here if you are in the […]

  13. […] This is not only rather illogical, it’s also something I anticipated prior to publication in this blog post. […]

  14. […] more information about the research I refer to, see my book, Seven Myths about Education, available […]

  15. I am reading your book now and enjoying it. It should be required reading in all ed schools, but of course it won’t be–it goes against the ed school groupthink.

    Please feel free to join the U.S. Coalition for World Class Math FB page. I know we’re not UK but we have the exact same issues here. https://www.facebook.com/groups/USCoalition/

  16. Now, using a scarecrow to teach Wizard of Oz — that’s *surely* a straw man …

  17. […] component of this exercise for me was seeing how often members of Daisy Christodoulou’s ‘Seven Myths’ made an […]

  18. […] to understand the content. This fallacy is thoroughly debunked in Daisy Christodoulou’s book 7 Myths About Education. Long story short – automatic fact recall allows us to remove the constraints of our working […]

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