Thursday 23 July 2015

Trust me.....I'm a teacher

Imagine a newspaper headline that read "It's time medical researchers allowed doctors to do their job". The story might go something like this:

Chief Medical Officers from around the country have today committed to not allowing the practices of medical staff to be influenced by medical research. Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, Dr Sid Nurk stated "Enough is enough. Doctors have been to university and they know what is right for their patients. Researchers aren't looking after patients, so they have no place in clinical decision making". Dr Nurk said from now on, patients would just have to work around the issue of doctor variability and accept that patients get better under some doctors and not under others. 

It sounds a bit silly, doesn't it? And yet, the corollary of Dr Nurk's thinking is exactly what is proposed by Melbourne teacher and newspaper columnist Christopher Bantick, in a recent article in The Age entitled "It's time researchers let teachers do their job"

It's astonishing and deeply concerning to see a teacher argue such an anti-intellectual corner. No profession, whether teaching, medicine, engineering, law, or aviation should be allowed to "do its own thing" unfettered by scrutiny from interested stakeholders, taxpayers, friendly critics and/or researchers. That a teacher would publicly assert such a position affirms some of the worst stereotypes about education operating in an evidence-vacuum. It also leaves no obvious room for finding common ground characterised by genuine curiosity about what works best in the classroom, and under what circumstances. Academics whose research has a focus on education (of whom I am one) are typically motivated not only by intellectual rigour, but also by a sense of social justice that compels to action. 

If evidence matters when we are treating cancer, building bridges, or flying aeroplanes, why doesn't it matter when we're educating the next generation of doctors, engineers and pilots?