You Say Right and I Say Left, Oh No…

1s-3214197147_9752dd52df_oThe left side of the brain is often said to work in an organised, verbal, convergent and analytic way, while the right side works in a more intuitive, imaginative, emotional and holistic way. Or does it?

As anticipated, All Change Please!’s recent Daisy, Daisy… post prompted a digital sack full of comments from a Mrs Trellis of North Wales and a Mr J Peasmold Gruntfuttock of Peasemoldia. The issue was to do with the use of the terms right wing and left wing being applied in an educational context. Which, like so many things these days, got All Change Please! thinking.

And what it thought was that the phrases right-wing and left-wing are commonly used amongst today’s twittering classes without any real understanding of what they mean, or rather represent. To help unravel them, it is helpful to consider the views/politics of the so-called right and left wings. For example, the far ‘right’ are usually thought to favour the ‘survival of the fittest’ and look to the past. They are nationalistic, authoritarian, respecters of established hierarchies and military solutions. Meanwhile the far ‘left’ are more associated with equality for all, freedom from oppression, inclusivity, multi-culturalism, diplomacy and pacifism.

But these days, the politics of the nation are far less opposed, with the vast majority of people occupying the centre in which the distinction between left and right is much less visible, and an individual’s beliefs and values largely consist of a series of moderate left and right-wing approaches.

At the same time it is hard to observe many schools where extreme left or right-wing ideologies are prevalent. Except perhaps at the Colditz Academy. Most have a healthy mixture of the two. So in education the main debate at present is not so much about right and left-wing approaches but between those who champion so-called traditional education, and those who promote so-called progressive education. Confusion arises, because of course in practice ‘centrist’ left-wing teachers can be just as traditional in the classroom as ‘centrist’ right-wing teachers. And at the same time the idea promoted by the traditionalists that our schools are full of far-left anarchistic progressive educationalists is just complete nonsense.

All teachers want children from ‘deprived’ backgrounds to have the opportunity to access and benefit from education. Traditional teachers seek to achieve this by improving their academic performance, thus gaining them higher formal qualifications and potentially attending a Russell Group University, even though only relatively few will achieve this. More progressive teachers follow the idea that many children have other abilities and skills that are unrecognised by formal academic learning, and that they stand a better chance of success in life if these abilities are identified and developed while at school.

But as All Change Please! has observed before, most teachers are not driven by political ideological fervor, but more directly by their own personality which leads them to either need to feel they are in complete control of a situation, or that they find it more challenging to allow their students to take a greater degree of control for their own learning.

Meanwhile perhaps it’s more to do with left brain or right brain thinking, with (somewhat confusingly), left brain dominated teachers demanding a more logical, ordered approach in the classroom while right brain teachers are willing to take more risks?

But wait, what’s that I hear a traditional teacher saying?  “No, the left-right brain divide is yet another one of those many left-wing myths, which is why I just go on feeding kids facts from the front of the class…”

Well it seems it almost certainly is a myth, but that’s not really the point, because it has served a very useful purpose in getting teachers to be aware that the logical and the creative are equal partners that both need to be developed. What we really need to do is to teach all children to use all parts of their brain, wherever they may be, and get those parts to collaborate as much as possible

At the end of the day/lesson, the debate should not really be focused on whether traditional teaching is any better or worse that so-called progressive teaching, but simply whether traditional and more progressive methods are being applied well or badly in the classroom.

I don’t know why you say Hello, I say Goodbye.


Image credit: Flickr tza

One comment on “You Say Right and I Say Left, Oh No…

  1. Thanks for this, and I absolutely agree that some of the educational ideas which now have most teachers hooting with derision have often played an important part in raising our awareness of how people think and learn. We shouldn’t forget that.

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