Trad v Prog: a false dichotomy?

I was walking down a street in London today when I saw the tree in the photo I took, above. (Apologies for the Prisma-fication, by the way… the addiction is apparently treatable if caught early enough…)

And as I drove home this evening it started to occur to me that the tree v fence image was an interesting metaphor for the apparently insoluble Trad v Prog debate raging on Edu-Twitter. Martin Robinson wrote this post 11 months ago about the apparently intractable tension between the two, maintaining that there is in fact no dichotomy – “the classroom can’t be both subject-centred and child-centred.”

Bear with me, now. Let’s say the fence is the determinedly traditionalist teacher, founding his or her approach on a rigorous, predetermined adherence to a curriculum of the “greatest that has been thought, said and done”…in a setting  which places the emphasis upon order, control and a predominantly didactic style. 

But I would propose that the tree is the learning of a class of children, at first reaching towards those thoughts, sayings and deeds, but then growing past them, messily and unpredictably, with some growth heading in one direction, some in others. 

And surely the “greatest that has been thought, said and done” must by definition evolve with human progress, not remain firmly entrenched and stubbornly rooted in the past?

But I would actually maintain that there is a way to have our cake and eat it, here; just as the fence has allowed the tree to grow, so the tree has not torn the fence from its foundation. In contrast to Martin I would propose that “traditional and progressive can happily co-exist” in one classroom… and I am going to keep trying to prove it…

I would be very interested in what others have to say in response to my tree-based metaphor!

I am Groot

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