Bioethics Blogs

Guest Post: Is it cruel to make children sit and work in silence?

Written By David Aldridge, Oxford Brookes University

This is a cross post from Dave Aldridge’s blog

 

Ahead of a talk to be given at the Institute of Education, Tom Bennett, behaviour guru and figurehead of the ResearchEd movement, invited questions via twitter that he hoped he could address in his seminar.  One tweeter asked “Is it cruel to make [children] read/ write/ think in silence?”  Bennett’s response on twitter was a one word, “no”, accompanied by this picture of guffawing muppets.

The subject of this particular post is not twitter etiquette or one particular exchange, but rather the implication that it is acceptable to consider this question about cruelty to be out and out laughable.     Bennett’s response is representative of a widespread return, particularly amongst the ‘edublogger’ community, to ‘traditional’ approaches to education, in response to a perceived failure of a ‘progressive’ project in which a child’s autonomy is supposedly prized above all else.  The story goes that allowing children to discover by themselves, without the hindrance of attempts by those wiser than them to transmit valuable and hard-won knowledge, or to discover their moral code free from external constraint or imposition, has bred a growing number of illiterate and morally reprehensible youths unable to improve their own social situation. The implication is, I suppose (although no argument was offered on this occasion) that it is far from cruel to impose things on children that they do not want or enjoy when we know what is best for them, and that we should laugh away any suggestions that it might be, for the educational good of our children.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.