Negativity

This has been a restful bank holiday weekend. Nothing wildly exciting was done, but batteries have been fully recharged. I have also spent a fair amount of time online, not least because I’m organising my first education event – BuffetEd – and this requires me to get the message out to as many people as possible. While I have you here, do yourself a favour and book a ticket. It’s going to be great!

However, I have been struck yet again by the negativity on edu-Twitter. It’s nothing new, but it is ugly and demoralising, and oh how I wish it would stop. Let’s start with exhibit A, a tweet by a so-called inspirational headteacher in a discussion about pupil behaviour.

Quite apart from the breathtaking arrogance, there’s mocking condescension here towards the thousands of teachers in this country who are struggling daily with poor behaviour, often through no fault of their own. Such boastful comments, so obviously designed to wound, are the type common to the playground bullies who afflict many vulnerable children in our schools. That they are being made by a headteacher, I find shocking and incomprehensible. That some people have seen fit to like and retweet even more so.

Let us move to the next one. After a big DfE announcement that Tom Bennett will be leading a £10 million initiative on behaviour, there was the inevitable pile on against him, and as usual, it got personal. This little gem of a tweet invited a whole host of responses from others, wearing #BlockedbyBennett as a badge of honour and indulging in character assassination. I have no issue with those who would question the DfE’s decision or disagree with Tom’s views on behaviour, but for goodness sakes criticise the policies, not the person.

And then we come to this one, directed personally at me. As mentioned already, I am organising an education event, a small one called BuffetEd, my very first foray into this type of thing. Of course I want people to buy tickets. An event without people is not much of an event, and the venue has to be paid for. So I set up a Twitter account for BuffetEd and started promoting it through a series of tweets describing what it was about and linking to the Eventbrite page.

It didn’t take long for someone, who I have previously had some unpleasant encounters with, to send poisonous darts towards my new endeavour and warn off others about it by making the unfounded claim that it is aping/riding on the coat tails of BrewEd and that the event has a “commercial interest/pedagogical bias”.

For the avoidance of doubt, the so-called commercial interest involves me taking the opportunity presented by my own event to give out free copies of some teaching resources I have written. As for pedagogical bias, I have no idea how this could possibly be levelled at my event, and not say at any other event (BrewEd included). I have invited people in education to come and speak freely about a topic of their choice. Several people have contacted and are on the diverse list of speakers for the event. But no, that wasn’t the end of it. Next, my history booklets came under scrutiny.

As my mother always used to tell me, if you have nothing positive to say then don’t say anything at all. Why so much effort to cast aspersions on my motives and my output? Why try to shoot down my honest hard work?  I’m sorry to say, but it comes over as a bit mean. And I’m tired of all the negativity. I get that we don’t all agree with each other’s education viewpoints, and that my strongly held views on some issues are not shared by others. So what? Live and let live. Be kind.

Given it is the start of Ramadan, one of the holiest months in the Islamic calendar, I think it fitting to end this blog with a well-known verse (surat Al Kafirun 109) from the Qur’an, which perfectly encapsulates the present dilemma if we substitute the word “religion” here for “educational ideology”.

In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful.

Say: “Oh, you who disbelieve!
I do not worship that which you worship,
Nor do you worship That Which I worship.
Nor will I worship that which you have been worshipping,
Neither will you worship That Which I worship.
To you your religion and to me mine.”