7. Jul, 2016

"What did you Do?

“So, Derek, what did you do before you retired?”
Time for the Clinton evasion, “ I worked for Norfolk County Council.”
Why the evasion? Because I am ashamed at having been a High School teacher? Certainly not, but everyone has been to school, is therefore an education expert so thus qualified to tell me how I should have done my job.
Should that barrier be crashed, and “What did you teach?” Then I reply with the stark truth…“Critical Literacy!”
End of! But not, I hope for you readers of this Blog! First, definitions. Used in this sense, “Critical” does not imply negativity but rather “positive evaluation.” “Literacy” means not just reading matter but all our experience
… media, personal observation and contact, education etc.
Critical Literacy has three preceding levels…basic, functional and vocational. It is characterised by an instinctive questioning of all experience, most of all, ones own thinking. This is what I sought to teach, but through the medium of History.
“History” has many meanings…simply the past; do that again and you are history!; 1066 and All That. Here, however it means a specific range of academic skills….
-The difference between “Product” - that which we think we know and “Process”- how we find out what we think we know.
-accepting that all knowledge is provisional and incremental.
-Understanding the difference between deductive and inductive arguments
-Five specific skills… Understanding the nature of Causation, Change, Empathy, How to compare the work of contending experts and lastly the detection of Bias in evidence.
-I would argue that these skills are not only applicable to History but to every walk of life and that no one has the right to leave school ignorant of them because…
No one is truly free who is a prisoner of their own ignorance

So, in the light of the above, what questions should be asked of a current event?
Let us take this week’s Chilcot Report….
It has been generally accepted as a reliable research document but like any other it cannot provide the whole truth, only the best possible version of it.
It is a primary source of evidence but who has actually read it? From where does our knowledge come other than the media? Can the journalists writing so knowledgably about its contents have had time to read it in three days? (It is half as long again as “War and Peace”)
Such interpretations are secondary evidence. Are they not open to biased opinion?
How many journalists will copy the conclusions of other journalists and so start a round of Chinese Whispers which we will then dutifully repeat?
How many of them will give the page and paragraph numbers of the report on which their views are (hopefully) based?
How many of us had already formed our own opinions of the invasion of Iraq and then selected such facts and opinions as are available to fit in with our own prejudices?
How many of us have taken our daily newspaper and with a red marker pen deleted opinion words to just leave fact? (I have and interesting it was too!)
What were the motives of those involved and of the press reporting them with their noticeably biased slants?

When I have answered those questions, then and only then will I feel equipped to look for the truth. Until then I will retain my healthy scepticism.