The Order of Things #3

Workshop debriefing: The materials arranged in order of presentation and how they tie in with the objectives of the session:

STAGE 1: UK Education – past/present/(future?)

Objective: enquire into issues of the current system to arrive at systemic issues.


  1. Ibrahim Lawson Keynote #1 on the birth of Modernity and the chaotic fall of the grand narrative; sets the tone.
  2. Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms (selections); brings the dark side of utilitarian, mechanistic Modernity into the context of education
  3. 4 texts on the changes in the sixties (not used); if necessary to create a bridge from teacher-centred “old school” to sixties radical ideas of student-centred classrooms.
  4. Teacher talk: a personal experience; how the experimental classrooms of the seventies created children without boundaries.

Ken Robinson RSA industry

STAGE 2: What’s the Purpose of Education?

Objective: to discuss the purpose of education in late post-modernity society, now devoid of cohesive narratives.


  1. Film clip: American History X: Immigration rant; an extreme example of how depersonalised,** skills-driven, child-centred learning. (Before watching this video clip, first ask yourself if you agree school should create students who are well-read, committed and personally courageous, inspiring, posses initiative, historical/political insight, concern for his/her community, oratory skills, be committed and personally courageous and be able to apply knowledge, critical thinking,  to access and apply facts and statistics and  form independent opinions).
  2. Film clip: The Last Visible Dog, cutting just before the white light (what the author of Trivium 21C  calls the “destructive” why*)


STAGE 3: Muslim education: History and Purpose

Objective: to discover Islam’s educational ethos and history, especially it’s focus on character and community building over and above, but not devoid from skills and compare this with the above issues


  1. Ibrahim Lawson Keynote #3 on approaching Islam thoughtfully; asks for a re-thinking of autopilot presumptions that have landed us all in the current mess.
  2. Online presentation: Dr. Amjad Hussein on Islamic History, 21.09.13. Read transcript created as a Jigsaw Puzzle alternative to the video (Video copyrighted – follow for updates on this issue). At each key juncture in the presentation, students would get a chance to process the information in the teams, but now naturally drawing parallels to the foregoing critique of the current systems impersonal and morally void focus on attainment.
  3. The Norwich Academy School curriculum as presented to the DfE by the Muslim community of Norwich; a view as promised “into the boiler room of contemporary Muslim educationalists” this gives a practical example of some of these ideals brought to life in a uniquely English setting.

STAGE 4: Who are you? – crisis of identity, crisis of ontology

Objective: to discover epistomology and ontology are the levels we need to work on first,  and that Muslims have something to offer here by having that overarching narrative that ties all aspects of man together (see link to Amjad’s material above).


  1. Ibrahim Lawson Keynote #4 on the goal of philosophy, or thinking about thinking by introducing the fact that European educational history could easily have gone down a very different path, exemplified by Pestalozzi and Comenius.
  2. Film clip: The Last Visible Dog, cutting just after the white light beyond the whys; prepares for a thinking exercise advising Mr Gove on where the future of UK education lies; hopefully with discovering a higher purpose than the A-C band of GCSEs! (some of these recommendations will be published here later).
  3. Film clip: The Last Visible Dog, cutting just after “Papa, it’s us!”; bringing it full circle and closing the workshop on a positive note.

teacher's note

Looking at the objectives versus actual outcome as students formulated their combined knowledge to map out the future of UK education: while all of the teams seized on the various aspects of Islamic education, none of the teams actually grabbed the final presentation on ontology as crucial to generate narratives that would underpin the character building and community ethos. As one of the four objectives I had decided I wanted them to “discover”, this forms an interesting angle to the discussion of teacher as a managing manipulator vs. the teacher as an interactive facilitator –   I am planning to close this series of workshop debriefing with the ambiguously titled post “Teacher Taught a Lesson”. It’s absolute evidence that the teacher is in fact always and forever learning and no amount of management or technique will change that.


*)  “…a certain amount of questioning can cause most things to collapse under the weight of absurdity – as any parent will know when they try to answer every ‘why’ thrown at them by a curious child in their indefatigable and destructive search for meaning.”

Martin Robinson,  Trivium 21C  p. 24.(Read this book – available on Kindle)

**) One of the less obvious points in the fill is that the moment “education” steps in, it is not in the form of the state school system, but a single history teacher who actually gives enough of a toss to personally step up and draw a line in a real and human encounter, where there is clarity about who is the child and who is the adult with life experience.

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