Gove Rigour & Really Useful Rigour
Opining that the Spurs defence could do with more rigour on twitter- a response to Arsenal fan Michael Rosen- led to the unpleasant thought of Michael Gove and Rigour.
For the Education Secretary the Enemies of Promise [if you are reading this he means YOU] are also those who introduce a lack of rigour into study with trendy notions of relevant teaching that engages students.
Gove’s view of rigour is a ‘body of knowledge’ approach to education. That is there is a set amount of facts that need to be shovelled into the brains of students. These facts consist essentially of what was taught in public schools in the 1950 and 1960s when the current Cabinet were attending them.
Rigour here, Gove style, means making sure that traditional approaches to study based on ‘fact’ are carried through without being impeding by teachers [often with beards] who are trying to engage and interest students. Rigour Gove style is about austerity in the classroom, most definitely not the joy of learning new things.
There is however what might be called Real Rigour, or perhaps after the educational historian Richard Johnson, Really Useful Rigour.
This is not about the themes of 1968, forty-five years ago. Letting a thousand flowers bloom, letting it all hang out and all that was tremendously liberating and opened a Pandora’s Box of ideas and strategies, but rigorous it was not. No doubt Gove would agree, at least with the last five words.
Neither does rigour mean, much as I might want to argue that it should, adherence to some kind of scientific Marxism. Debates on this remain important ones, but not really for the classroom.
What it means, and certainly the test I apply as the convenor of the socialist history seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, is that research should involve the testing of ideas, questioning of research materials, conclusions provisionally reached and then revised as needed.
Alternatively it might mean none of the above. It might mean simply the putting forward of an idea or a line of thought together with an admission that it is just that and requires actual research to test it out.
Notice here rigour is not a passive subject, something to be done to students. Rather really useful rigour is an active process, something to be tried out and tested.
It’s something a self-respecting Education Secretary would support. But then there is Michael Gove.