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Removing the Wings

September 16, 2015

When we remove the wings from airplanes, we render them incapable of flying. In the case of teaching and learning, in order to fly, we need to remove the wings.

The Spectrum

As a Social Studies teacher, I spent many lessons going over the political spectrum and the core features of the left and right wing with my students. Generally, ideologies which are right of centre value tradition and the status quo. These ideologies value individualism and limited government intervention in the lives of the people. As well, equality of opportunity where every individual has the opportunity to succeed without the help of the government, is a key feature. In addition, competition plays a key role in these ideologies.

Ideologies to the left of centre are often viewed as progressive due to their desire to see change to society. These ideologies value equality of condition where the government plays a larger role in society to ensure the needs of the populace are met. Consequently, these ideologies value collective responsibility. That is not to say that individualism and competition are absent left of centre. It does mean, however, that government structures are used to promote the greater good.

The Wings in Education

What I find interesting about this is how the left win and right wing find their way into discussions about teaching and learning. As I see it, individuals who hold a more right of centre view about education value traditional teaching methodologies and want to see little change to the system. In addition, they value a system built on competition and individualism, where the role of teachers and schools is to ensure all students have the opportunity to succeed without specialized supports (think equality of opportunity).

Individuals who approach teaching and learning from a left of centre approach value collaboration over competition. THey want to see the education system change and move away from traditional teaching practice. There is also a desire to ensure all students have what they need to be successful by providing individual supports (equality of condition).

The Middle Ground

It is time we remove the political spectrum and the wings from teaching and learning. We need to focus on what is best for the students we have in our classrooms. On some days for some students traditional, explicit instruction approaches may work best. At other times, more progressive non traditional methods may be the best approach. But this decision should be left to the teacher in the room. They know their students and what they need.

The debate raging about traditional vs. progressive teaching and learning draws attention away from the real issue which is the student. I can quote research to support both progressive or traditional teaching practices but that isn’t the point. The point is, education leaders and teacher educators need to ensure teachers understand both sides so they can best meet the needs of the kids in their rooms. After all, we are all in this together.

Have a great day,


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