Review by Harry Fletcher-Wood

24 Apr 2015, 6:00

Harry Fletcher-Wood picks his top blogs of the week 20 April 2015

Miss, is it true you’re a feminist?

By Summer Turner @ragazza_inglese

In this post, Summer Turner sets out to discuss sexism and education. It’s a bold step because, she notes: “of the 2,726 tweets I’ve sent, the only times I’ve been lambasted have been the three times when I have mentioned sexism”.

She speaks out, however, because of the incessantly sexist messages in some sections of the media, quoting Ros McMullen’s argument that: “Sexism is draining. It’s the cumulative effect that matters.”

She sees this in her students, who “arrive at school, tattered copy of the Metro under their arms. I know they have already started the day with these messages unconsciously filtering into their minds.”

Turner highlights specific concerns in schools, including the disproportionate absence of women in leadership positions and the constrained discussions of issues of gender and equality.

She offers three suggestions: empower students to challenge the status quo, think about what they say and what they accept as norms; teach about great women and stand up and speak.

In all, this is an excellent post on an underappreciated concern.

Life Scientific Podcast

This podcast offers two interests: firstly, for the perspective it gives on Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s “Life Scientific” – an unusual one, as she grew up in the firing line of militant animal rights activists targeting her father and sought to establish herself as an academic without falling under his shadow. Second, it showcases her research into the teenage brain, which shows the continuing development adolescents go through long after their brain was thought to have reached maturity. It helps to explain why teenagers take risks and are subject to peer pressure.

Election 2015

By @disidealist

Having seen a recent post attain national attention and feature in Emma Hardy’s recommendations last week, a recommendation for the writing of Disappointed Idealist is perhaps unnecessary.

Of the thousands who read his attack on SATs, I hope some clicked one post back and read his on-and-off diary of the school election he is organising. His sharp descriptions of the first actions of student political parties is enjoyable: “The Lib Dems started plotting a highly localised campaign of targeting different year and form groups with different messages” while the Greens “struggled to appoint a campaign manager, as nobody wanted to be seen to be too pushy”.

Offering instalments on an infrequent basis – like the most recent on opinion polling that discovered: “The only consistent part is that the poor old Lib Dem supporters are looking rarer than popular Ofsted inspectors” – this is highly recommended as offering both light relief from, and commentary upon, the national campaigns.

5 signs it’s time for a new job

By Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

Finally, it’s that time of year again: not just exams, but resignation deadlines. If you’re vacillating over your future, and making a jump this year, this post may help.

The author notes the research arguing that “people often stay on the job despite having negative job attitudes, low engagement, and failing to identify with the organisation’s culture”.

In response, he offers a brief checklist of reasons to leave, including “You are not learning”, “You are underperforming” and “You feel undervalued”.

Under each heading, he links to studies of these specific predicaments that may offer some guidance for the perplexed.

Finnish fair stories

By Tim Oates

It has been interesting to see Finnish schools re-enter the limelight from a fresh angle in the past couple of weeks. In this fascinating piece, Tim Oates takes on widely-held beliefs – “fairy stories” – about Finnish education and critiques them thoroughly.

For example, he addresses the belief that “the national curriculum in Finland is very general and allows schools a very high level of autonomy”.

Although this is true, he notes that government control over a range of other areas of schooling more than compensates for this. The government decides the amount of curriculum time to be spent on specific subjects and, during Finland’s ascent of the PISA tables, the country had “state-controlled textbooks”.

Oates highlights the effect of rigorous and extended teacher-training and notes the national search for consensus that preceded key educational reforms. In short, “Far from ‘permissive, divergent autonomy’ this would best be described as ‘specific social consensus’.”

He concludes: “There’s a dark side perhaps, but no eternal truths in the last decade’s fairy stories about Finland’s education system . . . people have been seriously misled by stories told by people who have looked at Finland through their own, restricted lens. The real story is more subtle, more challenging, and far, far more interesting.”

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