Last year I wrote a review of Daisy Christodoulou’s Seven Myths book. You can read it here. I tweeted out the link to draw Daisy’s attention to it. She didn’t respond or comment at the time. I think it’s a balanced review and plenty of people have reinforced that view. There’s an opening section on all the things I agree with. It’s a blog review so, I’ve taken the liberty of expressing opinions and making a few assertions based on personal experience and analysis. Lots of if doesn’t ring true. That’s how I felt reading it. It’s a legitimate response.
Recently I read a post by Daisy that cited my review, dismissing my views with phrases like ‘the only counter-evidence he can bring to bear’ and so on – as if the same burden of proof for a big-publicity book applies to a humble blog post. I left a comment – but didn’t get a response. In this post and the next Daisy seems to be pretty worked up by my view of the book and seeks to destroy my case with logic. It reads like ‘I am so absolutely right in what I say based on all my hard work that even to question my very rightness is in itself so wrong that my rightness is therefore verified’. That’s not what it says; that’s how it reads. I call this the Dawkins Attack strategy. You’d have to be a Fool to argue. All the while – her argument is based on a false interpretation of my views.
Anyway, I received an invitation to attend a debate about ‘Myths’. I accepted; although it would be another evening requiring multiple arrangements to be made to accommodate it, I thought I should go. However, last week, I checked the invite and this time I noticed the footer to the email:
Hang on. Is this a debate? On second reading – a one hour discussion followed by a reception, chaired by someone who has already said that the book is unassailable – I wondered if it might be a PR event and nothing more. I contacted the ARK folk to express these concerns – especially given the logistical hassle of getting there at all. They tried to assure me that a ‘robust debate’ would be welcome. I wasn’t convinced and resolved to give it a miss given the uncertainty.
Then, on Sunday, an email arrived from ‘A Friend’. I’m not kidding. I’ve never had one of these before. An anonymous person shared a document that had been circulated to ARK attendees. Here it is. Key messages and possible audience objections or points misconstrued by press/others
For heaven’s sake! I was meant to attend a debate where an unknown number of people were given ‘prep’ for arguments I might make based on a complete misrepresentation of what I’ve written -as you can read for yourself.
What I actually say is this:
Even accepting that the myths are out there, I don’t think they go very far in accounting for low standards where they exist in the system in general.
So, what is this all about? Why the need to ‘win’ – as if this is some kind of fight to the death? As if lining up Dylan God of Gods wasn’t enough weaponry already! What debate is set against a background where whatever argument is made – it’s already been defeated – so don’t bother? All this from one pretty balanced review. Thank goodness I didn’t just slag it off completely.
I’ve asked for an explanation for the secret briefing and so far Daisy hasn’t responded and nor has the ARK Chair. Someone at ARK wasn’t comfortable with it and wanted me to know – but clearly didn’t feel it was safe to just tell me openly. That says something to me about the organisational culture. ‘A Friend’ – Thanks for letting me know. Of course it may transpire that the event this evening was a genuine opportunity for debate. I look forward to reading the reports. I probably missed a treat but I’m glad I wasn’t there. Loading up the defensive guns is no way to conduct an exchange of ideas. That’s my view. And it’s all good PR.
I know there is a massive Daisy Fan Club who are astonished that we’re not all falling over in raptures at the idea of a return to ‘teaching knowledge’ as if a lost art has just been rediscovered. But, believe it or not, there is another legitimate view – a) that this never went away (all my colleagues have been doing it for the last 25 years) and b) that learning is more multi-faceted than ‘Myths’ allows. It doesn’t mean that the myths don’t exist anywhere (is that too subtle?)
By chance last week I saw Laura McInerney tweet that her favourite ‘Myths’ review was one by Dr Kevin Stannard in the TES. It does a better job than I did. I agree with it all. I recommend reading it. I’m not the only one for whom the ‘Myths’ don’t ring true.