Culture Curriculum politics

The Strange Case of Frank Furedi

Piggy bankAbout fifteen years ago I was leaving the Education Show at the NEC passed a sign saying ‘please take one’ and a stack of The Times Education Supplement. A teacher in front of me turned to her colleague, out of school for the day, and asked “Do you want a Times Ed?” to which her colleague replied, “No, I’ll never read it.”

At the time I felt exasperated but I try to be less judgemental these days. I have been a reader of the Times Educational Supplement all my professional life, and not just the staff-room copy for the job adverts. It used to have a wide range of reports and articles, cartoons, and resource reviews. I even wrote a few. The paper has changed, of course, and so have we all. It is now TES and owned by venure capitalists trying to replace it with a digital model, without much in the way of journalism, of churnalism, of dumbing-down and of user-driven content. I was getting increasingly irritated by the pro-government and anti-teacher stance of the editorials, although the person concerned has now left.

So, as less money is coming in I have reduced the sums going out and ended my subscription. End of an era.

As happens, in one of the last copies to arrive I spotted an interesting article. I have often said that curriculum making has mostly been about adding content – and that by external commentators with an axe to grind. Our current curriculum review has an SoS axe to grid in making certain aspects more dominant but, generally, it has sought to reduce the detailed content. To me, it always felt like demands to add to the curriculum content should be matched by what should be given less emphasis. And the article that caught my eye wasn’t quite doing that, but was challenging a current ‘fad’ for mindfulness. I agreed with most of this article. It is light-weight but it is a school holiday issue. Mindfulness is an interesting concept but that doesn’t make it transferable into schools as a solution to whatever problem is identified. My eye was caught by the author, no other than Frank Furedi, a frequent media contrarian on education and other matters. Note that he is a retired professor, a sociologist and at a university which never had an education department. (No geography either, so doubly useless in my world of east Kent.)

Frank Furedi (2014) ‘Mindfulness is a fad, not a revolution’, TES magazine, 19 April 2014

Last autumn Frank Furedi popped up with a line about educational research (see link below). He seems quite reasonable in dispatching a few currently held views and none-too-subtly promoting subject knowledge. However, his website doesn’t address questions about his past. Or current organisational links.

The Strange Case of Frank Furedi

The Centre for Media and Democracy
There are similar wiki-like sites carrying the same information including referenced below.

George Monbiot (1998) ‘Far Left or Far Right?’ November 1998, Prospect magazine [George Monbiot takes a number of intemperate swipes at Frank Furedi and ‘conspiracy’ in various other items on his site.]

Brendan O’Neil (20o7) ‘Humanising politics – that is my only agenda’ Spiked-Online, 25 April 2007 [Spiked-Online picked up where Living Marxism or LM stopped publishing so they are old mates.]

Wikipedia entry on Frank Furedi

Frank Furedi
Note: this site seems to start with a clear slate at 2000.  It doesn’t refer to the earlier publications or ones written as Frank Richards or Linda Ryan. See for examples such as

Frank Furedi (1999) Courting Mistrust: the hidden growth of a culture of litigation in Britain, Centre for Policy Studies
(The CPS, right-wing think-tank, keeps this publication on their website as a pdf.)

This is the same person…

Frank Furedi – speaking at ResearchED 2013 – questions the instrumental turn of pedagogy – where the question of what works displaces that of what children need to know. (30 minute video)

Background to this talk (and I note he is not on the programme for 2014)
Frank Furedi (2013) ‘Keep the Scourge of Scientism Out of Schools’, Spiked-Online, 9 September 2013
Furedi criticises ‘methodologically naive’ education research, Times Higher Education, 15 September 2013

Making connections

Frank Furedi wrote the introduction for “Corrupting the Curriculum” by Robert Whelan (ed) (2007) published by Civitas, the free enterpise think tank. In it, there is a chapter by Alex Standish  now of the Institute of Education, London (see my blogpost) who also writes for Spiked-Online. Both are involved in the Institute of Ideas, another libertarian outfit, whose director is Claire Fox, formerly of Living Marxism.

Curious. These relationships are ripe for exploration by an education journalist. Not just once but being ever vigilant in observing the interplay of these individuals, groups and who funds them. Just the sort of independent mind they used to have all those years ago at The Times Education Supplement. Gone, but not forgotten.

So, exploring this TES article wasn’t such an unneccesary departure after all, was it?

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