Teachers Lack a Respect for Authority – The Challenge of Collaboration in Learning

The Independent is reporting today that “Too many teachers have no respect for authority and are hampering schools’ attempts to improve standards”. Chief schools inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, warned that “head teachers are being ‘undermined by a pervasive resentment of all things managerial’ by some of their teaching staff’, and that “some teachers simply will not accept that a school isn’t a collective but an organisation with clear hierarchies and separate duties.”

So it’s back to the days of the manager knows best and has the absolute right to manage! This pervasive culture of executive management has effectively taken over our public services during the last thirty years and has brought about an intense level of corporate instrumentalism in the delivery of learning and other public provision. No longer are teachers, parents and children allowed to have their own independent view of the world and the relationships that govern it. Instead their thoughts and concerns have to be subsumed to the corporate and brand imperatives that self-serving cadres of executive management regard as being de facto requirements for running a modern organisation – instrumentalism, transactionalism, cultural-reductionism and collective amnesia.

So any sense of collegiality, cooperation, collaboration and innovation gets tossed away in the interest of the corporate brand, the Whitehall dictat and the cult of the leader. Instilling a healthy disrespect for authority and for hierarchy is essential for good teaching. The expectation that we should Think for Ourselves is what fuelled innovation and progress in Western society since the Enlightenment. Why should independent thinking be stymied now, just as information and communication technology is changing the way that share and spark debate and knowledgeability, giving us new ways to appropriate and exercise ideas, information and creative thinking.

Contemporary teachers are exposed to the routines of scientific management and Taylorism like never before, and yet we don’t seem to be reaping any kind of reward in the underlying status of our culture. The UK still lags behind our competitors in performance indicators for basic literacy and numeracy skills. Perhaps if people like Sir Michael Wilshaw spent their time challenging the absurd and increasing inequalities in British society, in which a smaller and smaller social elite gain the rewards, and an even smaller global elite live in obscene opulence, then we wouldn’t need to condemn or berate teachers for wishing to exercise their conscience and practice a more collaborative, collegiate and cooperative approach to learning.

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