chapter  7
20 Pages


In the previous chapters we have sought to show that evaluative deliberation lies at the heart of professional expertise; while it should certainly be acknowledged that teachers need technical skills of communication, management and organisation for effective classroom practice, such skills are meaningful only within larger contexts of professional judgement in which evaluative considerations are paramount. First, as already indicated, it is not just difficult but impossible to identify or characterise conduct as expressive of a professional skill of, say, discipline without reference to normative considerations – for what could count as punishment on one conception might not so count on another; but second, by the same token, it is hardly possible to determine on some neutral grounds of technical effectiveness whether a given mode of conduct – for example, corporal punishment – counts as educationally appropriate discipline, for there are no such neutral grounds. Appeal to facts or evidence alone will not tell us which of a range of rival or competing educational strategies or policies is correct, and, since education is a contested concept, we have to acknowledge that there are seriously competing conceptions of education and teaching. On the face of it, this is a very serious difficulty; perhaps the most serious conceptual difficulty facing contemporary educational policy-makers. It is, indeed, just a special case of a general problem about value and public policy with which the best post-war minds of moral and social theory have grappled; for if no appeal to hard objective fact is available to help us decide between two alternative – even contradictorily opposed – evaluative perspectives, must it not be the case that our educational judgements

are purely subjective and that there can be no rational gainsaying of any proposed concept of education? Despite the awesome difficulties of this problem, we nevertheless need to consider in this chapter what might be said by way of countering any such disastrously sceptical conclusion.