Ten Principles of the New Traditionalism

“We shall fight on the beaches . . . “

1. Going back is the way forward.

After decades of decline, it’s time to learn from the simple, effective methods that produced mass literacy and social mobility in Britain at the turn of the last century.

2. We’ll take the best of the past.

We don’t need blackboards, canes or grammar schools, but we do need to master subjects using memorisation, and we do need to pass on literate culture to everyone.

3. Don’t be afraid of the ‘T’ word.

Knowing the past gives us strength to move into the future. Being stranded in the present leaves us disorientated and vulnerable to fads, fashions and snake-oil salesmen.

4. Memory is the mother of wisdom.

If it’s not in your long term memory, you can’t think clearly with it, any more than you can express yourself well in a language you don’t speak fluently.

5. Mind and voice, paper and ink . . .

And nothing else, until it is scientifically proven to promote thinking, remembering and articulating more effectively than the methods that produced Shakespeare, Dickens, and Churchill.

6. Character counts.

Self discipline and hard work count for more than anything else in the long run.

7. General knowledge first.

A broad schema well learned makes sense of all that comes later.

8. Intelligence is not fixed.

The more you learn, the smarter you get.

9. Everyone can be articulate and knowledgeable.

There are no difficult words, and no difficult facts: only the ones you know, and the ones you don’t know. Language and knowledge are available to the whole human race.

10. Bad ideas kill schools.

Because we want the best for our pupils, we will fight tooth and nail against progressive ideas that destroy the teacher’s authority and belittle the value of knowledge. This is a battle for the intellectual life of those in our charge.


7 thoughts on “Ten Principles of the New Traditionalism

  1. Thank you, thank you for your blog. It is heartening to see many teachers’ blogs emerging that don’t “buy into” progressive educational ideology. I particularly liked your blog post on parents wanting clarity. At present, in Australian schools, the muddier the waters the happier the teachers are. A friend of mine got in trouble the other day because her daughter dared to bring home a maths book and her mother actually got to have a look at the class room work! The teacher was furious…was it because she felt exposed? They speak of transparency and then do their utmost to hide our children’s work and results from us. AS a parent it is maddening. Keep up the great work. Wish my kids had a teacher like you.


    • Thank you for your kind comments. It can be very frustrating for parents when teachers become secretive. But don’t forget that they often become like this because of a poisonous culture of spurious targets, surveillance and distrust within schools. A system designed to serve bureaucrats does not serve teachers, parents or pupils.


  2. Yes, I understand what you are saying. It seems to me that a lot of the more “subversive” ideas about education are coming out of the UK. I read that the UK has moved towards a knowledge-based, rather than a skills/inquiry based, curriculum now. Is that the case? Have you noticed any difference? In Australia many of our teachers are very much wedded to the inquiry-based pedagogy, which is not at all surprising since that is what they learn at University. They elevate skills over knowledge. I now homeschool my eldest daughter as I couldn’t believe the lack of learning that was happening in school. I’m hoping high school is better but I fear it may be the same.


    • It has become more acceptable to promote knowledge and direct instruction, but the dominant orthodoxy among many teachers and university academics still favours child centred, inquiry based methods. One doesn’t reverse decades of decline in a few years, but at least we’ve started moving in the right direction. Primary schools are proving to be the slowest to change. Have you read The Quirky Teacher’s blog?


  3. Pingback: De tien kenmerken van traditioneel onderwijs - Beter Onderwijs Nederland

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