Progs v Trads: EduTwitter and educational culture wars

A work in progress seminar with Steve Watson on January 11th, from 12pm to 1:30pm in Donald McIntyre Building 2S3. 

EduTwitter may be a uniquely British or even English social-media phenomenon, but it has, in the last five years been the site of extraordinary activity involving teachers, educators and consultants in an online engagement about state school education. Much of EduTwitter can be characterised as a culture war, with reactionary ‘trad’ teachers involved in a battle of words, memes and ‘hot takes’ with progressively-minded educators or ‘progs’. Early last June, an observer remarked, “It is nearly the summer holidays, or as it is known on EduTwitter, the six-week hate”. The range of controversies include curriculum, pedagogy, behaviour management, inclusion and epistemology, with socially conservative – socially liberal attitudinal divisions.

In this session, I will present an account of research into culture wars and their underlying social, cultural and political causes. I want to explore the political economic context, the crisis of capitalism, the affordances of technology and the group behaviours of (online) crowds and mobs. I suggest that this example of an online culture war has analogues in other domains and on other issues. It represents a fulfilment of people’s need for libidinal politics as part of the post-truth post-liberal consensus. While there are possibilities for left emancipatory politics, it is the far right that often benefits from culture war in that a simple but brutal politic provides an immediate response to affective political urges. This can also be exploited (and there is much evidence that it has been) by capital to preserve itself through provoking divisions in a potentially unified intersectional class-based material form of politics.