What if the man behind a popular theory in education turns out to be a creep

I seldom post a post on both my Dutch and English blogs, but sometimes I make an exception. This is such a case because I learn from the reactions.

This week finally came something out that I had been hearing through the rumour mill for a while. A reasonably well-known professor from Leuven, Belgium, within my own field of research, was convicted of raping a female student. Articles in the press suggest that there have probably been more victims. I received private messages from several women over the past few days that they were not at all surprised because of this news.

But… the man is also known for an educational model with ‘high impact’ that is being used in several schools and institutes. What should these schools do now?

This is a difficult question. A few years ago, when I pointed out in a blog post that some well-known pedagogues from distant history had been anything but do-gooders, I got pretty angry reactions because many of these names still stand for a particular type of education today. The advantage of these names, though, was that they are long dead, and you could partly frame their (wrong) ideas or behaviour in their time. But what about someone who is alive today and appears to have done very wrong?

You could argue that you should just look at the ideas and not the person or 1 of the persons behind the ideas. But what if that person appears to have psychopathic traits or was at least described by a court as a sexual predator? Yesterday I received this rhetorical question:

To what extent can there be a relationship between the reliability and quality of his investigation and his objectivity given his character as revealed by the verdict?

– Gerdjan Kipping (@GerdjanKipping) October 21, 2022

It’s like Michael Jackson or Kevin Spacey. Are you still allowed or able to enjoy the music or the acting? Do the songs become inferior, and the acting suddenly bad? I have this issue myself with the case of Bertrand Cantat, the singer of the French band Noir Desir. Meanwhile, you do occasionally hear his old hit again on the radio without the reference to the deceased actress. At the same time, when the singer got out of jail and wanted to go back on tour, most people reacted this went a few bridges too far. But also, few people still think of the convicted Chuck Berry’s sexual misconduct when they hear his music. And I could go on like this for a while.

To further complicate matters, there is the problem that even though the professor himself was the model’s poster boy, he was certainly not the only name working on it. So if we ban his work, won’t his colleagues become a victim too?

If you think I am going to end with a grand conclusion, I have to disappoint you. In fact, it’s something that still got me puzzled. What do you guys think?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.