No wonder the education system is fucked

Michael Gove held talks with a leading scientist who believes that genetics, not teaching, plays a major part in the intelligence of schoolchildren, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

That seems like a useful belief to have. Given that we usually define intelligence as that innate thing which is then educable.

Mr Gove’s policy adviser, Dominic Cummings, provoked outcry yesterday when it emerged he had backed Professor Plomin’s research that genes accounted for up to 70 per cent of a child’s cognitive abilities.

Outcry? What? For the various twins studies do show something along those lines. Intelligence is heritable: we wouldn’t be the human race if that were not true.

Note that saying that something is heritable does not at all mean that it is entirely or only so. But it is indeed heritable as is blond hair and blue yes. So why outrage?

The research is contentious because ministers and educationalists have long believed that any child, from whatever background, can achieve the highest academic ability.

You what? You mean the education system is based on a simple lie about the nature of human beings? No wonder it’s entirely fucked then, eh?

Why blame inequality?

Just a quick scan of the countries that fared really well in all three categories (Norway, Sweden, Japan, Finland and the Netherlands) compared to the countries that fared really badly (America and Britain) gives a pretty good indication that the inequality that is rampant in the (allegedly) dumber nations might have something to do with their pitifully low scores.

If people aren’t being educated might we not take as our first postulate that they’re being shovelled into a really crappy education system?

We’ve got your social mobility right here

Nearly half of pupils from poorer backgrounds whose private school fees were paid by the last Tory government are now earning at least £90,000 a year.

More than 75,000 children took part in the Assisted Places Scheme, which ran for 17 years from 1980 before it was abolished by Labour.

A study revealed ‘virtually all’ have gone into well paid professional and managerial positions, including more than 40 per cent whose annual pay is £90,000 or more – nearly four times the national average salary of £24,000.

Escaping the soft bigotry of low expectations in the state sector seems to work then.

Ho hum.

Cut teacher\’s pay now!

Primary school teachers in England are among the youngest in the world but they still earn almost £4,000 more on average than their counterparts across the rest of the OECD.

The average salary for a primary teacher in the OECD countries was £24,690 in 2011, compared to £28,660 in England.

The report found England\’s primary teachers delivered 684 hours of lessons in 2011, significantly below the OECD average of 786 hours.

In Chile, teachers spent 1,120 hours in front of their classes, while teachers in the United States clocked up 1,097 hours of teaching time in 2011.

They\’re getting
more pay for fewer hours…..and I seriously doubt that anyone thinks that the education system is better. Clearly we should cut pay so as to be average.

For isn\’t that what we\’re repeatedly told? That we should indeed be like other places in our pay and equality and so on and on?

The property crash was the state education system\’s fault

People with poor maths skills are more likely to be behind with their mortgage payments and have their home repossessed, according to a study.

It shows the risk of defaulting on a mortgage is directly linked to a home owner\’s maths skills and could explain the mortgage defaults in the recent global crisis.

The State has them for 11 years on a compulsory basis and still can\’t teach them to count.

Therefore it\’s all the State\’s fault. Hang them all say I, hang them all.

Why in buggery should they?

Private schools should support their state counterparts instead of operating in ‘splendid isolation’, according to the head of Ofsted.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said that independent headteachers should be helping struggling comprehensives nearby before opening schools in other countries.

Tesco should make sure it opens in Dudley before it tries Dallas should it? Rolls Royce should make damn sure there\’s a water turbine in Dursley before sending the salesmen to Delhi? Unilever should make sure every baby in Brum has Pampers before selling them in Durban?

What fucking nonsense is this?

Blimey, if we\’re going to have a \”right wing\” education revolution could we at least start with getting the people running it up to speed with the idea of free markets?

Bath\’s a very expensive city you know

The son of a Chinese government official was jailed yesterday for trying to bribe a British university professor with £5,000 to pass his degree.

Yang Li also took an imitation firearm into the meeting with the don and another senior academic at Bath University.

A court heard that Li, 26, was studying a masters degree in innovation and technology management and feared failure.

He was dismayed to learn he had been given just 37 per cent for his dissertation which was a fail – and would have meant him spending an extra year at the university.

That would have affected Li’s visa which he was hoping to upgrade from a student visa to a tier 1 visa.

Li, who was born and educated in China, asked to meet Professor Andrew Graves and Dr Stephen Shepherd to discuss his options.

Bristol Crown Court heard he told the pair ‘I am a businessman’ before placing £5,000 in cash on the table.

£5k just doesn\’t cut it I\’m afraid.

I\’m also amused by the Mail\’s photo. It\’s of a student dorm in the centre of town rather than of the uni itself. And no, it\’s not the student dorm the bloke lived in either.

Polly visits a school and Polly on statistics

This is great fun. All is well in our schools because:

I was assigned to Chris Brolly, a Teach First-er in his third year. His 12- and 13-year-olds have been inventing a product – bottled water – and it\’s my task to help them write a press release. Can they create their own USP, write a grabby headline, hold the fleeting attention of a journalist, persuade with seductive language?

Yes, because 12 year olds are being taught how to write a press release.

Then there\’s Polly\’s famed connection with statistics:

But only a third of pupils who get good GCSE grades are on free school meals. A YouGov poll finds most voters don\’t think poorer children will ever get an equal education. Gove, calling for payment by results, cited Singapore\’s high-achieving school system, \”where expectations are higher\”. What he didn\’t say is that Singapore, like top performer Finland, is one of the most equal of developed nations. As his government drives up inequality, his schools face an ever tougher task compensating for the society they inhabit.

We generally measure inequality by Gini. 0.25 or so is Scandinavian style lots of equality (I am using the figures after the impact of the tax and benefit systems, of course). Above 0.35 or so is about the US and worse than the UK, 0.45, there\’s only one OECD country that bad, Chile, above 0.50 or so is Brazilian style oligarchy.

Singapore? 0.473.

Finland is in there with Scandi style 0.26 or so.

So, we seem to have one of the most equal and one of the most unequal countries managing to provide a very fine education to the kiddies. We might thererfore conclude that inequality is not the determinant of providing a fine education. Death of Polly\’s point, eh?

Presented without comment

Nick Clegg has signalled that he may send his eldest son to a private school, potentially sparking controversy about his commitment to state education.

The Deputy Prime Minister said he would put his children’s education first and would not overrule the wishes of his wife or son for ‘political reasons’.

Shock Horror! Parents want children to be professionals!

Ethnic minority students \’forced into medicine and law\’
Teenagers from ethnic minority families are coming under excessive pressure from parents to push for medicine and law degrees at top universities, the Government’s higher education access tsar has warned.

Blimey. That certain minorities push children into the professions. Such a shocker isn\’t it?

Never mind that it\’s been the mainstay of Jewish jokes (ie, jokes told by Jews, not necessarily about them) for well over a century. That more recent immigrant groups, Hindu and Chinese for example, follow suit just isn\’t all that much of a surprise. You manage to make landfall in a new society, work your fingers to the bone doing the scut work as that recent immigrant. You look around and try to identify the cushy spots and encourage your children to go for them.

Christ, it\’s such a fucking cliche that Tom Clancy uses it as a plot device. The Vietnamese widow running a 7-11, all of whose children are in pre-med or law school.

Willy Hutton on postgraduates

So what? There are no votes in this issue. Few care. Yet this is one of the fastest-growing components of the British workforce. More than 11% of thirtysomethings hold some form of postgraduate degree, increasingly imperative if you want to build a career in anything from the media through medicine to hi-tech business. There is proper and enormous focus on widening access to university for disadvantaged minorities for first degrees, but first degrees are no longer the passport to economic and social mobility that they used to be. The knowledge intensity and cognitive demands of a growing number of jobs today require intense intellectual training and the growth of postgraduate degrees reflects that reality.


Certainly possible to look at it all as credentialism. Now that 50% go to uni for a first degree, we need some other method of sorting the wheat from the chaff. Thus the rush to postgraduate degrees as in the US.

To which the obvious solution is to cut back first degrees to 10-15% of the population and we\’re done.

The rest of it is how much more government money should be spent on this vital university sector.

Will Hutton is principal of Hertford College, Oxford

Fancy that, Willy Hutton is calling for subsidy for Willy Hutton. I am shocked.

Err, what?

School leavers will be encouraged to skip university and train for highly-paid jobs as lawyers, bankers and accountants in a new wave of “professional” apprenticeships, a minister discloses today.

Hasn\’t this always been true?

Certainly, you used to be able to do articles as a trainee solicitor or accountant without having a degree. So what\’s this Tory burbling about?

One advantage of student loans

Students now can\’t even afford to go to a demo

Barbara Ellen: Could the low turn-out be anything to do with the terrible state of the student grant system?

Students are now paying for their education. The idea that this is a problem, that they prefer to get educated to shouting in the streets of London, doesn\’t actually seem like a problem to me.

You know, people pay for a pizza and they eat the pizza, not go windsurfing. Pay for an education and get educated. Far from this being a problem I see this as a benefit of the system.

Maths Test!

OK, so I haven\’t actually done this test.

But I know how I\’d do each of the questions with pen and paper, or with mental arithmetic. Most of it\’s pretty simple.

And percentages are easy to anyone who has ever worked as a waiter (calculating that tip!).

Except for questions 13 and 14. Haven\’t a clue. I would get all of the others right, no doubt about it. (Well, alright, I might make an error which can happen to anyone but I know what\’s going on at least.) But those two, wouldn\’t even know where to start.

I sorta, roughly, know what a log is. But how to manipulate them or calculate with them? Not even a chocolate button of an idea. I assume we must have done them at some point on the way to a maths A level and an economics degree but it certainly didn\’t stick.

The complete Brad Delong argument

Indeed. If you let the congressional majority do dynamic scoring, then because each successive majority builds its own assumptions about what is good for the economy into its model-building, you get a strong drift over time toward larger and larger deficits. The ban on dynamic scoring is a way of eliminating that destructive dynamic.

The reason we cannot let the politicians tell the truth about the effects of taxes is because politicians are lying bastards who would lie about the effects of taxes.

This sounds like it would be a very good idea indeed

Union boss: Coalition free schools \’risk fuelling fascism\’
A teaching union leader was criticised today after claiming that Coalition education reforms risked fuelling “organised fascist activities” in schools.

And why not? There\’s certainly nothing stopping people from teaching the little darlin\’s about the joys of communism, that other murderous ideology of the 20 th century, is there?

And we do believe in rationality, the ability of the populace to appreciate, consider and choose between political ideologies. That\’s why we have elections.

So we should indeed allow fascism to be taught in schools, just as we allow other political ideologies to be taught. After all, it would be anti-democratic not to, wouldn\’t it?

Peter Wilby\’s solution of Oxbridge exclusivity

Suppose Oxford and Cambridge were to ask every state school to identify, at 15, its brightest pupils academically (one, two or three, depending on size). Suppose those pupils were given every possible support and guidance in A-level subject choice and teaching. Suppose they were invited annually to week-long summer schools where they could form their own peer networks of solidarity and support.

We have a word to describe such a practice.


Oft considered a no no in our famously egalitarian education system.

Hell, why not go the whole hog. Take the 10% who might possibly get there and stick them in a different school?

We could call them grammars.