Tuesday, May 27, 2008

don't dumb down cambridge, smarten state schools up

It appears that an evolutionary psychologists, bless them, like Bruce Charlton, have caught up with the reality that if you are clever, then there is a reasonable chance that you will be able to get a well-paying job. And your children will see that if Mum and/or Dad has a well-paid job, seeking a well-paid job for themselves would be a better course of action than taking something that pays washers.

It seems to have taken them some time to come to this conclusion. Personally, hailing from a working-class estate in Glasgow from which the "working" was being rapidly subtracted due to drugs becoming entrenched in the area, it didn't take me that long to work out that if I wanted children with a cat's chance in hell of making their way in the world, I'd need to move out. The gateway to that was to apply oneself like a constipated rabbit.

What they seem to be saying is that there's no need to adjust the entrance cArchbishop Desmond Tuturiteria to universities such as Cambridge and Oxford, because all this produces is a way for genetically inferior people to access [gasp] education. In other words, don't teach the children of poor folk certain things. Archbishop Desmond Tutu contextualises this self-same situation in his own background by speaking of "education for perpetual serfdom. There were subjects in the history syllabus that you were not supposed to teach blacks because it would put bad ideas into their head. Don't teach them about the French Revolution. Don't teach them about the American war of independence, they might get bad ideas."

AnotherJames Watson evolutionist recently got himself into hot water in matters realting to education and intelligence - James Watson (left), who discovered DNA with Francis Crick by stealing material from Rosalind Franklin, got himself into hot water last year by saying:

"A priori, there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual abilities of people geographically separated during their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of mankind will not be enough to make it so".

Although it doesn't quite seem to be coherent with the Independent's headline "Fury at DNA pioneer's theory: Africans are less intelligent than Westerners", Watson's crime is is obvious - he has failed to sacrifice at the altar of the liberal notion of equality by saying something like "we're all the same in the end" - an assumption most eloquently disabused by the title of the 1992 Wesley Snipes film, White Men Can't Jump.

So is there a need to make the Oxbridge entrance criteria easier?

The problem is, Cambridge and Oxford Universities are finding themselves under pressure to dumb down in order to admit more working-class entrants. Maybe it's me, but I found that the way out of an area in Glasgow that was like Hell with rain was education, both formal and self-directed: so what's wrong in asking state schools to smarten up?

Greater academic discipline in state schools would have several effects. It would give kids a better chance of passing the Oxbridge interview - or passing the tests for the local tech, or enjoying a good book when they got home from the factory/call-centre. It would let teachers finish the day with a feeling of self-respect. And, in raising the bar, it would enable resources to be targeted towards those kids who are genuinely unable to rise to the level of the bar, because they would be more easily identified.

And, if working-class kids were able to hold their own in Oxbridge on Oxbridge's own terms, it would expose some evolutionary psychologists as the snobs, and possibly worse, that they actually are.

Related posts:
another attack on excellence
two plus two makes learning

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