Sunday, 13 October 2013

Cummings, Gove and intelligence


The outburst of hysteria by education un-expert Dominic Cummings about how genetics are the only determinant of intelligence is itself so ignorant that it beggars belief that this man got a degree at a respectable university himself. The senior management team at Durham must be wondering how they can counter the negative publicity of being associated with such an unintelligent and uninformed diatribe.  It is scary that Cummings, who appears not to believe in education, should have been employed by Gove at the Department for Education.

Cummings completely ignored recent research which clearly demonstrates how exposure to stress inhibits many important mental functions, I suspect this is something we will find out more about as more research is carried out in this area. However this research drives a coach and horses through his genetic determination of intelligence theory, and that is just for starters.

He also, unintelligently, argues that there are very few excellent teachers in the UK. In effect this is just an unsupported assertion, because he bases this idea on absolutely no data whatsoever. Again this is neither intelligent nor educated. Any fool can say something like that, but until he does so in a convincing way, with reference to actual hard data, he might as well be making caveman “ug” noises for all the validity his utterances have. Either the PGCE course on which I teach produces pretty much all the excellent teachers in the UK or he has based his figures on pure guesswork. Again, not a very bright thing to do.

But his doctrinaire and extreme right-wing educational obsessions pose a serious problem for Gove. Gove and his department have, over the last 18 months been engaged in what has amounted to a crusade to impose performance-related pay on teachers. But if one of his main advisers is telling him that teaching, in effect does not matter, that children’s intelligence is determined by genetics, then that seriously undermines Gove’s case for performance-related pay for teachers. If any given child’s educational performance is pre-determined from birth then teachers can do very little to change this, their performance has no bearing on educational outcomes. If this is the case then performance-related-pay is never going to deliver any improvements in education at all, ever.

The fact that Gove has not repudiated Cummings’ views suggests that he does not disagree with them, so we have to ask why, in that case, has he introduced PRP, when it cannot work?
There are two possible answers to this; firstly that PRP is not designed to improve educational standards for children, as we have been told; it has some other purpose (such as divide and rule, cutting the amount teachers are paid, giving heads a tool with which to control and manipulate teachers, etc). The second is that Gove is, apparently like his adviser, ignorant of the contradictions within his own ideology.

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