It seems like that naughty Mr Gove has been talking out of turn again, displaying his profound and worrying lack of knowledge about the facts of education. In his most recent speech he stated as facts that racial minorities are disadvantaged by internal assessment, you can’t be creative unless you know everything there is to know, and that tests make you happy.
Elsewhere it was reported that, in response to a statement by Sir James Dyson that too many teenagers were studying the lives of French lesbian poets at university, Mad King Gove wittily retorted that Sir James was an example of the sort of anti-intellectual strain that was currently pervading British culture, cleverly revealing his complete ignorance of the way in which the new products and services we urgently need are created.
The first fact that needs questioning is the extent to which racial minorities are disadvantaged by teachers when marking coursework. There does not appear to be any clear evidence to support this statement, and most teachers would point to examples of racial minorities often scoring more highly than male white children. It is anyway also in teachers’ interests to mark absolutely all children up, rather than down, and quite reasonably, if inaccurately,assume that the moderation process will make the result fair in comparison to national standards.
But the main concern is Gove’s clear lack of understanding of creativity. To suggest that one can only be creative after one has learnt all the facts is a popular misconception of those who have little awareness of the process, as anyone who has observed the creativity of primary school children and compared it to the narrowness of thought of secondary school students will confirm. If anything, the reverse is true – it is creative thinking and exploration that leads children to want to acquire knowledge.
And finally there is the absurd propaganda about passing examinations making children feel happy and raising their self-esteem. Of course it does, but what about the larger, non-academically orientated majority that is left feeling inadequate failures? At the same time, Gove needs to produce some evidence to support his curious belief that if you make an exam harder, significantly more students will pass.
But perhaps what is most worrying is that for all his private school and Oxbridge education, Gove has yet to realise that in reality there are of course no such things as facts, just commonly believed and accepted notions that are in a state of constant,and increasingly rapidly, change.
Now, is that a fact?