Friday, May 23, 2008

British student union rejects academic's IQ claims

The response from the Left has been a little more muted this time. No attempt to dispute the facts -- which have been well publicised at least since the work of Jensen in 1969, not to mention the big monograph by Herrnstein & Murray

Elite universities are failing to recruit working-class students because IQ is, on average, determined by social class, according to an academic. Bruce Charlton, a reader in evolutionary psychiatry at Newcastle University, claims that the greater proportion of students from higher social classes at highly selective universities is not a sign of admissions prejudice but rather the result of simple meritocracy.

Student union leaders responded angrily to his claim, which was also dismissed by a minister. Charlton's paper, reported today in Times Higher Education, says: "The UK government has spent a great deal of time and effort in asserting that universities, especially Oxford and Cambridge, are unfairly excluding people from low social-class backgrounds and privileging those from higher social classes. "Evidence to support the allegation of systematic unfairness has never been presented. Nevertheless, the accusation has been used to fuel a populist 'class war' agenda. Yet in all this debate a simple and vital fact has been missed: higher social classes have a significantly higher average IQ than lower social classes."

He argues: "The highly unequal class distributions seen in elite universities compared with the general population are unlikely to be due to prejudice or corruption in the admissions process. On the contrary, the observed pattern is a natural outcome of meritocracy. Indeed, anything other than very unequal outcomes would need to be a consequence of non-merit-based selection methods."

The National Union of Students described the paper as "wrong-headed, irresponsible and insulting". Gemma Tumelty, NUS president, said: "Of course, social inequality shapes people's lives long before they leave school, but the higher education sector cannot be absolved of its responsibility to ensure that students from all social backgrounds are given the opportunity to fulfil their potential ... many talented individuals from poor backgrounds are currently not given the same opportunities as those from more privileged backgrounds. This problem will not be addressed as long as academics such as Bruce Charlton are content to accept the status quo and do nothing to challenge the inherent class bias in education."

Sally Hunt, of the University and College Union for acedemic staff, said: "It should come as little surprise that people who enjoy a more privileged upbringing have a better start in life. However, research has shown that students from state schools outperform their independent contemporaries when they reach university." Bill Rammell, the higher education minister, told the Times Higher Education that Charlton's arguments had a definite tone of "people should know their place".

Source. Another comment here

Australia: Reading, writing and all things irrelevant

Curricula have become political footballs

THE social engineers are hard at it again in our schools. Now they have added gambling studies to the endless list of non-core subjects required to be addressed in a day that is something less than six hours long. Across the state, teachers' cupboards are bulging with "resources" on road safety, personal health, obesity, safe foods, civic pride, values, drugs and alcohol, multi-culturalism, child protection, life skills, bullying and anti-homophobia. There's even a program now to teach rugby league in primary classrooms, promoting NRL players as role models for students. Not long ago it was recommended students be taught how to prepare for bushfires.

Despite a stream of warnings, schools are drowning in a sea of worthy but non-essential subjects peddled by well-meaning but misguided people -- usually politicians. It is generally accepted schools should spend at least 80 per cent of their time on key subjects of the curriculum, while the remaining 20 per cent is shared between an exhaustive list of other activities. Governments love to trumpet the success stories of the education system but thousands of students are still struggling with basic work such as reading, comprehension and numeracy.

Sure, the mandarins at the Department of Education and Training will claim they are getting round the problem of subject overload by integrating disciplines so that more than one can be studied at once. The idea is the kids can bone up on their numeracy skills while working on a gambling program. Or some literacy work can be included in lessons on personal health. But even with double or multi-skilling, the school day is in danger of becoming so overloaded with non-core subjects that the depth and quality of literacy and numeracy has to suffer.

For some time principals have feared their schools are becoming a dumping ground for programs that amount to little more than "social engineering". A few years back one school leader calculated that more than 60 extra education tasks were proposed in a 12-month period -- most of them by politicians or community interest groups. Many teachers believe most of these are issues that should be dealt with at home and are hot in claiming that parents have been abrogating their responsibilities.

Over the next three days a million students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 will sit the first national assessments in literacy and numeracy. In a country as wealthy and healthy as Australia, good results will be expected. But our children and their teachers could be going into these tests ill-prepared. Maybe Prime Minister Kevin Rudd needs to call another 2020 summit to work out exactly how schools should be spending their precious time. Before all the programs piling up on their desks collapse under their own weight.


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