When it’s from a faith school, and the exam boards have redacted all questions about evolution from the exams, in order to respect religious sensitivities.
Unfortunately, it’s not a joke.
Here’s the article from the Sunday Times (paywall) which broke the story about exam board OCR removing questions about evolution from the science GCSE papers at Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School, a Jewish faith school in Hackney. And here’s a freely available summary of the story from the BBC.
Other commentators have suggested that 10 is describing a belief in deism, the idea that god is an unknowable, ineffable entity who created the universe but who has not interfered since – and therefore cannot be the personal god of Judaism, Christianity, or any other revealed religion. Her mention of the “Big Bang Theory” and the phrase, “it happened” do seem to suggest some concept of deism or theistic evolution in which god set the fuse on the Big Bang, and then left “it”, ie the entire subsequent history of the universe, to happen as science understands it.
The poor framing of 9’s question reveals its rhetorical nature. If it were a genuine enquiry, it wouldn’t need the first clause. “How did the first single-celled organism originate?” is a perfectly good question, clearly and accurately stated, and easily googlable. If 9 really wanted an answer to it, she could have it in seconds. So either she doesn’t want the answer, or the answer is too hard. I’ve already accused 1-8 of not wanting the answers, so for a bit of variety, let’s be generous to 9 and suppose she does want the answer, she’s tried looking it up and she still doesn’t understand.
And WHAM, straight in with the most instructive message of the lot. This guy isn’t engaging with the facts. He doesn’t even want to engage with the facts. For him, it’s not a factual issue at all, but a moral one.
A bit of a break from India for a minute, while I deal with some idiots on Amazon.
I’ve just finished reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. It was the 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and it’s been raved about ever since. Normally I avoid anything with this much hype, but I decided to take a risk on it. Also, I needed a new book, and it was one of the few literary novels stocked by the Indian bookshop, among its stacks of get-rich-quick self-help tomes and Osho tracts.
It was a good decision. The book is, quite simply, terrific. It’s one of the best things I’ve read for years, and I’d zealously recommend it to anyone.
I’ve just read some of the reviews of it on its Amazon UK page, and a lot of people are criticising it for its bad grammar.
The Campaign for Real Education is a pressure group which aims to raise standards in state education in the UK. It is not politically affiliated, although its proposed changes to education policy – grammar schools, a return to a ‘traditional’ teaching philosophy and increased parental choice – are more typical of right wing or conservative agendas.
The chair of the CRE is Chris McGovern. The organisation’s bio notes list his experience as including 35 years as a state school history teacher, independent school headmaster and Ofsted inspector.
McGovern appeared on BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme this morning, to discuss an academic paper published in the Economic Journal. The study analysed primary school performance data to show that, contrary to what some might expect, having a high proportion of pupils from non-English-speaking backgrounds in a school class does not reduce its performance.
I’m not going to discuss the paper, nor the CRE’s policies. I would just like to quote some of McGovern’s responses to the paper, and leave open the question of his credibility as an educational advocate.