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June 11, 2007

Corruption of the Curriculum

This report from Civitas, Corruption of the Curriculum, will have all the right people frothing at the mouth.

The curriculum in state schools in England has been stripped of its content and corrupted by political interference, according to a damning report by an influential, independent think-tank.

Teenagers studying for GCSEs are being asked to write about the September 11 atrocities using Arab media reports and speeches from Osama bin Laden as sources without balancing material from America, it reveals.

In English, the drive for gender and race equality has led an exam board to produce a list of modern poems from around the world without a single poet from England or Wales being represented.

The new 21st-century science curriculum introduced last September substitutes debates on abortion, genetic engineering and the use of nuclear power for lab work and scientific inquiry, it says.

If anyone spots a full copy in the wild, let me know, although as far as I can see it's only in print. This I find highly amusing:

Martin Stephen, the High Master of St Paul's, a leading boys' independent school in London, warned of the "terrifying absence of proper science" in the new courses and said his pupils would be taking the International GCSE in the three separate sciences.

Well over half of independent schools have switched to the IGCSE in at least one subject, usually maths or English, because of the more traditional content and absence of coursework. But the schools were punished in last year's league tables because it was not recognised by the Government for use in state schools and passes were counted as failures.

Now if it's not an "authorized exam" I can see that it shouldn't be counted in the league tables, but to count a pass as a fail....well, who says people are at least trying to manipulate the curriculum?

Update. I'm told that there is no online version of this report. You, err, have to actually buy it. Apparently the information contained is so important to the body politic that only those interested enough to forgo a few pints should have access to it.

June 11, 2007 in Academia | Permalink


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It is worse here in the US, with the Secular Humanists and the teacher's unions both working to destroy the schools. [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 11, 2007 4:42:45 PM


Thanks. With these threats to the curriculum in the background, it's much easier to understand what has revitalised support for grammar schools.

Posted by: Bob B | Jun 11, 2007 9:54:41 AM

simply highlights that the private sector at least intends to educate children. It's not that the teachers are better (note Alan Johnson) it's just that they are not forced to peddle this cr*p. Like all well intentioned "laws" the NC has been appropriated by those that would rule over us. I hear that we (the taxpayer) have paid for thousands of copies of Al Gore's propaganda to be sent to state schools (all bought at full price naturally). Tossers.

Posted by: MARK T | Jun 11, 2007 10:28:47 AM

The new 21st-century science curriculum introduced last September substitutes debates on abortion, genetic engineering and the use of nuclear power for lab work and scientific inquiry, it says.

I wouldn't mind a copy either.

So far as the teaching of science is concerned my two main criticisms are:

a) 'combined' science - load of bollocks, IMHO. Give me physics, chemistry and biology.

b) if anything there has been, traditionally, rather too much emphasis on lab-based practical work and rote learning and not quite enough attention to teaching the philosophy of science and the intellectual foundations of the scientific method. My son's coming up to his GCSE year and its a source of absolute frustration to find myself having to teach him basic stuff like the difference between a scientific law, theory and hypothesis, simply because such thing aren't taught in the current curriculum - nor, more to the point, were they taught in my day either which shows an ongoing deficiency in science teaching that needs to be corrected.

Of the three issues cited by Civitas, the one I could justify including in the science curriculum is that of genetic engineering as this would provide a decent case study in ethics, which neither of the other two would. It's also on that basis, and that alone, that I could justify the inclusion of 'intelligent design' in the science curriculum. Its actually so intellectually bankrupt and vapid an idea that it would make an ideal case study for the teaching of the fundamentals of the scientific method - its an absolute gift when it come to explaining Popper's ideas on falsifiability.

Its a question of balance, in my view.

There needs to be some scope for the teaching of the intellectual foundations of the scientific method and for some of the philosophical issues that one encounters in all the scientific disciplines, but it needs to be done properly and provide students with a better understanding of the subject and not detract from teaching the core skills and knowledge.

Posted by: Unity | Jun 11, 2007 10:29:50 AM

In our local State schools a few years ago, only "combined science" was allowed, whereas a local private Girls' School insisted that every girl do all three of Physics, Chemistry and Biology separately. (Plus Maths, French, two English papers, a second foreign language ...). Eventually parent pressure got it changed in the state schools but it was a vivid reminder that state schools aren't really in the schooling business. Scrap 'em, I say.

Posted by: dearieme | Jun 11, 2007 11:15:32 AM

"'combined' science"

There's nothing wrong with the concept of combined science per se: there's huge overlap in chemistry, physics and biology (arguably they are just branches of physics - I think Einstein made this point once). But when the course was introduced the New Labour Outreach Coordinators got hold of it and ripped all the rigour out, leaving a useless piece of media studies in its place.

Posted by: Kay Tie | Jun 11, 2007 11:56:14 AM

Rutherford: all science is either Physics or stamp-collecting.

Posted by: dearieme | Jun 11, 2007 1:59:17 PM

As someone who did a GCSE in "combined" science not so long ago, I can attest that it is, or at least was, three entirely seperate subjects. These were taught and tested seperately. The aggregate of the marks was then taken and received as two GCSEs of the same mark. If one did separate sciences then one got independent marks for each science, more class time, and three GCSEs. One can argue the pros and cons of this approach but it isn't quite the lumping together of the sciences as it first appears. Rather it is the lumping of assessment. I used the GCSE it freed up to do Technology. So taking combined sciences allowed me applied science in addition to the academic.

Of course, as I stress, this was a decade ago. God knows what it's like now.

BTW, completely agree with Unity's comment. As someone who taught science in schools, it used to drive me to distraction that the students could define force or combustion but not science itself. I'm not claiming it's an easy question, but the inability to adequately attempt it showed how little of the philosophical underpinnings of the discipline had been taught. Without them, one is almost as at risk of pseudo-science and quackery as the entirely ignorant.

Posted by: Philip Thomas | Jun 11, 2007 3:14:32 PM

Well, the problem with the teaching of the philosophy of science on a state-mandated curriculum is that it would probably be drawn up by people who had never gotten past Popper, who was, let's be honest, talking nonsense.

Posted by: Marcin Tustin | Jun 12, 2007 12:31:19 PM

"Well, the problem with the teaching of the philosophy of science on a state-mandated curriculum is that it would probably be drawn up by people who had never gotten past Popper, who was, let's be honest, talking nonsense."

I think you mean people who had never even reached Popper, judging by such people's their frequent adherence to political belief systems that cannot be falsified!

Posted by: Nick | Jun 19, 2007 11:01:07 AM