No, maths is not racist

Durham University’s plans to ‘decolonise’ maths are absurd, writes the Education Forum’s Gareth Sturdy in Spiked…

“…Decolonising mathematical knowledge effectively relativises it. That is, it opens the door to ‘ethnomathematics’ or ‘indigenous ways of knowing’, in which the value of knowledge is subordinate to the identity of the knower. The possibility of a mathematical proposition being true for everyone is ruled out. It suggests, instead, that there is merely a range of mathematical propositions, all of supposedly equal epistemic value. This is the mathematical equivalent of the ‘my truth / your truth’ belief that haunts contemporary culture in general…”

Read the full article on Spiked.

No, it’s not racist to teach kids to speak properly

Woke academics think standard English is a tool of racial oppression, argues the Education Forum’s Gareth Sturdy in Spiked…

“…The main problem with this approach is that it assumes learning to write or speak correctly can only be negative. And that certain children will encounter the demand to write or speak correctly as an insurmountable burden or barrier.

This is nonsense. Common standards for spoken and written language may well be somewhat arbitrary. And they can be used in a prejudicial way. But they need not be. Shared ways of speaking and writing express a shared way of life. A standard way of communicating has the best chance of being clearly understood by the greatest number of people, most of the time…”

Read the full article on Spiked.

‘Misogyny lessons’ have no place in primary schools

London mayor Sadiq Khan’s ‘Have A Word’ campaign could do lasting damage to small children, argues Gareth Sturdy in Spiked.

“…The most pernicious aspect of the campaign, however, is that it will affect how young boys think of themselves. It is telling them to regard themselves as having a crazed predator within. It is telling them they’re a kind of Jekyll and Hyde beast, who appears normal but is actually victimising girls without even being aware of it.

This message is unhinged. Does Khan really think blaming misogyny on innocent boys, barely capable of tying their own shoelaces, is acceptable?”

Read the full article on Spiked.

What’s really behind the rise of activist teachers?

We need to reclaim the classroom from political indoctrination, argues Gareth Sturdy in Spiked.

“…Zahawi is right to be concerned about the politicisation of teaching by activist teachers. But he is ignoring the role of the education establishment and the government in creating this problem.

After all, at last autumn’s COP26, it was Zahawi himself who launched a new science curriculum that would ‘put climate change at the heart of education’ and, crucially, encourage teachers and students ‘to take action on the environment’. And Zahawi’s predecessor, Gavin Williamson, was just as guilty of trying to politicise education, notably in his hamfisted attempt to force schoolkids to sing a politically inspired anthem, North Korea-style.

Arguably the most insidious threat of indoctrination comes from the state-sponsored programmes enforced by the schools inspectorate, Ofsted. Inspectors can put schools and colleges into punishing special measures if they feel schools are failing to teach ‘British values’, failing to report children as potential terrorists to the Prevent strategy, or failing to implement controversial moral advice on sensitive issues, such as consent, as laid out in the relationships, sex and health guidance…”

Read the full article on Spiked and join the Education Forum’s online discussion, Has Ofsted become too political? on Monday 21st February.

Keep gender-identity ideology out of schools

A primary school encouraging boys to wear skirts shows how trans thinking has seeped into schools, writes Gareth Sturdy in Spiked.

…equality between the sexes is not the main motivation of those calling for boys to wear skirts at places like Castleview. Rather, some trans activists have realised that they can use uniforms as part of their campaigning. For them, having boys wear skirts is a way of normalising the idea that gender is a social construct and a matter of personal choice.

You can see the appeal of schools, especially primary schools, to trans activists. Kids trust the adults standing in front of them in their classrooms. They believe that what the adults are telling them is truth, not opinion. At primary-school age, they have little to no capacity to take on board high-concept thinking and debate about gender stereotyping. They simply take it all in as gospel…

Read the full article on Spiked.

What Nadhim Zahawi must do to fix our education crisis

After the pandemic, the new education secretary has some extraordinary damage to repair, argues Gareth Sturdy in Spiked…

The role of education secretary is daunting at the best of times. Education is how we as a society pass on our most important knowledge to the next generation. It is how we socialise our young people into our values. Arguably, education secretary is one of the most important jobs in the British government.

But Nadhim Zahawi, who was made education secretary in the cabinet reshuffle last week, has an even more daunting task ahead of him. He has to reckon with the legacy of two academic years in which schools were closed and education was sidelined by his hapless predecessor, Gavin Williamson.

After the pandemic, the new education secretary has some extraordinary damage to repair. Here are five things he needs to focus on in order to rebuild our education system and rebuild trust with pupils and parents...

Read the full article in Spiked.

Opponents of Latin are the real elitists

Classics should not be the preserve of the posh, writes Gareth Sturdy in Spiked

…The programme has provoked considerable outrage from the liberal-left. Critics of the government say its focus on Latin is a sign of its ‘elitism’. But if ‘elitism’ is the belief that pupils’ backgrounds should determine which subjects are appropriate for them to learn, then the Latin Excellence programme looks like a challenge to elitism. Dismissing the idea that working-class kids might enjoy or profit from learning Latin — that is what is really elitist here…

Read the full article on Spiked.

Unions’ silence over Batley is shameful

Teaching unions have abandoned one of their members to the fundamentalist mob, argues Gareth Sturdy in Spiked…

…This spineless conspiracy of silence on the part of the unions amounts to tacit support of the protesters’ outrageous demands, and also to a betrayal of the trade-union tradition of standing up for the liberty of the common worker against the forces of conservatism.

This silence is in marked contrast to the strident, near-constant noise made by the unions in recent months, demanding that schools are kept shut during the pandemic. They even had the cheek, during the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, to insist publicly that ‘silence is violence’. Not when it comes to teachers’ jobs, it seems…

Read the full article on Spiked.

Let’s end the sidelining of practical knowledge in schools

After decades of neglect, educators and policymakers are belatedly realising just how important – and costly – the teaching of practical knowledge actually is, argues Gareth Sturdy in the Education Forum’s latest Teach Secondary column…

When I trained to be a physics teacher in the mid-1990s I never imagined that 25 years later I’d be working from a makeshift classroom at the back of a hair salon, surrounded by sinks and blow-dryers.

I’ve spent the last couple of years out of schools, mainly teaching hairdressing apprentices basic numeracy and literacy for Functional Skills qualifications in a work-based learning setting. It’s been a privilege, allowing me to meet many fantastic people who, despite struggling with the basics of primary-level learning, possess the acumen and skills needed to run very successful, fast-paced businesses.

And yet, I so often hear these people describe themselves as ‘failures’ at school. When I’ve asked my apprentices what they mean by this, they invariably give an answer along the lines of, “I wasn’t academic. So I’d sometimes get into trouble. I was just good with my hands. So I didn’t leave with many qualifications.” These conversations have made a deep impression on me, given my classroom background, and I soon came to realise that such narratives contained several PhDs’ worth of research questions.

How can someone spend over a decade in formal education, yet leave barely able to read or multiply? What do we actually mean by the word ‘academic’? Are teachers and students even talking about the same thing? Above all, to what extent is practical knowledge – that ‘being good with one’s hands’ – different from abstract, conceptual and propositional knowledge? Is there enough room for this approach to making sense of the world within the field of academic knowledge?

Read the full article on TeachWire, or watch the Education Forum debate that inspired it below…

Covid has exposed the rot in our education system

The speed with which children were abandoned shows how little we value education, argues Education Forum organiser Gareth Sturdy in Spiked…

In the space of a year, the government’s response to Covid-19 has attacked the foundations and purposes of our education system. It has exposed the education establishment’s attachment to social mobility as mere pretension. It has eroded the distinction between home and school life, and has confused education with passing on information. But this transformation could only take place because for a long time now education has been built on sand. Now that those weak foundations have been swept aside, as a society we do not have coherent or even agreed ideas on what should replace them…

Read the full article on Spiked.