Democracy, education and plastic intelligence

rogertitcombe's picture
 8

This is an abridged version of the full article which can be found here.

Politics and education are inseparable and always have been. This is clear from the history of education in the UK. The expert is Derek Gillard. A very good example, with many modern parallels, can be found in the work of the nineteenth century educationalist Richard Dawes, which is described in this article.

 Universal state funded education began in the nineteenth century and its advance was vigorously opposed at every stage by conservative politicians. The reason is clear and was summarised by Jeremy Corbyn’s quotation from Shelley during his speech to thousands of young supporters and admirers at the Glastonbury Festival of June 2017.

 Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many – they are few.

 It is mass education, or rather ‘education of the masses’ that has driven the advance of democracy and the relentless extension of the right to vote, but I argue that three events in 2016 and 2017 have now focussed attention onto the nature and purpose of state education and how the subversion of democracy is being facilitated in the US and in the UK through the corruption and degradation of national education systems resulting from the ideology of neo-liberalism and marketisation. The three events in question are the EU Referendum in the UK (June 2016), The US Presidential Election (November 2016) and the UK General Election (June 2017). In all three, the forces of conservatism reduced their election campaigns to popular, repetitive, one dimensional sloganising in an attempt to exploit the lack of higher cognitive function (Kahneman’s System 2 thinking) in a large proportion of the voting population. The evidence for this is clear in the differential voting patterns related to levels of education.

 Brexit

 A breakdown of the EU referendum data has shown that  those with lower educational levels were much more likely to vote for Brexit. Almost half of the local authorities which counted votes provided demographic information to the BBC. Analysis showed that how people voted was ‘strongly associated’ with how far they went with formal education. This link was higher than any other measure from the census, including age and ethnicity. I wrote about the educational implications of this pattern here.

 I argue in my articles and in my book, ‘Learning Matters’  that school pedagogy should be focussed onto helping the maximum proportion of students to progress through the Piagetian concrete/formal barrier, because then they will not only be able to understand say, Newton’s Laws of Motion, and other hard stuff in other subjects, but crucially the rational arguments and principles that increasingly underpin all aspects of life in an increasingly  complex, technological society. This includes economics, which, like the scientific concepts of weight and inertia, make cognitive demands at the formal operation level.

 There were two main ‘dimensions’ in the EU leave/remain election campaign.

The first was ‘immigration’, with less immigration assumed to be good, more immigration assumed to bad. This is not only easy to understand, it resonates with very deep evolutionary fears. For all but our most recent hominid history the greatest threat to survival and that of our children was from the ‘tribe over the hill’ that has a tendency to attack your tribe, kill the men and boys, carry off the women and girls into sexual slavery and plunder your assets. Racists have always played on such primitive fears, often with great success.

The contrary argument; more immigration good, less immigration bad, can also be made, but it is much more complex. It involves Piaget’s formal operational thinking, which can also be characterised as the dominance of the rational (Kahneman System 2) over the instinctive/reactive (Kahneman System 1) mind.

 Then there is the second dimension: trade with Europe good, trade barriers with Europe bad. This involves complex economics and is clearly in the formal operational thinking/ Kahneman System 2 category. Even if this is a sound argument, it has to be balanced in the mind against the immigration dimension. Immigration is like the weight of an object in your hand. It can be directly sensed. It is ‘concrete’. The economic argument is like the inertia of the object. It cannot be sensed without deeper conceptual understanding. Its existence must be reasoned by means of a formal cognitive process by applying Newtonian scientific principles. So for concrete operational thinkers ‘immigration’ will always trump ‘economics’, while for formal operational thinkers the economic arguments are likely to prevail.

 Hence the higher the level of education, the more likely ‘leave’ was supported over ‘remain’.

 The US Presidential Election

 In the US presidential election it appears that educational levels were the critical factor in the shift in the vote between 2012 and 2016.

I discuss the educational implications of this result here. The Canadian, ‘Globe and Mail’ published an analysis of the characteristics of Trump and Clinton Voters.

They conclude as follows.

The vote laid bare a sharp divide on education. Ms. Clinton fared better among the more highly educated, winning among college graduates and holding a substantial lead among those who had done postgraduate study. Those with high school or less, as well as those with only some college, preferred Mr. Trump by large margins.

 According to Pew Research, Mr. Trump’s margin among whites without a college degree, 67 per cent to 28 per cent, is the largest since the presidential election of 1980.

 The UK General Election

Before the UK General Election of June 2017, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, had been systematically undermined by most of his own MPs and misrepresented, ridiculed and demonised by the UK media. This is from a research report by the respected London School of Economics.

 The results of this study show that Jeremy Corbyn was represented unfairly by the British press through a process of vilification that went well beyond the normal limits of fair debate and disagreement in a democracy. Corbyn was often denied his own voice in the reporting on him and sources that were anti-Corbyn tended to outweigh those that support him and his positions. He was also systematically treated with scorn and ridicule in both the broadsheet and tabloid press in a way that no other political leader is or has been. Even more problematic, the British press has repeatedly associated Corbyn with terrorism and positioned him as a friend of the enemies of the UK. The result has been a failure to give the newspaper reading public a fair opportunity to form their own judgements about the leader of the country’s main opposition.

It was not just the overwhelmingly Conservative supporting print media. The UK state BBC TV was also guilty as pointed out in this Guardian article.

So when Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May announced a snap General Election for 8 June 2017 it was widely assumed by the entire UK commentariat that Labour would be defeated in a landslide that would massively increase her majority and authority in the House of Commons. In the event Labour gained rather than lost seats from the Conservatives and Theresa May lost her majority in a devastating shock reversal of expectations.

The broadly accepted explanation is that Jeremy Corbyn managed to motivate a high proportion of young voters and especially university students and graduates. The age and social class profiles of the Labour voters are set out in this Guardian article.

 Voters crossed party lines, challenging traditional class-party loyalties. Middle-class votes swung to Labour, which increased its share of ABC1 voters by 12 points compared with the previous general election. However more working-class voters came out for the Conservatives and the party increased its share of the C2DE voters by 12 points.

 The educational attainment profile follows the social class groups with the Conservatives attracting most of the lowest social class groups (with the lowest educational attainment).

 The only thing that went wrong with the crude, populist Conservative strategy that had worked so well for the Brexiteers and for Donald Trump was that Jeremy Corbyn achieved a much higher turnout of young, better educated voters than has happened in the past.

 So what have these elections to do with national education systems? I write about this here.

 There are many clichés in ‘edu-speak’. A very common one is that schools should enable students to ‘reach their potential’. It implies the notion of fixed intelligence, whether conferred through genetic inheritance at birth, and/or determined by the quality of early years parenting. It is a ‘let off’ for secondary schools, enabling them to opt out of any responsibility for raising the intelligence of their pupils as they progress through the school, on the basis that this is either ‘not possible’, or not the main business of schools, which is a combination of filling heads with knowledge and providing discipline and training so as to maximise their employability.

 This leads to a tacit assumption about the process of teaching and learning in schools, that conforms with that promoted by the ‘Global Education Reform Movement’ (GERM) that is increasingly finding its expression in Charter Schools in the US, and in England in the Academies and Free School movement.

 The converse of this notion, ‘Plastic Intelligence’, opens a door into a quite different educational paradigm that can and should empower and inspire both students and their teachers. It is increasingly being described as a ‘growth mindset.

 ‘Plastic Intelligence’ is explained and promoted in my book, ‘Learning Matters’, and its manifestations, in the form of a synthesis from a number of different ‘real world’ learning contexts, are described and explained here.

 Plastic Intelligence really is a very big deal in the world of education because it provides the ultimate refutation of GERM.

 See the longer article for a full development of this argument.

 The greatest concerns lie with the nature of the marketised model of education that is increasingly being inflicted onto our children by Academisation in the UK and the parallel ideological forces that spawned and exported it from the US.

 This too is fully explained in the longer article.

 The national education systems of England and the US continue to fare badly in the international PISA assessments. My analysis of the results of the latest (2015) PISA round and its update can be found here and here. I use a fresh approach validated by international academics of the highest standing. The articles need to be studied in order to grasp their scope and significance. There is clearly very little to be positive about that is for sure. Even more depressing is that the frantic pace of ‘reform’ is to be stepped up with more testing, more Academies and Free Schools and with more selective grammar schools in England only belatedly abandoned after the Conservative’s disastrous 2017 General Election result. It would be hard to come up with proposals to make the English national education system worse.

The most important implication for the UK and US education systems is the key role of cognitive ability in driving higher attainment. This needs more of the well-proven developmental pedagogy that the ideology of marketisation is replacing with knowledge-focussed rote learning and behaviourism implemented by computer-based instruction and testing, all enforced by ever more draconian and abusive systems of harsh discipline.

 More importantly in the context of this article we are increasingly not equipping our school leavers and future adults with the cognitive abilities needed to resist the efforts of populist conservative politicians to manipulate our democracy. The Labour Party is proposing a new, ‘National Education Service’. This needs to support the potential of ‘plastic intelligence’ throughout life and will require the recognition and abandonment of the marketisation reforms that have afflicted the UK since the 1988 Education Reform Act and New Labour’s creation of independent Academy schools.

 

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agov's picture
Sun, 02/07/2017 - 12:43

Tosh.

"It is mass education, or rather ‘education of the masses’ that has driven the advance of democracy" - Apparently not in China despite you seeming to be so keen to tell us how genetically superior, more intelligent, and better educated the Chinese are.

"the subversion of democracy " - Translation: awful ordinary people dared vote as they wanted for their own benefit and not as they were ordered by, and for the enrichment of, the misruling class.

"the forces of conservatism reduced their election campaigns to popular, repetitive, one dimensional sloganizing" - Because it's not like any other party would ever try to do anything like that. Never anything brainless or trite like 'Let us Face the Future Together'; '13 wasted years'; 'The Labour Way is the Better Way'; 'The New Hope for Britain'; 'Britain will win with Labour'; 'It's time to get Britain working again'; 'Britain Deserves Better', 'New Labour, New Life for Britain', 'Things can only get Better', 'For the Many, not the few'; 'Ambitions for Britain'; 'A future for all'; 'Britain forward, not back', 'If you value it, vote for it'; 'Britain can be better'; 'Labour In for Britain'; 'For the Many, not the few'.

"Analysis [of the Referendum] showed that how people voted was ‘strongly associated’ with how far they went with formal education. This link was higher than any other measure from the census, including age and ethnicity." - And it's not like 'higher' education places these days are so numerous they beg people to take them; people who you spend much time telling us have qualifications of little value, and who often seem to so many to be intellectually not Chinese. How wilfully ignorant these smelly old people are for not having taken up the places that didn't exist back then.

"immigration...primitive fears" - Because it's not like thousands of British children have been raped to the total indifference of the police and the Labour Party because they were only working class and white.

"Then there is...economics" - Because it's not like anyone has direct personal experience of job loss or wage compression because of mass immigration. Or that the claims of massive boosts to GDP are now rarely made as they are so clearly false. Or that the fallback position of claiming improved GDP per capita has not been shown to be minimal at best and even that by relying on dubious assumptions.

"In the US presidential election it appears that educational levels were the critical factor" - Because it's not like the educated rich are happy to keep the poor as poor as possible to keep the cost of nannies and home helps low.

"Jeremy Corbyn was represented unfairly by the British press" - The poor thing. It's not like he was supported to the hilt by the biased al-Beeb, Channel 4 and other propaganda broadcast outlets of the hard left. And obviously da yoof derive their news solely from their intense study of the daily press. Why people would make up claims about them getting it all from Facebook is hard to comprehend.

Oh wait -

"BBC TV was also guilty" - Apart from the this bit: "the Trust also said that there was no evidence of bias or of intent on the part of the senior BBC journalist". But then it's not like there's even the slightest reason to wonder whether Corbyn has ever "associated" himself with "terrorism": assuming you exclude all 100 possibilities - https://order-order.com/2017/06/08/100-times-jeremy-corbyn-sided-terrori...

"it was widely assumed by the entire UK commentariat that Labour would be defeated" - In common with probably most Labour members and everyone else.

"Jeremy Corbyn managed to motivate a high proportion of young voters and especially university students and graduates" - Perhaps the Tories should end their support for Labour's policy of imposing tuition fees on students?

"The only thing that went wrong...was that Jeremy Corbyn achieved a much higher turnout of young, better educated voters than has happened in the past" - So absolutely nothing to do with the Tories running probably the worst election campaign ever including a direct attack on their own core vote. Or the collapse in third party votes especially UKIP but also affecting the SNP and the Liberals. Or that Jeremy Corbyn spiked the Tory guns by agreeing with what had been intended to be their central line of attack (i.e. Britain to leave the EU, and the single market, and the customs union) thereby making it safe for leave voters to vote Labour - though it seems the not-Chinese yoof vote still hasn't noticed or understood the views of the Left. (And the al-Beeb fake news outlet has now clearly commenced an entirely fraudulent campaign to pretend Labour, i.e. Corbyn, campaigned to stay in the EU etc.) And it is entirely irrelevant that (to quote John Curtice, someone who may just possibly know what he is talking about) "Labour has lost this election as badly as Gordon Brown did in 2010"; making it three losses in a row. Or that the hated Blair got 43.2% of the vote in 1997 with a swing of 10.2% while saintly Jeremy got 40% with a swing of 2%.

"we are increasingly not equipping our school leavers and future adults with the cognitive abilities needed" - Still, no doubt you know best what with all your factual accuracy.


agov's picture
Mon, 03/07/2017 - 12:38

Oops.

Despite, or possibly because of, checking, revising etc this "massive boosts to GDP" got through when it should have said 'massive beneficial boosts to GDP'.


rogertitcombe's picture
Mon, 03/07/2017 - 15:11

Hello again agov. I will take your comments in the order you made them. 

"It is mass education, or rather ‘education of the masses’ that has driven the advance of democracy" - Apparently not in China despite you seeming to be so keen to tell us how genetically superior, more intelligent, and better educated the Chinese are. 

Free state education was first introduced in the UK. This was indeed the world  historical driver of universal suffrage leading to the US Declaration of Independence. If you read my PISA links you will note that I am very critical of the Chinese education system. On my IQ, mediated analysis, it is 39th (Hong Kong), 45th (Macau) or 47th (Tapei). I make clear that China and other East Asian countries that top the raw PISA tables do because of the very high mean IQ (106) of Chinese children. The education systems are appalling as any experienced teacher would recognise. All my IQ mediated PISA analysis does is take account of mean cohort IQ when judging raw performance. If you were looking at the exam results of any Academy school that uses CATs based admissions, you would use these to mediate the mean GCSE results of each admission band, would you not? The method I have used is sound according to international academics. None have challenged it. 

As for why Chinese and other East Asians have such a high IQ, it cannot be because of the education system, because this is terrible. All the evidence is that it is genetic. I too am out of my comfort zone here, but there is no doubt about the mean IQ superiority regardless of where the students are educated. This high IQ is also documented in the US and UK education systems where ethnic Chinese students do outstandingly well. See this source. 

http://akarlin.com/2012/08/minorities-cognitive-performance-in-the-uk/ 

It gives UK children of Chinese ethicity mean standard scores of 101 (verbal), 109 (Quantitative) and 112 (non-verbal). Attainment in the UK exam system is in accordance with these very high mean scores.

Trying to account for ethic differences in national IQs is always uncomfortable, but they are a fact and someone needs to have a go. So you will find my effort based on 'sexual selection' here. 

https://rogertitcombelearningmatters.wordpress.com/2016/11/25/why-are-ch...

Sexual selection is well established in evolutionary theory as a mechanism whereby culture (memes) can get into genes over a small number of generations. 

My admittedly speculative suggestion is that Chinese culture has over many hundreds of years identified male 'nerdiness' (wen) as highly sexually desirable compared to Western cultures where prowess in fighting (wu) has been most prized. I provide some evidence for my suggestion.

If you think this is 'tosh' then I await your reasoning with interest.


rogertitcombe's picture
Mon, 03/07/2017 - 15:42

agov - Moving on 

"the subversion of democracy " - Translation: awful ordinary people dared vote as they wanted for their own benefit and not as they were ordered by, and for the enrichment of, the misruling class. 

You and I will clearly disagree about this, but I am far from alone in arguing that 'Leave' voters, comprising the less educated, and poorest section of UK society will suffer greatest from the economic effects of Brexit in the UK and from Trump in the US (as they already are in relation to healthcare).

"the forces of conservatism reduced their election campaigns to popular, repetitive, one dimensional sloganizing" - Because it's not like any other party would ever try to do anything like that. Never anything brainless or trite like 'Let us Face the Future Together'; '13 wasted years'; 'The Labour Way is the Better Way'; 'The New Hope for Britain'; 'Britain will win with Labour'; 'It's time to get Britain working again'; 'Britain Deserves Better', 'New Labour, New Life for Britain', 'Things can only get Better', 'For the Many, not the few'; 'Ambitions for Britain'; 'A future for all'; 'Britain forward, not back', 'If you value it, vote for it'; 'Britain can be better'; 'Labour In for Britain'; 'For the Many, not the few'

The essential difference between the GE slogans of the past and those of Theresa May, is that previous efforts, however cringeworthy, were at least backed up with some policies that people could consider and debate.  All we got from May was 'Strong and stable leadership' compared with 'Coalition of chaos'. Any attempt by anybody to flesh out some policy implications resulted only in the robotic repetition of the mantra. This seems to me both unprecedented and at the same time hilarious in terms of its complete inversion when put to the test. 

In the EU campaign we had 'take control of our borders', which again was not only vacuous and never explained at the time, but clearly cannot even be explained now particularly in relation to the border between Ulster and Ireland.

"Jeremy Corbyn was represented unfairly by the British press" - The poor thing. It's not like he was supported to the hilt by the biased al-Beeb, Channel 4 and other propaganda broadcast outlets of the hard left. And obviously da yoof derive their news solely from their intense study of the daily press. Why people would make up claims about them getting it all from Facebook is hard to comprehend. 

That's just drivel I am afraid.

 


agov's picture
Tue, 04/07/2017 - 15:55

Some might say the American Revolution was largely about rich Americans, then as now, not wanting to pay their fair share of taxation. Nothing to do with universal suffrage or English education. Just because a few of the leaders had read Rousseau doesn’t mean state education had anything to do with it. Much of the support (and fighting strength) came from immigrant stock from central Europe who were apparently happy to fight the British on any pretext. Nonetheless most Americans (especially if you include the Blacks and the Native Americans) probably supported continued British rule with most of the British army in America being composed of men from the 13 colonies. Nothing to do with education in England, which had existed since Roman times but did not really become ‘free’ in any meaningful sense until the end of the 19th century. ‘Free’ state education could though be said to have existed in ancient Sparta but was about war and dominance with a bit of reading etc. and had absolutely nothing to do with universal suffrage and certainly not for slaves, helots etc.

Chinese IQ. Academic journals have long recognised the influence of genetics in IQ and that it is differentiated by race with Chinese, Japanese, and Inuit doing especially well. It’s really only the Left that tries to deny it and criminalise discussion of it. Even so, if you were making any points based on genetics that in any way appeared to present non-whites in a similar unflattering light you would likely be arrested and probably imprisoned – no double standard there then. Since you are now saying that Chinese education is terrible despite their IQ profile and clearly also irrespective of their enormous economic power, vast political and military capability, and huge empire I’m left wondering why you would think, if you do, that mass education, or democracy, is important at all since little seems to depend on them. Although, I do recall hearing at LSE {a place you say is ‘respected’ [despite the PhD apparently sold to a dictator (- and I thought only Oxbridge did that)]; the risible Stern Report (- we’ve already done that one); and not doing well in the Teaching Excellence Framework results (- but who cares what the students think, apparently)]} - that the spread of literacy was important as it meant (I paraphrase but only a bit) people did not have to be individually told things so laws could be in writing meaning that people could more easily be controlled with more prohibitions and requirements imposed on them.

The “less educated, and poorest section of UK society will suffer greatest.” So Remoaner propaganda likes to claim on the basis of the Continuity Project Fear but little else. Still waiting for that instant economic slump and World War III to begin. There are though who knows how many illegal immigrants illegally subletting who might still be alive had we not been subject to EU nonsense - http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=86528.

“All we got from May was 'Strong and stable leadership' “. Not quite true. The Conservative manifesto had quite a lot of policies - probably more than Labour’s, if you exclude their bits based on fantasy economics and wishful thinking – but there is no doubt the Conservative campaign was extraordinarily bad: I’m not sure anyone can think of a greater act of political self-harm (although I did see mention of Rasputin assisting the Russian Imperial Family). That though was not a function of any slogan but of gigantic strategic errors in the waging of the campaign.

Borders - “cannot even be explained now particularly in relation to the border between Ulster and Ireland”. I bet it will be though. In reality there doesn’t seem much reason for Eire to ever have been in the EU except for the UK’s membership. Ireland’s economy and trade mostly depends on non-EU countries including the UK.

“That's just drivel I am afraid.” Except for being true. This morning there was yet another example of BBC bias with the Leave supporting Nigel Lawson sneeringly interrupted and contradicted by the ‘interviewer’ while the Remain supporting Alistair Darling (who did so much to have Scotland leave the UK) adoringly listened to in silence and agreed with. Seems standard fare from broadcasters - http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/jon-snow-reminded-of-responsibilit... . Especially for St. Jeremy. Indeed, it seems completely obvious that the reason Cameron did not take the occasion of the renewal (or not) of the BBC Charter to privatise it was precisely because he could rely on their pro-EU, anti-British bias for the referendum campaign. Otherwise the Left could have been liberated to pay for its own propaganda instead of having it provided by the taxpayer.


rogertitcombe's picture
Tue, 04/07/2017 - 18:03

I don't doubt that most BBC presenters are personally against Brexit, in common with the vast majority of the educated professional classes, which  is very much the point of my article, that we are clearly not going to agree about. It is quite hard to disguise deeply felt personal beliefs while trying to be 'even handed'. I never argued that the media was even handed in relation to Brexit. There was however no doubt about the total media bias, including the BBC, against Jeremy Corbyn. As for the border problem, I don't think there is a solution with the UK outside the customs union.

You are right about the lack of rational debate about variations in levels of cognitively within and between populations. What is worse is that it is the mainstream 'politically correct' left inclined educational establisment, not to mention the Labour opposition as well as the Conservative government, that is happy to talk about 'all children being in schools where they reach their potential'. I argue for powerfully cognitively developmental education for everybody, throughout life, as a human right. That is why Labour's proposed National Education Service is so good. Just because cognitive development proceeds at different rates does not in any way limit the ultimate achievements of anybody, as James Flynn describes so eloquently in his book.

“My analysis gives human autonomy a potent role. Here we must distinguish between internal and external environment. You can join the book club but it is more important to fall in love with reading; you can fill your mind with trash or ponder over a chess problem or any other problem that provokes wonder.

How wonderful it is that adults enjoy autonomy throughout their lives!

 University students come to me and say,” I know I am not as quick as the very best but I want to improve my mind and solve problems that captivate me; is that possible?” To this the answer is “yes”.

I did not do well at school; will I be able to handle your introductory course in moral philosophy?” To this the answer is that you may do very well indeed: some of my best students are mature students because they work out of genuine interest. Note my assumption: that current [cognitive] environment is the key and they need not worry too much about the past environments that have handicapped them since school.” 

Or indeed at school.


agov's picture
Wed, 05/07/2017 - 11:37

"BBC presenters...[find it]...hard to disguise deeply felt personal beliefs while trying to be 'even handed'."

Because it's not like there is actually any such thing as a 'profession' of journalism with professional standards, ethics and behaviour requirements. Otherwise most broadcasters would have been sacked and given a lifetime ban years ago.

"no doubt about the total media bias, including the BBC, against Jeremy Corbyn". Oh yes there is. In any case it is social media (mostly Facebook, with all its fake news and media campaigns very much including those from the Labour Party during the last election) where our so very cognitively developed youth take their 'news'.

"border problem" - The Republic joined the Common Market because the UK was doing so and has suffered greatly as a consequence of it. It was the UK that added to its own problems by borrowing yet more money after the banking crash in order to lend it to Ireland. The Irish are free to make their own determination of their best option for the future - though possibly not if the EU has anything to do with it: the Irish previously voted in a referandum against some EU nonsense only to be made to vote again until they got the right answer for the misruling class of Europe.


rogertitcombe's picture
Wed, 05/07/2017 - 12:55

I think this exchange has probably reached its useful life.


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