UK Politics

Dumbing Down

Good news. The Guardian reports that British children are to be trained how to write essays again at school.

The shift away from essay writing had arisen because of a change in the 1980s from an exam syllabus which gave teachers considerable latitude to one that focused on a detailed list of “assessment objectives” which then had to be examined.

At the risk of being forced to join Laban Tall and Private Frazer’s gang regular readers will recall I’ve been concerned for some time about the apparent decline in the reasoning abilities of the proto-lawyers I’ve had to interview. I suspect this state of affairs has something to do with the fact that, as the Guardian reports, the majority of children in the country have not recently been encouraged to put their reasoned conclusions, on topics which they have assessed the evidence for and again, in written form.

Mike Tomlinson, described in the article as the government’s exam “guru” added

A key factor contributing to shortcomings in essay writing is the growing trend for short questions and multiple choice options in GCSEs and A-levels

Well at least he recognises the problem. But who is to blame for this state of affairs – teachers, successive education ministers, society, the NUT ? None are mentioned in the article. Let’s see, we’ve got to have a scapegoat even if it’s only implied. I know…

the introduction of American-style multiple choice and short answer questions meant students no longer felt capable of reflecting in detail on a poem or a play.

Is that Jackie’s pencil I hear being sharpened 15 miles away ?