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Toeing the line

Booker's column today tells the story of an A' Level student who dared to question the AGW consensus in his exam. He received a grade E. As Booker explains:

His mother then paid £60 for his paper to be re-marked. It was judged to be “articulate, well-structured” and clearly well-informed, but again he was marked down with “E” for fail.

The UK education system is designed to produce not educated young people, but people who are willing to pay lip-service to the socialist shibboleth du jour.

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Reader Comments (84)

Very very encouraging to see the possibility of hard evidence emerging on intellectual corruption in the climate curriculum in our schools. Let us hope that there is further investigation of this.

Oct 7, 2012 at 10:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

"The UK education system is designed to produce not educated young people, but people who are willing to pay lip-service to the socialist shibboleth du jour." Isn't that likely to be the equilibrium condition of any state education system? It's a pity that too few pupils attend private schools for those schools to have much chance of avoiding the same fate.

Oct 7, 2012 at 10:32 AM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

A sad story about the state of our 'state' education system. Run by left wing wooly liberals divorced from reality.

Oct 7, 2012 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

You answer the question as it laid out , not as you want it to be laid out even if that would be better. How to do exams 101. At this standard there is no expectation nor is it a good idea for the person to correct errors in the work as given ,

Oct 7, 2012 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Yes. You are supposed to grub for marks.

Oct 7, 2012 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

Well, it doesn't need to be in UK or secondary schools. For example, I'm convinced very few of readers of this blog could pass this first year seminar class at PSU: Climate Change and Potential Societal Impacts.

Oct 7, 2012 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterJean S

Oct 7, 2012 at 10:32 AM | dearieme:

Isn't that likely to be the equilibrium condition of any state education system?

It wasn't always that way. In the fifties I attended a state grammar school in Leicester. For GCEs we were examined by the Oxford board of which there were several (I don't know how many). From what I gather the curriculum and requirements varied from one board to another. When the unified system actually came in I do not know, as I left Britain 45 years ago. I imagine it had to do with the setting up of the comprehensive system; that said I would be interested to know for the record what was the political hue of the government that actually brought in the change.

Oct 7, 2012 at 11:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn in France

John in France:

I too attended a grammar school. In those days, the good schools chose the exam boards which had the highest reputation for entry to universities ( ie they set high standards and were hard to pass). Ours was a Manchester board, but I can't remember its name. In those days it was "never mind the width, feel the quality". Not so nowadays, where it is the number of passes that count.

Oct 7, 2012 at 11:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

This was the 'General Studies' exam, a joke, normally a free A-level for the best pupils.

The fact that the student was marked down for questioning the preconceptions in the data indicates that the marking notes had this instruction.

So, Bish, what you need to do is to ask a friendly marker whether this was true and whether evidence of it could be 'provided'.

Oct 7, 2012 at 11:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

KnR has it for me, it's an examination, I went to a catholic school, so RE was compulsory, when I came to do my O-levels I had many doubts about the catholic religions and religion in general, but I wasn't being tested on those doubts I was being tested on what I was taught. He should have either answered the questions posed, or challenged them and kept quiet when he failed the exam. You cannot have it both ways.

Now do I believe that the climate science should be taught in school? No, I don't, I suspect what's taught will be the usual woolly green gibberish about the evils of mankind ( I suppose that's the point isn't it, the green religion has replaced the christian religion that taught us the evils of mankind in school), but nonetheless if the boy wanted to get good marks, even if he was right, he should have answered the questions with the knowledge he'd gained from his teachers. He wasn't being asked his opinions.

Oct 7, 2012 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

"Booker's column today tells the story"

Unfortunately, it doesn't tell the story. Being generally skeptical, I'll hold off on forming an opinion until I hear why he was failed the second time.

Oct 7, 2012 at 11:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterSelgovae

Philip Bratby, I don't recollect a specific Manchester board, but remember the Northwest's board was called the JMB, joint matriculation board, which included Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds and Birmingham. That was in place from 1903 to 1986.

Oct 7, 2012 at 11:36 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

This revelation was the most worrying part of Booker's excellent article. It is almost unbelievable that educationalists are deserting the fundamentals of the scientific method, in favour of pseudo scientific propaganda.

Oct 7, 2012 at 11:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

I recommend suspension of judgment until we get to know more.

In the meanwhile teenagers are bombarded by The Message

Oct 7, 2012 at 11:59 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Exams in secondary schools are for regurgitating facts. As geronimo says, he wasn't being asked for his opinion. The fact that the facts as taught were (arguably) incorrect is not relevant; that is the proper subject for a sixth-form debate, not an A-Level exam.
It didn't take me long to discover that quite a bit of the French language that I learnt for A-Level was also "wrong" in the sense that it was 20 years out of date compared with what was actually spoken by real French people.
The only time I recall an exam where I was asked to express a personal opinion was Eng Lit and even there you needed some good sound argument to deviate from the "received wisdom".
That was NUJB as well.
The fact that Climate Change has been introduced into the curriculum at all speaks volumes for the baleful influence of the eco-warriors. In the end I suppose we have only ourselves to blame for allowing them free rein for so long.
Plausible little devious bastards, aren't they?

Oct 7, 2012 at 12:00 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

General Studies howewver does not mean a SET answer, just surely examining the ability to write concisely contruct an argument, etc..
something that was achieved, just not A PC answer.

Oct 7, 2012 at 12:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Suspend your judgement all you like. Its true.

I dont know why this subject keeps popping up and people seem surprised. For years my wife has been a senior examiner for a number of examining boards. I have sat and watched her mark many GCSE and A level papers online here in my living room. As a result I have seen and read in detail to my horror the "mark schemes" for these exams. Exams relating to AGW - some goegraphy modules, etc. have a mark schemes that are absolutely clear. If the candidate does not regurgitate the consensus, they get NO marks. Its been going on for years.

Oct 7, 2012 at 12:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterRB

My grand daughter (7) came home from school recently saying that polar bears are dying because we use too much electricity.

That's british education for you. A bunch of niave housewives and house husbands whose only claim to education was teacher training.

Oct 7, 2012 at 12:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

RB, 12:17PM - is it possible for the general public to get hold of these 'mark schemes'?

Oct 7, 2012 at 12:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

I can speak from direct experience ( though not on General Studies) that this IS NOT always the case. Examiners, including myself are given instructions to mark the content and quality of the answer not any biased preconception. Presumably, what has happened here is that the examiner being a non-specialist has slavishly followed the marking scheme. The issue should be taken with the chief examiner or the nature of the question which presumably was to use the materials involved, the student has obviously not done so and instead has used his own knowledge. This would be alike to an actor deciding to use a different script because he did not like the original text. I think Christopher Booker is wrong here and the real issue is whether the choice of materials was biased in the first instance, an issue which should be pursued with the relevant board.

Oct 7, 2012 at 12:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterTrefjon

John Shade - Yes the mark schemes should be readily available online. You'd need to know which exam board, which exam and module and which version (they change year to year) but you should be able to track them down.

I've had four children through the various science GCSE's and A levels, and though I'd complain about ome of the material being a little biased in its assumptions, the broad fact base is fair enough. I've not a lot of experience on the General studies or geography courses, they may be more blatant. (General Studies was I think compulsory up to last year, and generally seen by the abler students as a joke. If the lad in question has good grades in his other exams, an E at General Studies shouldn't be an issue. [I don't think 'E' is a fail at A-level either, it's the lowest pass grade]

Oct 7, 2012 at 1:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

For the record, I pass alarmists if they submit a coherent argument.

Oct 7, 2012 at 1:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

I'm sure the examiner was not in any way biased. He will have marked to the syllabus which will have been that certain facts — 2+2=9; Stalin was a Russian saint; Edinburgh is the capital of Spain; global warming is man-made — are to be taken as correct, regardless of whether they are or not.
In the above instances any pupil providing answers suggesting that 2+2=4 or that Stalin was an evil despot or that the capital of Spain is actually Madrid would have been marked down accordingly. After all, if you are being educated (I use the word advisedly) by people who are supposed to know better than you, you cannot be forever telling them they are wrong, can you.
And when the quality (and I use that word advisedly as well) press is awash with instances of "reign" instead of "rein", "bate" instead of "bait" and crossword compilers — and others — who don't know the difference between "flout" and "flaunt" or "haggle" and "barter", you can hardly blame either examiner or examinee for starting from the premise that the facts as laid down in the syllabus are the facts you have to work with.

Oct 7, 2012 at 1:14 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

geronimo: That's the one we did - the JMB. I'd completely forgotten its name.

Oct 7, 2012 at 1:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Couple of week times we will all be wearing poppies.

And we are still fighting for free speech

Next step European court of Human Rights.

Oct 7, 2012 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

I have two teenage daughters at a very good Scottish private school. The school follows the curriculum set by the Scottish educational system ........... The course work is laced with climate change nonsense - I challenge this with the school and my MSP. The school says that it has to follow the curriculum - they have no room to deviate (and I suspect that some of the teachers support CAWG anyway). My MSP is non-technical and he defers to "the consensus view" as delivered by his government advisors in DECC etc. It will take a long time for the educational system to correct this aberration.

Oct 7, 2012 at 1:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert Thomson

The marker will most likely have all the "correct" answers already ratified by the board of examiners. During the marking, they will scan for evidence of these in the answers provided. There will also probably be just a few extra marks for cogent arguments for the questions that have less specific answers. Consequently, the marker will probably have little flexibilty to mark up the grade.
I don't think the problem can be addressed with the marking, it has to be the system itself. The board of examiners, experts (hopefully) in education and assessment of "general studies", will have shaped a curriculum based on their own misconceptions, ideological viewpoints, and no doubt, pressure from activist organisations and individuals from within and external to their educational bubble.
It's a long road to change systemic failure... Perhaps we need to examine the examiners?
I would suggest to the student to sit a retake, gush with fawning admiration for the AGW church in all his answers - being careful not to let his sarcasm be identified - scoop his A, and then come to the Bishops and tell all, where we can all howl with Sokal-like laughter and set about scribing some scathing criticism about the state of science education.

Oct 7, 2012 at 2:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustin Ert

I regard myself as fairly literate. Yet despite having Shakespeare forced on me, I have always believed it is a valid argument to say: "wonderful prose, great imagination, wonderful scene setting, yet I do not understand it and I am not afraid to admit it. if I do not understand something whilst not being dumb or ignorant, then I think my opinion is valid when I say that Shakespeare's relevance to modern English is limited."

I enjoy the Hungarian translations of Shakespeare more than the original as I follow the story rather than trying to work out what is going on.

And I actually think many educated people think the same but will never admit it.

However, it is a fact of life that you have "appreciate" Shakespeare during secondary education. Whether you like it or not.

You have to have learn to pick and choose your battles.

Oct 7, 2012 at 2:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

The real bottom line is that the climate consensus is incompetent (see here and here), and even fraudulent (see here), so there should be no climate science being taught to children now. And climate science is just the tip of a world-sized iceberg, of unrecognized general incompetence in modern science -- in the most central, most admired, and most hotly defended of theories today. Everyone assumes the theoretical knowledge base upon which all else depends is solid, but the sorry fact is that it is not. Thus, all of our institutions have been suborned, and the system is broken, or breaking down at points such as described in this case.

Oct 7, 2012 at 2:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Dale Huffman

Not sure how relevant this is but my other half is a teaching assistant and yesterday she told me that teachers and teaching assistants at her (primary) school have been instructed not to use an "X" to denote an incorrect answer. They must use a "." or a comment as an "X" is "demotivating for the children".

As an aside, a teacher in her class was adamant that "carpet" was a compound noun because it's made of the words "car" and "pet". Also the same teacher insists that "lily" has one syllable because "y" isn't noun and "the" is a conjugation!

We despair at both the education system and the standard of teacher education.

Oct 7, 2012 at 2:42 PM | Unregistered Commentertimheyes

Sorry. Above "y" isn't a vowel.

Oct 7, 2012 at 2:44 PM | Unregistered Commentertimheyes

I regularly complain to my childrens' school about some of the subject material they are expected to work with.
The answer I get is that "it is the National Curriculum- we have to teach it".
Fine I say, but let's have some balance so that children can assess the arguments, for and against, make up their own minds.

Not a chance- the only thing the teachers know is parrot-like repetition of the "approved" subject material.

If I had the time I would take my children out of school and teach them myself.

Unfortunately I need my day-job to keep tye wolf from the door.

Oct 7, 2012 at 2:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Probably some natural philosophy student somewhere was denied a miserable career because of a failure to regurgitate the phlogiston theory combustion (which the Royal Society strongly supported - as per their traditional cutting-edge scientific standards).

Meanwhile Einstein pointed out that in the world of real science what is understood to be correct advances...

"Excuse me, sir," said the shy assistant, not quite sure how to tell the great man about his blunder.

"Yes?" said Einstein.

"Um, eh, it's about the test you just handed out."

Einstein waited patiently.

"I'm not sure that you realize it, but this is the same test you gave out last year. In fact, it's identical."

Einstein paused to think for a moment, then said, "Hmm, yes, it is the same test."

The teaching assistant was now very agitated. "What should we do, sir?"

A slow smile spread over Einstein's face. "I don't think we need do anything. The answers have changed."

Oct 7, 2012 at 2:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

>"X" is "demotivating for the children"

Very amusing! Welcome to a generation of Lewandowskies

Oct 7, 2012 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Oct 7, 2012 at 1:14 PM | Richard Tol

How many have you passed? :)

Oct 7, 2012 at 3:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

It is sad that you are so sad about the sad state of your corrupt society, sadly pervading everything.
It is sad that this sadness has been sadly with you for a long time. When this sadness will be replaced with some vigor, joyfully your perennial sadness will dissipate.

Oct 7, 2012 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Steiner

How have we come to this point? An "X" is demotivating for the children"? It should be that an "X" must be a motivator for the child to do better. At least it was at my home if I brought an "X" from school.
Guess that makes me out as being from the old school!

Oct 7, 2012 at 3:45 PM | Unregistered Commenterbarryjo

In my final year of my Biochemistry degree we had a test whereby we were given data from a publication and had to both interpret what was happening and what experiments should be done next.
A couple of days afterwards the head of the department told me I had got everything completely wrong, but everything I had written was possible, logical and reasonable. I got a top grade, as should this kid.

Oct 7, 2012 at 3:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterDocmartyn

The good news is that if one explains to one's children that they must write what is expected, while not believing a word of it, then one can obtain the necessary grades. I suspect that this is happening all over our nation and that some time soon, these (to the treacherous fifth columnists) new English will become the establishment and the socialist contamination will cease to be.

Oct 7, 2012 at 4:54 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohn in cheshire

Geronimo and Mr Bratby

I did GCE O level and A level Maths from JMB because our Math teacher coincidentally called Jim Manchester, told us it was the hardest and most highly valued.

The thread headline raises so many issues about what the student should have done as well as how the questions should be set. Someone also said that "you" should pick and choose your battles.
For the last 30 years of my life I have taken the view that making a stand is more important than winning the battle although of course winning is the aim.
Those who say the student should spout rubbish to make sure he gets his grade are appeasers and are helping to prolong the problem. What is more important: correcting the system or for one student to get his grade? Every time an individual accepts rather than fights injustice then the injustice becomes more entrenched.
We all seem to agree that the system needs to be "fixed" and the best way to do that is to raise as big a stink as possible in order to force a change, is that not what we are trying to do on energy and climate change?
As it happens I have a little battle of my own here on BH ^.^ Messers Bratby and Jackson have disputed the accuracy of my report of a news broadcast on BBC yesterday; the term "wishful thinking" has been used (er um that would be lying right?) and I intend to get an apology for that.

Oct 7, 2012 at 4:57 PM | Registered CommenterDung

"You have to have learn to pick and choose your battles." --Jiminy Cricket

Yes. Last I heard, the score was Don Quixote 0, Windmills 1.

"It will take a long time for the educational system to correct this aberration." --Robert Thomson

True. Trofim Lysenko is alive and well and in charge of UK education.

Oct 7, 2012 at 5:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

I'm always impressed by feats of memory because I rely so much upon writing things down. No-one is impressed when I recite the order of six packs of cards from my notes. I find reasoning to be much less spectacular because I always feel "Well I could have said that" once someone has reasoned it for me.

Oct 7, 2012 at 5:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

OK....I've had a great, late lunch of roast lamb, Louis Jadot Beaujolais and Old Poacher cheese with a good Port on the terrace, watching the late afternoon I feel good. All the more reason to remind many - and acquaint a few - with the following:

Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?

Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant.

One student, however, wrote the following:

First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave.

Therefore, no souls are leaving.

As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the different Religions that exist in the world today. Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell.

Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell.

With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of Souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the Temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.

This gives two possibilities:

1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.

2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

So which is it?

If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, "it will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you, and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number 2 must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over.

The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct...leaving only Heaven thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting "Oh my God."


Oct 7, 2012 at 5:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterSnotrocket

The Guardian is very keen on exposing any political interference that leads to incorrect marking. I am sure that it will give this story the coverage it deserves.

Oct 7, 2012 at 5:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

A year or so ago, I gently quizzed No1 son about "climate change" education at school (he's now 1st year uni). Result was a roll of the eyes and a "yes dad" evasion. He rated whatever stuff he was getting right there with the feminist dialectic rhetoric from his English teacher. Sometimes we have to let go, and trust others to recognise the serving on the plate is borrox.

Sort of circularity, my first degree was UEA ENV, and he's at UWA. Not doing Psychology, thankfully.

Oct 7, 2012 at 5:47 PM | Registered CommenterHector Pascal

If you're waiting for an apology from me you'd be well advised not to hold your breath because it ain't gonna happen.
I did my best and I quoted the only link I could find and allI have said is that I cannot replicate your quote.
As far as this thread is concerned, the battle is the same as always. The activists have succeeded in contaminating the syllabus and that is what needs to be corrected. Meanwhile if we are going to get all prissy about it then the next generation of undergraduates will be those that actually believe the global warming meme.
Better to swallow your pride, give 'em the answer they want to hear, and work from the inside to put things right.

And yes, cockroach, we all know where Snotrocket's allegory came from, thank you.

Oct 7, 2012 at 6:41 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

This story made me think of Nihls Bohr, I am working from memory, so I may have spelled his name wrong and fluffed some of the details of the story. A physics exam question was about how to measure the height of a tall building using a barometer. Bohr gave an answer that was technically correct but not the obvious one about comparing the air pressure at ground level with the air pressure on the roof. As he was obviously an exceptional student, the exam board decided to interview him to see if he could provide the "correct" answer.

Here, according to Bohr and my memory, are the answers to the question:

1) Throw the barometer off the roof and time how long it takes to hit the ground.
2) Climb up the stairwell marking off how many barometer lengths it takes to get to the top and then multiply the length of the barometer by the number of lengths.
3) Measure the shadow of the barometer and the shadow of the building and do the maths.
4) Tie the barometer to a piece of string and swing it like a pendulum. Do this at ground level and on the roof of the building. Bohr gave a formula for working out the height of the building.
5) Tell the caretaker that you will give him a nice new barometer if he can tell you the height of the building.
6) Tie the barometer to a piece of string and lower it down from the roof to the ground and then measure the barometer plus string.

Finally in frustration, Bohr gave them the "correct" answer but admonished them for their lack of imagination.

Oct 7, 2012 at 7:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterStonyground

I feel that I must add that I once aspired to this level of intellectual snobbery. Real Radio have a daily quiz called 'Theme Tune' that involves them playing a short clip of an old TV theme tune and inviting listeners to phone in to identify it. As I watch very little TV, I tend to be rubbish at this quiz.

On this occasion, the correct answer was 'The New Stateman', as I recall, a comedy starring one of the young ones as a Tory MP.

Had I got through on the phone, my answer would have been that it was the opening bars of Maurice Ravell's orchesrated version of Mussorgsky's piano suite entitled 'Pictures at an Exhibition'.

They could hardly have told me that I was wrong now could they?

Oct 7, 2012 at 7:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterStonyground

Actually, now that you mention it, the Bohr story does have that, 'too good to be true' feel about it. My theme tune story is absolutely true, but just wait until someone repeats it and claims that my phone call got through and they refused to give me the prize until there was a huge protest about it. This is the way that urban legends grow.

Oct 7, 2012 at 7:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterStonyground

When I sat my 'A' levels, in what was then known as Cumberland, in 1958 it was, I believe, the Northern Universities Joint Matriculation Board (NUJMB) that set the papers.
They must have been easy because I passed in Chem, Biol and Maths.
Indeed, on hearing of my result in maths my teacher Mr "Soss" Hall, a methodist lay preacher, was heard to exclaim: "That has restored my faith in miracles".

Oct 7, 2012 at 7:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterOld grumpy

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