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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)

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 7:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterOld grumpy

Dung and Mike Jackson. Please cease the arguments here - if you feel you must continue, take them to a discussion thread.

Oct 7, 2012 at 7:48 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

I live next to a local junior school.
One warm, sunny day, with the door to his class open, I heard the teacher "preaching" the AGW mantra - "CO2 warming the atmosphere etc." - which seemed a bit strange as few, or none, of his pupils at that age would have the slightest idea of what CO2 is.

A few days later I had the opportunity to challenge him on his teaching of that 'load of old borrocks' - his reply "I know what you mean, but it's in the corriculum."

Oct 7, 2012 at 8:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterCrowcatcher

The popularization of the <href="" title="Barometer Question"> is credited to Alexandra Calandra rather than to Bohr. It was a happy surprise to me to find that article as a VfD survivor on wiki.

Oct 7, 2012 at 8:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Peakall

To call it an education system is to aid the lie.

Oct 7, 2012 at 9:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterAC1


Prone to wishful thinking, precious and prissy; the list grows longer ^.^

Oct 7, 2012 at 9:26 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Further argumentative comments directed by you at Mike Jackson (and vice versa) on this thread will be deleted. See my request at 7.48pm.

Oct 7, 2012 at 9:37 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

All the students who pass agree. Thus is born another consensus, and a flattering statistic for the school master and staff. How proud all of England must be with such uniformity of little minds.

Oct 7, 2012 at 9:46 PM | Unregistered Commenterdp

A friends daughter who has completed her degree in Architecture complained bitterly that one subject was taught by a "prat who failed anyone that disagreed with him" - he was so dogmatic on the subject of AGW that all her fellow students were forced to tow the line.

BUT - and it is a big but!!

They all left Uni with a healthy disrespect for dogma and the abuse of power.

I believe that it is this healthy disrespect that is undermining the Alarmist/Extremists.

By their own actions, the pendulum swings away from their cosy arrogance that they can abuse their positions of power.

Oct 7, 2012 at 9:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterDoug UK

I've just bought a full set of GCSE text books from Amazon. My daughter's school - like many - does not have text books; instead they have a mixture of photocopied screeds and notes they take in class.

After a quick skim here is what I found in the textbooks:

Maths gets a clean bill of health. There is no politics, no political correctness, no eco-babble, just proper stuff.

English does a good job of including controversial topics in a neutral way. eg an essay brief:

'People talk far too much about the dreadful effects of climate change. They should just enjoy its benefits.' Write an article for a magazine arguing for or against this view.

Physics mostly good solid physics but has been retro-fitted with extra chapters of a particular worldview. For example the section on radiation includes a lot of hand-wringing and brings in the ... "Precautionary Principle":

If ... you are not sure about the possible results of doing something
And if ... serious and irreversible harm could result from it
... then it makes sense to avoid it.
As some people say, 'Better safe than sorry!'

Oh dear. This is not physics. We've already read on p33 that "the ultimate fate of the Universe is difficult to predict" but in the radiation section we learn that "wind and solar power ... should last forever"
We read exactly what global warming sceptics - yes all of 'em - believe on p59. After these early chapters salted with nonsense we have some great well-written and well-presented sections on motion, electricity, wave radiation, and astronomy. Looks like a team effort with Ned Flanders doing the early chapters.

Chemistry oh dear. Looks like Ned Flanders wrote the whole book. I know that "chemicals" is a swear word in a vegan yurt - but FFS this a book about chemicals.

We read about air pollution, water pollution, food pollution. About running out of materials. The only good news about the chemical industry is that it provides jobs...

including medical and catering staff, training, and safety officers.

Oct 7, 2012 at 10:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Bish, it was ever this way.

30 years ago when in high school in Australia, the only way to get a pass in English was to regurgitate what the teachers wanted to hear.

In particular, "The Great Gatsby" was one of those turgid piles of crap we had to study in some depth, with much analysis of what the symbolism of this and the metaphor of that all meant.

When I (who read more widely than even the teacher) pointed out that F Scott Fitzgerald was a drunk who viewed life, the universe and everything through the bottom of a whisky bottle, this was not well received.

Then suddenly I realised that to pass, you had to play the game. Don't tell them what you think, tell them what they want to hear. I passed. My brother refused to play the game, and barely scraped through - arguing with teachers all the way along.

Oct 7, 2012 at 11:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry

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

I recommend that we follow the AGW standard. Anecdotal evidence of climate change = cold hard facts.

Remember, the AGW cult works hard to shame anyone who disagrees with them. Turnabout is fair play.

Oct 8, 2012 at 3:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

A "socialist" shibboleth peddled by Margaret Thatcher, and required in exams taken during a period of Conservative government!

You get bonus points for spelling "toe the line" correctly, but lose them again for using unnecessary French (du jour) in a blog written in English. "Of the day" works just as well and is a lot less poncey.

Oct 8, 2012 at 4:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoHa

Silent But Deadly exgaserates imagination.

Oct 8, 2012 at 5:35 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Since it appears that nobody here has seen the question posed, nor the answers given, this is really a bit of a storm in a tea-cup.

For all we know there were questions like "how does back-radiation from greenhouse gasses warm the Earth?" and he provided a rant about how some law of thermo-dynamics proves without doubt that Prevost was correct and heat is some sort of fluid exuded by warm things.

So should the correct 'sceptical' response to the question be the one from Lucia or Harry Huffman?

Or should he simply have given the answer he was taught, and told to stop being such a smart "alec"? (oh, the irony).

Oct 8, 2012 at 7:57 AM | Unregistered Commentersteveta

The purpose of being educated is not to be educated but to get exam passes with the top grades, this allows you to get a job where again you have to tow the party line to get on. Only way out of this is to work for yourself but even then when the taxman and all the other hangers on appear you had better start towing again.

Such is life in the modern age.

Oct 8, 2012 at 8:14 AM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

erm may well be a good response to the climate question, but how did he perform in all the other sections of the paper, language, etc? He would have to pass all sections.

He may have just been making a point about climate change.

Activists are on both sides of this climate discussion

Oct 8, 2012 at 8:35 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

My Dear steveta, Prevost is passé: 'back radiation' doesn't exist without a shield between the two radiation sources. All that is needed to deal with such pseudo-science is Poynting's Theorem.

Oct 8, 2012 at 8:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

Hey don't knock it, in the future to get the highest mark in any subject at school kids will only have to write.

Climate change did it and only the govermant can fix it, that is why taxes must be raised.

Should cover all exams that answer!

Oct 8, 2012 at 8:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

Pedant alert!!
Have we got a battle going on here between those who "toe" the line —Bishop and RoHa —and those who prefer to "tow" the line?
Can I ask where the latter are towing it to?
Perhaps I can add this to my "reign/rein" and "bate/bait" comment above. :-)

Oct 8, 2012 at 8:55 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

We need to name and shame the teachers involved.

Oct 8, 2012 at 9:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterTomcat

@ Cumbrian Lad

If the lad in question has good grades in his other exams, an E at General Studies shouldn't be an issue.

Indeed - General Studies does not count as an A Level at all at proper universities:

Critical Thinking: Please note that A Level Critical Thinking isn't considered an acceptable third A Level subject for any courses at Cambridge. While it is regarded as a worthwhile addition to your portfolio of qualifications as a fourth AS or A Level subject, it's unlikely to be part of a conditional offer. Similarly Key Skills and General Studies are not required or included in academic assessment.

Cambridge in any case looks at your three best or most relevant A Level results, so the General Studies result is wholly irrelevant. I imagine the picture is the same across the whole Russell Group.

I suppose if there were a General Studies degree it might matter, but the nearest thing to such appears to be the UEA BSc Climate Science. In those, students spend three years dabbling in a little bit of this and a little bit of that and come out not knowing how to use Excel or that hiding declines is dishonest. So like I said, at proper universities it doesn't matter.

Oct 8, 2012 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

"Yes. Last I heard, the score was Don Quixote 0, Windmills 1."
True, but Quixote is now the stuff of legend, those who bowed down to their windmill overlords less so ;)

Oct 8, 2012 at 10:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterEddy

Oct 7, 2012 at 7:07 PM | Stonyground
"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."

For small amplitudes the period of a pendulum is:

2 * PI * SQRT(L/g)

where L = length of string,
g = local acceleration of gravity
and PI = 3.14159 .....

The height of the tower can be calculated by putting the value for L and g in this formula swinging the barometer from the top of the tower.

To be more elegant, swinging the barometer with the string of known length, say 2 metres , at ground level, will avoid the use of assuming a value for g, the well known constant, that varies with height. As all geophysicists know, the gravitational field also varies with location as nearby mountains and valleys do affect the local gravitational field as does its latitude due to the spin of the earth, though these affects are small and very rarely change with time.

Oct 8, 2012 at 11:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobert Christopher

The only people worth reading on global warming politics are Roger Pielke Jr (a progressive liberal) and James Heartfield, a British Marxist academic who's book Green Capitalism: Manufacturing Scarcity in an Age of Abundance, I recommend.

Booker's schtick is that capitalism never did no one no harm, never. On asbestos, Monbiot clearly exposes him as a dangerous idealogue.

In my view, global warming is principally an oil company scam fronted in politics by two people with close family ties to the oil industry, Al Gore and Margaret Thatcher. Miles Copeland, a very serious man credited with putting the Shah of Iran in power for the CIA, also claims to have put Thatcher in power. Possibly by bunging Tebbit a few yankee dollars. She is the biggest traitor in British history.,_Jr.#Retirement

Oct 8, 2012 at 12:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterE Smiff

bohr, the "correct" answer (deducing the height from measured pressure differences) is not correct at all , as any pilot will tell you (or anyone who has experienced air pockets while flying). It is easily possible for the ground to have lower pressure than the building top. anybody heard of inversion ?

The variability on air pressure between ground and top makes a height calculation impossible.

The best answer would be .3 with the shadows

Oct 8, 2012 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterptw

Point of order m'lud
Many years ago in a far far galaxy I 'taught' A level GS. My point is, the wife of head of a local redbrick university challenged him to test his staff with a gs paper. Miserable results from the university lecturers. Anywhoo, they decided to correlate the success at degree level against success at A level GS for their undergraduates. A high positive correlation was revealed. Those who did well at GS did better in their final degree even if they hadn't even studied the subject at A level. It was a science department by the way.

From an observational point of view, I could tell immediately when they opened their mouths during a GS lesson who would do well at University. They seemed more 'switched on' and alert about current affairs.

It was impossible to 'teach' as such as the curriculum was so wide, so I resorted to pulling out scientific topics of the day for discussion. One of which I remember was acid rain

Just a passing observation... GS wasn't all bad

Oct 8, 2012 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

On asbestos, Booker was right in that chrysotile is a weathering product of talc and has been classified wrongly with the other asbestos minerals. Both are classified as potential carcinogens - try using talc in an industrial plant. It is associated with a specific cancer - ovarian cancer in women.

Oct 8, 2012 at 1:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

I'm a bit sceptical about the A level student. The climate change section would have been a small part of the exam and the number of marks required to get a D, very low.

Oct 8, 2012 at 6:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Bagley

First, we need to know the exam paper and exam board in question. Without this info, we're all indistinguishable from conspiracy theoriests. Does anyone have Booker's email address?

Am I the only person that thinks that this is a very simple opportunity to attack the Green Establishment.

Simply research all Green questions for A level or GCSE for the past ten years + marking schemes.

Then recruit a couple of "certified markers".

Then get major scientists (Freeman Dyson, Lindzen, Judith Curry, any real Physics or Geology professor) and sceptical figures of substance (Johnny Ball, Lord Monckton, Matt Ridley are among those who come to mind) to tackle the more outrageous questions, and have them marked for the predictable E.

If you can get ones that talk about 20feet sea level rises or extinction of the polar bears, even better.

Then put little youtube pieces put out...Get the eminent person to talk about their qualifications, get their peers to talk about them, talk about their worst ever grade. Then deliver the "good news" - "beautifully written, highly informative, impeccable references, E".

Might be a good use of an intern for the GWPF. For extra points, get the GWPF to offer this particular lad an internship for this particular project. Or maybe we could get Felim McAteer.

Oct 8, 2012 at 7:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterDead Dog Bounce

Oct 8, 2012 at 1:00 PM | ptw

I do hope you're not a pilot.

Inversions are temperature inversions not pressure.

You presumably don't own a hiking/skiing watch with a built-in altimeter.

Oct 8, 2012 at 10:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Robin Eubanks has a particularly lucid post on 10/8 at speaking to educational theory and strategy.

Oct 9, 2012 at 12:22 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Dead Dog Bounce

That's the way to do it.

Lampooning works from the bottom up. Complaining to the top comes after.

Oct 9, 2012 at 8:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

Billy Liar, your not taking gravity inversions into account.

Oct 9, 2012 at 10:56 AM | Unregistered Commentersteveta

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