Richard Garner: The genetics route could spell a new direction for education
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Wednesday 11 December 2013
Linking the words "genetics" and "education" can bring the hardiest of educationists out in a rash.
The subject has been perceived as the territory of the extreme right - raising the spectre of concentrating on the education of blue-eyed Arian boys at the expense of others. (Actually, in the UK it wouldn't be British boys - they are amongst the lowest performing ethnic groups, so we are told.)
Today's paper from Kings College London, though, suggests less offensive ways in which research about the topic could be used in the classroom.
For instance, it may be that the innate differences in children's abilities because of their genes could argue the case for a more tailor-made individual curriculum to offset the disadvantages of birth.
It is also argued that introducing the subject into teacher training could help would-be teachers understand why pupils reacted differently to their lessons and learn at a different pace. It could make them more tolerant - more willing to take the trouble to explain issues to a child who is struggling.
The findings of today's report increase in importance when one considers it is an issue which has already been brought to the attention of Education Secretary Michael Gove by his soon-to-be-gone special adviser Dominic Cummings.
What Mr Gove's thoughts on the subject are not known, though. They did not become clear to leading geneticist Professor Robert Plomin, during his meeting with the Education Secretary.
It is, though, a subject which is unlikely to go away and - so long as we steer clear of the influences of the far right and calls to abandon those it considers less able to learn - there is everything to be gained from having an open discussion on the issues.
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