One of the striking things about my university teaching education is the emphasis on multiculturalism and diversity. Much of the time in class is spent focusing on the issue of equity – aiming to help those different from most students gain the same level of access to education as the mainstream. This is a worthy goal, but it puts the cart before the horse. The university courses focus on difference, without teaching much about the mainstream. What does the researcher community have to say on IQ, for example? We didn’t learn that. But if we are considering the extent to which we can improve the educational attainment of underachieving students, surely an understanding of the basics of IQ would be a good starting place? Unfortunately, this is not the case. It is presumed that educational attainment and IQ is sufficiently malleable to achieve the noble aims of the government and it’s education institutions. A future blog post will ponder the extent to which our educational attainment can keep up with the demands of the workforce for ever-higher human capital.
On another note, one of my lecturers mentioned the outcomes we needed to achieve as being dictated by government priorities. It is a worry that those in research, who are supposed to be the experts, are being guided by politicians and bureaucrats, on the advice of well-meaning but often misguided technocratic advisers. Granted, this way the government is an intermediary between schools and universities, and if there is no feedback to universities from schools on the quality of university graduates, the government can play a bridging role. But surely an even better way to gain accountability and appropriate skills would be for schools to be able to directly hire people wishing to become teachers, who then complete on-the-job and university or equivalent training, while increasingly taking up more teaching responsibilities. The schools would choose the training that best equipped their teachers, and the government would fund this training. It would help if schools had choice over other issues as well, such as the priorities they considered worthy of investing in, rather than what the government of the day fancies. However, such a system requires not only autonomy, but school choice. And therein lies a tricky issue for another time.