Ben Goldacre on teachers and Brain Gym

Although I usually admire Ben Goldacre’s treatment of bad science in the Guardian, I was dismayed at his use of words like ‘stupid’ and ‘morons’ to describe teachers using Brain Gym. If the results described in the Weisberg paper that he cites are valid, then it seems probable that teachers are no more likely than the general public to fall for this kind of thing. After all, most teachers are not science teachers, let alone trained in either neuroscience or the interpretation of scientific evidence.

What’s more, most fads in schools, whether on or off the curriculum, are these days foisted on teachers by politicians, senior management remote from the classroom, administrators, ‘advisors’ and management consultants. Classroom teachers nowadays have very little discretion about what they do, and they spend a lot of time just trying to keep order of some kind. I understand that where Brain Gym is used, it is often appreciated because it provides a welcome opportunity for some physical activity (which I think even Ben has previously pointed out is a Good Thing), and is popular with the students. If you place yourself in the position of a classroom teacher, you too may welcome the opportunity for a short break doing something which has the wholehearted involvement of the class. Even if the supposed theory behind it is bunk.

Addressing teachers in this way is likely to put backs up when Ben should be recruiting the classroom teachers, especially the hard-pressed science staff, as allies in the war on pseudoscience and management-bollocks that is taking over school education as much as any other part of our intellectual life.

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One thought on “Ben Goldacre on teachers and Brain Gym

  1. I have to confess that I stole Ben Goldacre’s words “credulous and moronic” when I saw that Brain Gym had crept into UCL’s training courses. The words were directed not at academics but at the Human Resources department that runs the courses.

    I’d imagine that it is the same in schools as in universities: power has been removed from anyone who understands what they are talking about and put into the hands of people whose only skill is in writing what the late, great, Ted Wragg referred to a “world-class policy bollocks”.

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