Professor John Raven’s latest paper outlines his observations derived from 60 years in educational research.
In this paper I show that the main problems faced by the educational system (that is to say, closing the multiple gaps which critical scrutiny reveals) arise from causes that are far removed from the symptoms. The main faults of the system inhere in its inability to cater for, and cope with, diversity, not in the sense of ethnic or cultural diversity, but in relation to the extraordinary diversity of individual talents, interests, and competencies (latent or expressed) inherent in human nature. Addressing this problem would involve the creation of a pervasive climate of innovation. This in turn requires the evolution of a decentralised governance system which would experiment, innovate, and learn without central direction. Perhaps more importantly, and much to our surprise, it would also involve developing an understanding of, and finding ways to intervene in, the network of social forces which have, since time immemorial, succeeded in replacing Gaian organic evolutionary processes by destructive hierarchical arrangements. In the current context, it is these which compel those involved in the “educational” system to contribute to the cementation and legitimisation of hierarchical arrangements in society and organisations. Fulfilling this sociological role undermines nurturance of the diverse talents pupils possess – talents which not only contribute to the effective functioning of current organisations but which, more fundamentally, are urgently needed to evolve more sustainable social and living arrangements and thus the survival of our species. The way forward therefore lies, not only in clarifying ways of thinking about, nurturing, and assessing competence, important though these things are, but, above all, in conceptualising, mapping, and finding ways of harnessing, the social forces that have the future of mankind and the planet in their grip. From a psychological point of view, this involves turning psychology inside out – – in the sense in which Newton turned physics inside out by de-animating explanations of the movements of physical objects.
How has it come about that one small educational intervention programme accompanied by a misleading evaluation (out of the many thousand such studies that could have been cited to show that most early-intervention programmes do not work) has come to be cited in report after report as justification for deeply intrusive intervention programmes?So we see, yet again, the significance of failing to implement comprehensive evaluations. No one sought to enquire into the disbenefits of the programme, especially to those who were in neither the experimental nor control groups of the study.Instead we are treated to some somewhat fantastical conclusions to justify the programme. As with many misleading conclusions derived from playing with spreadsheets, these derive from the assumptions that are fed in and neglect of the norm-referenced nature of the criteria.The money saved by not being in remedial education and prison is calculated. The gain to society of being employed is calculated. WOW.But remember: the remedial education places were not left empty, the money was spent on someone else. The prisons were not left empty. If ex-pupils from the experimental group got jobs (and thus became less dependent on welfare) someone else did not.And so the net gain to society was …….… zero!
John’s irreverence is a breath of fresh air, which will of course be ignored by the policy-based evidence-makers. Now an octogenarian, he is not reliant on research grants, which may go some way to explaining it!