Just write it down 100 times the night before and you’ll pass! No, you don’t need to be able to do anything with it. Just get a chap in.

Ed: I couldn’t leave this lingering below a previous post on Pisa and Scottish schools.

Alasdair Macdonald

In 1929, the philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, wrote about what he decried as ‘inert ideas’:

“Theoretical ideas should always find important applications within the pupil’s curriculum. This is not an easy doctrine to apply, but a very hard one. It contains within itself the problem of keeping knowledge alive, of preventing it from becoming inert, which is the central problem of all education.”.

Here we are, nearly a hundred years later and still putting overwhelming emphasis on ‘knowing the facts’.

Indeed, even earlier, in the 19th Century, in “Hard Times”, Dickens created the character, Gradgind:

“Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them.”

This what PISA and SATs and all these other pub quiz type of examinations are about. What PISA, et al are about is to provide an instrument of BLAME. Blaming is the raison d’etre of our media, and many of our politicians. Because we all know, don’t we, that once we have blamed somebody the problem has been solved. Wee Wuggie and The most boring man in the world Gray and silly mid-off Liz Smith are all blamers.

Is there not a FACT about empty vessels and noise?