IN THE CANDID CORNER: CEE a blind import
The disparagement of Cyril Burt is the most extraordinary case of counterfeit charges in the history of academic psychology, if not all of science. – Philippe Rushton
The monthly Erdiston Alumuni meetings have the potential to emerge as a major forum for serious discussion of issues that affect the core of education in Barbados. Last Wednesday, Minister of Education and Human Resource Development Ronald Jones was among a number of educators who assembled for another meeting of the recently formed alumni of our lone Teachers’ College. The college is to be highly commended for its staunch support of this organization.
Former teacher and a proud product of Erdiston College, Mr Arthur Hoyte, made a presentation on one of Barbados’ most “sacred cows”: the Common Entrance Examination. The examination is the exit route by which students move from the primary to the secondary level of education.
He launched a most vicious attack on this examination, which has been erroneously perceived by many status quo proponents as the fairest system of transfer to secondary education. He is to be commended for his boldness to speak fearlessly about a test which is feared by students, abhorred by parents and has been long disowned by its originators in Britain.
It is a classic example of the extent to which Third World countries are guilty as charged for importing blindly, lock, stock and barrel, systems whose fundamental underpinnings are anathema to our social psyche. It would be useful if Mr Hoyte could publish his presentation in its entirety.
Over and above Mr Hoyte’s presentation, a contribution by the erudite educator Mr Alwin Adams raised an even more sinister dimension of the worst examination ever to have been visited on the educational landscape of Barbados. Its originator the late Sir Cyril Burt was accused of being fraudulent in his research whose findings formed the basis for the Common Entrance Examination. The perspective brought by the former principal of two of our secondary schools hit at the root of the infelicities of which little has ever been said as it relates to the Barbados Secondary Entrance Examination.
J. Philippe Rushton, in an article entitled Victim Of Scientific Hoax – Cyril Burt And The Genetic IQ Controversy, said the renowned British psychologist was accused of falsifying the data of the monozygotic twins, many of whom it was found later never existed. Rushton argued that Burt’s report of a preponderant genetic contribution to mental ability in such twins flew in the face of two of the century’s most powerful ideas: environmentalism and genetic equalitarianism.
He cites the work of Henry Garrett (1961) which held that “all social groups classes, races and sexes are genetically created equal in intellectual capacity and that disproportionate achievement was entirely the result of opportunity and other social factors”.
Burt was concerned with differences of social class. He held that the British upper classes contained a larger proportion of high genetic intelligence than did the British lower classes, even though, in absolute numbers, there would be more gifted children outside of the upper classes than inside of them. (Child prodigies of humble origin were of special interest to him.)
Because of his belief in the degree of overlap in the distributions, and also because of his belief that entrance into advanced school systems should be based on test and examination performance rather than on the privilege of birth, Burt was considered a liberal in his day. (http//heretical/burt.jpr.html)
The Common Entrance Examination was designed to be a test of social selection. Put differently, it was and remains a sorting mechanism which was blindly imported in 1959 on the pretence of bringing uniformity to the system of entrance to grammar schools, each of which had their own examination.
For more than five decades, the greatest educational cover-up remains largely a secret whose divulgence has the potential to expose the devious intentions of what Professor Emeritus Earl Newton called one of the “sacred cows” in Barbadian education. It is an animal that should have long been taken out to pasture and slaughtered once and for all – out of the educational system and psyche of this nation.
Successive educational technocrats must have known of the sinister intention of this “blind import” which we continue to use to “pigeonhole” our children as we sort them for life and living. Implicit in the grammar school versus newer secondary school mentality is the intent of maintaining an examination and a school system whose tiers approximate our social classes from top to bottom.
We will continue to “spin top in mud”. We can change our teaching methodologies and talk of constructivism and all the new buzzwords. We can introduced technology and put schools at the bleeding edge of the high-tech world. We can change our system of evaluating teachers and tamper with management structures.
We can do all these things and more. But unless we recognize the detrimental psychological trauma which we continue to inflict on our children, an angry resentment and a sense of injustice will continue to brew quietly.
Mark my word, one day coming soon, it will erupt with volcanic proportions that will expose the wicked hypocrisy that underlies our educational system.