The Right Honourable Michael Gove MP, Golden Duck nominee

Michael Gove. The very name strikes fear into the hearts of teachers, parents and schoolchildren all over the land.

Each fresh assault on the nation’s education leaves us reeling, unable to dare imagine the consequences, or what will next be inflicted upon us. Gove has abandoned reason and sneers at critics, leaving a trail of destruction and slime in his wake. Like a great fat slug laying waste to our precious seedlings.

You weren’t expecting a rational argument backed up with robust supporting evidence? Remember, in politics, policy-based evidence is valued over evidence-based policy.

The Department for Education typifies this. For example, it had been suggested that the government roll out their controversial phonics programme gradually, with the first areas to adopt it being chosen at random. A political RCT, if you like. A similar randomised study could also have been done on Gove’s radical plan to turn the 200 ‘weakest’ primary schools into academies. Of course, no such trials happened.

Under Gove’s leadership, the education system is being overhauled with a lack of good evidence that the reforms will improve standards and with a total lack of reason. The National Curriculum for primary education has been rewritten and GCSEs are to be scrapped (in England, at least). This is despite strong concerns among the teaching profession.

Yet Gove is unfazed by criticism. If teaching unions disagree with him, they are “entrenched establishment voices who have become the enemies of promise“.

He believes that GCSEs and A-levels are not rigorous enough and even said:

What [students] need is a rooting in the basic scientific principles, Newton’s laws of thermodynamics and Boyle’s law.

Oh dear.

The man is not fit to make decisions on science education.

But what really sealed Gove’s Golden Duck nomination was his commitment to Free Schools. It could be argued that legal requirements for collective worship and the proliferation of faith schools already inflict irrational superstitious beliefs on children. But Free Schools can take this to a whole new level.

The British Humanist Association lists twelve new religious free schools which opened this month. These include the controversial Grindon Hall Christian school, which until July, had on its website a ‘creation policy’, stating support for both creationism and evolution as valid science, and that both should be taught as such.

There are also currently three Steiner schools enjoying state funding (HerefordFrome and Exeter).

As Andy Lewis explains in more detail here, the Steiner approach (more correctly known as anthroposophy) is based on occult thinking, astrology, clairvoyance and esoteric cult-like beliefs. This may not be obvious at first glance.

In addition to education, anthroposophy encompasses biodynamic farming and anthroposophical medicine. Indeed, Rudolf Steiner founded Weleda – a company which produces alternative medicines including mistletoe treatments for cancer and homeopathy.

There is much cause for concern.

The Hereford Academy doesn’t offer science GCSEs, but instead pupils study a BTEC in Ecology Studies. The BHA was told that

The school implements its Curriculum through the schemes of work as detailed in The Educational Tasks and Content of the Steiner Waldorf Curriculum edited by Martyn Rawson and Tobias Richter.

This book teaches that creation stories “give an holistic image of the origins of the earth, plants, animals and human beings” and suggests that the ‘Darwinian mechanism’ is limited and “rooted in reductionist thinking and Victorian ethics”.

And there’s more – chemistry lessons which advocate homeopathy; and life sciences lessons which teach that the heart is a ‘sense organ’ and that there are limitations to the ‘germ theory’.

Steiner schools employ anthroposophical doctors and administer homeopathy to children, including for burns. They invite nutritionists and alternative therapists to give public talks on the risks of vaccination and how to “boost your immune system naturally”. According to the Health Protection Agency, Steiner schools are ‘unvaccinated communities’.

This has not been without consequence.

Yet the BHA’s concerns were ignored, as were those of Professor David Colquhoun who told the TES:

These schools are promoting anti-scientific nonsense and how the hell Gove agreed to fund them I don’t know

Professor Edzard Ernst added:

Steiner schools seem to have an anti-science agenda which is detrimental to progress… the government makes a grave mistake allowing pseudoscience and anti-science in our education.

But it seems Gove is unwilling to listen.

In February, he described opposition to plans to turn Downhills Primary School into an academy as a “Trot campaign” and accused its supporters of being linked to the Socialist Workers’ Party.

His comment was quickly condemned by the NASUWT’s General Secretary Chris Keates, who said it…

exemplifies the combination of arrogance and ignorance which drives the Coalition’s education policy.

It is this combination which has enabled Gove to support pseudoscience in a most ludicrous, dangerous, irrational and irresponsible manner.

Despite stiff competition, I stand by my decision to nominate Michael Gove as Britain’s top political quack.

Full information on the Golden Duck award is available on the Good Thinking Society website. My list of nominees is here.

2 responses to “The Right Honourable Michael Gove MP, Golden Duck nominee

  1. Pingback: More Golden Ducks in Westminster? | Josephine Jones

  2. Pingback: My Golden Duck nominees: an introduction | Josephine Jones

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