Britain’s bizarre plan to take schooling back to the Stone Age
Simon Oxenham covers the best and the worst from the world of psychology and neuroscience. Formerly writing with the pseudonym "Neurobonkers", Simon has a history of debunking dodgy scientific research and tearing apart questionable science journalism in an irreverent style. Simon has written and blogged for publishers including: The Psychologist, Nature, Scientific American and The Guardian. His work has been praised in the New York Times and The Guardian and described in Pearson's Textbook of Psychology as "excoriating reviews of bad science/studies”.
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As a society we have come to value the importance of creativity for prosperity and we have invested plenty of resources into understanding how to make employees more creative. Unfortunately, our children often do not receive the same treatment. New legislation in the UK effectively bans schools from being made into remotely innovative or attractive environments.
Curves are to be banned in a new generation of no-frills school buildings, according to a government crackdown on what it believes is wasteful extravagance in educational architecture.
Design templates unveiled for 261 replacement school buildings also prohibit folding internal partitions to subdivide classrooms, roof terraces that can be used as play areas, glazed walls and translucent plastic roofs…
It is part of a plan by the education secretary, Michael Gove, to cut school building costs by 30% and save up to £6m per school compared to Labour's Building Schools for the Future project….
The templates tell architects new schools should have "no curves or 'faceted' curves", corners should be square, ceilings should be left bare and buildings should be clad in nothing more expensive than render or metal panels above head height. As much repetition as possible should be used to keep costs down.
"A standardised approach should be taken, with the aim of creating simple designs that have the potential to be replicated on a number of sites," the templates state. "This may be achieved by using standardised dimensions for similar types of spaces that are integrated into an efficient planning and structural grid."
Modern architecture in British state schools will soon be extinct by law
A freely available 1998 edition of Harvard Business Review titled How to kill creativity, has a fantastically poignant discussion on the topic:
“Managers at one company undermined employee’s creativity by continually changing goals and interfering with process... In many companies, new ideas are met not with open minds but with time consuming layers of evaluation.”
In British schools however, the “time consuming layers of evaluation” that some businesses suffer are to be replaced by ridiculously arbitrary Orwellian barriers. It is clear that there is no evidence that the new rules will save money. Cheap building materials and innovative techniques are constantly being created, it is painfully obvious that there is no intrinsic link between the number of curves a structure has and the cost of construction.
An outdoor area in a Welsh school which coincidentally happens to take advantage of other innovative technologies including solar panels and a biomass boiler.
Architects have the resources and the will to turn new schools in to inspiring environments for innovation. Instead schools are to be forced to be constructed in plain standardised blocks with no consideration of the effect our environment has on the way we learn but every consideration for the sheer volume of children that can be squeezed in to each building’s strictly defined walls.
The raft of “reforms” the British government is planning goes far beyond building rules. Coursework is to be abandoned in subjects including English and maths as the tide is turned back to the old fashioned rote exam. Creative subjects including music, art, drama and design will no longer contribute to a child’s qualifications as they leave secondary school and will instead likely be abandoned by both teachers and students who see no reason in teaching or studying subjects which earn no qualifications. The British Government has decided that now the only subjects deemed worthwhile of earning qualifications at secondary school level are English, Maths, Science, Languages, History and Geography - taking the British school system straight from one extreme to the other. The Education secretary has even announced a new focus on old fashioned learning facts by rote.
In short, new schools are to be Colditz-like structures made from old fashioned materials and are to be places where children are taught only old fashioned subjects using old fashioned techniques and examined using old fashioned testing methods. Welcome to the Stone Age.
Amabile, T., Conti, R., Coon, H., Lazenby, J., & Herron, M. (1996). Assessing the work environment for creativity. Academy of Management Journal, 39 (5), 1154-1184 DOI: 10.2307/256995 Available online at: http://crypto.cs.mcgill.ca/~jguguy/mcgill/anick/0-150.pdf
Amabile, T. (1998). How to kill creativity. Harvard Business Review, 76 (5) PMID: 10185433 Available online at: http://gwmoon.knu.ac.kr/Lecture_Library_Upload/HOW_TO_KILL_CREATIVITY.pdf
Image Credit: Base Structures
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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